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Sri Lanka Travel Guide

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Sri Lanka Travel Guide

November 4th, 2008

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Sri Lanka Travel: the times, travels and travails of The Golden Pearl of the orient
Sri Lanka Travel narrates that the sea hath its pearls. Sri Lanka, the Land of Delights is The Golden Pearl of the seas of Exotic Orient: in shape, in beauty, in heritage, in glory, in strategic location and in value to the humanity. The preservation of Theravda Buddhism in written form, alone elevates the ancient island of  Sri Lanka to the pinnacle of the contributors to the world heritage.

There is probably no other ancient land, no other tropical island, no other holiday destination in the world that possess such a remarkable combination of diverse tourist attractions, natural and man-made; geographical & historical; cultural and archeological; heritage and heritance, within such a small area of land (65,525 square kilometers) as that of Sri Lanka. Travel Sri Lanka during your Sri Lanka Holidays: we the people at Sri Lanka Travel, Riolta Sri Lanka Holidays reveal for you to revel.

Sri Lanka Travel is for all seasons

Sri Lanka Travel is for all seasons

Sri Lanka Holidays narrates the shape of the glorious ancient tropical island. In the annals of history, Sri Lanka had most often been described as having a shape of a pearl, i.e., a drop pearl tapering towards the top and rounded at the bottom. The Hindu poets gracefully narrated Sri Lanka as “a pearl upon the brow of India”. Sri Lanka had been a source of exquisite pearls for millenniums: Sri Lanka had produced pearls since the visit of Chinese Buddhist bhikkhu monk scholar Fa-Hien (Fa Xian) to the island then known Lanka (Sinhala: the resplendent) to the colonial maritime powers of Portuguese (1615- 1750), Dutch ( 1751-1805)  and British (1805-1948).

Ham Vs. Pearl
The Dutch in Ceylon, in their meat and drink mood identified the shape of Sri Lanka to a cut of meat from the thigh of the hind leg of a pig: smoked ham. The Dutch would have been smoking a tad bit harder at In’t Aepjen. The Dutch even called the Fort they build in the year 1658 in the northernmost peninsula of the island of  Sri Lanka, Hammenhiel meaning “the heel of the ham.” The northernmost peninsula had, rather been Achilles heel of Sri Lanka, being the springboard to the marauding Dravidian invaders from powerful kingdom of Southern India bent on plunder and pillage of the ancient capital of Anuradhapura and the early medieval capital of Polonnaruwa (today, UNESCO World Heritage Sites), and then again, until the 2009, with its terrorism that wreaked havoc in the island, having made the western journalists draw the top dollar from the interested parties, sensationalize the bad news with the titles such as “Tear drop of India” and “Paradise Lost”.

The ancient Indian poets who composed epic poems of Mahabharata and Ramayana together with other writers who composed historical narratives of India while naming Sri Lanka, “a pearl upon the brow of India” would have turned in their graves. Milton too. The modern Indian advocates on the concept of emerging major world powers, are unlikely to take the unintended implication in good humor either: if Sri Lanka had been the teardrop of India, then India itself could have been a major world cry baby, a far cry of a super power that it claims to become.

Sri Lanka was never in the history, a part of India.
Sri Lanka, unlike India’s modern neighbors, though never in the history was a part of India, has been the proud custodian of the cannon of Orthodox Theravada Buddhism emerged in India in the 6th century B.C. Destruction of Sri Lanka, could have been a loss, in particular to the heritage of India and in general to the heritage of the world. It was not destined to be so. According to the historical chronicles of the ancient island, Sri Lanka is protected by Satara Waram Deviyo (Sinhala: the four guardian gods of Sri Lanka), four superior and resplendent beings living in other worlds. Sri Lanka is home to the supreme treasure that neither a human being nor his agent could ever destroy: the palladium of the nation, Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha at Sri Lanka Holidays Kandy (Left Tooth Relic of the Supreme Being) and Somawatiya (Right Tooth Relic of he Supreme Being).

Nobody beats destiny
Another tradition that is current amongst the Sinhalese is that, when Buddhism shall have completed 2500 years, a prince named Diyasena will establish a Buddhist Kingdom in Ceylon. Then, it is said, the faith will shine forth in glory and be a beacon to the whole world, and Lanka itself will be prosperous and joyous. This prediction, which originated from a verse in a poetical work, written during the reign of Parakrama Bahu the 6th of Kotte-the last period of brilliant achievement of the Sinhalese during the vicissitudes of the past 500 years. [The Revolt In The Temple (April 1953)]Hail the Heroes of the Nation & The Hero of Modern Sri Lanka, Prince Diyasena of “Revolt in The Temple” or “Dharma-Vijaya” (Sinhala: Triumph of Righteousness) maestro of “The Turn of the Screw” at “The Turn of the Tide” from 26th July 2006 at Mother River, Our Mother Lanka, to 19th May 2009 at “The Sea of Conches”,

Hail My Sri Lanka! Viva Our Island!

The Paradise Regained, the super supreme western powers and colonialists that ripped the orient nations of their wealth, are now robbed of their grand opportunity to perpetuate the title of “Tear Drop”. To the Sri Lankans, their island of ancient glory coupled with clear and present peace is non-other than a Golden Pearl of the exotic Orient.

To kiss or not to kiss the subcontinent: a bridge too close.
Not only the sheer geographical shape of Sri Lanka, but also the setting of the island separated by Palk Strait, mere 32km off the shore of the southern coast of India catches the eye, its fascinating- the subcontinent as well as the small island have tongues of land of their lands jutting out, in the same angle, just on the verge of reaching, almost, not yet; I am in two minds to let you kiss me. Is that what the island is wondering about?

Visit Sri Lanka anyday: Sri Lanka Travel is for all seasons, year round
The main South Western Monsoon (May to September) and North Eastern Monsoon (December to February) defining the tourist seasons of the tropical island, the South Western and Southern Coastal Belt serve the main tourist season during October to April while Eastern Coast serves the secondary tourist season during April to September. Sri Lanka Travel is for all seasons, the year round.

Make merry in Sri Lanka beaches
Bali has its beaches from palm fringed white sand on the east coast to the wilder sand beaches on the west coast, with sleepy undisturbed coves in-between. So does Sri Lanka from the Sri Lanka Holidays South western & southern coastal belts replete with palm fringed pristine bay beaches to never ending wild undisturbed secluded white sandy beaches of Eastern coast belt.

Of the 1340 km of coast line of Sri Lanka, South-western and southern coastal belts are replete with lovely palm fringed sandy beaches that spread from Beruwala to Tangalle. In some of the areas, these twin coastal belts are elevated forming picturesque headlands. Unawatuna beach close to VOC Galle Dutch Fort, is an example of a bay beach with a headland. The eastern coastal belt too, though bold and rocky in some places, is home to several fine beaches such as Nilaveli and Uppaveli close to Trincomalee and Arugamby, Passikuda, and Kalukuda close to Batticalo.

On both sides of the island of Sri Lanka, the sandy coastal belts are interspersed by shallow lagoons of brackish water causing estuaries of enchanting beauty. Sri Lanka Holidays Bentota beach, home to Bentota national Holiday Resort is a prime example.

Central Highlands: live in colonial sanatoriums of Sri Lanka
Egypt has its healing climate, the Engadine of Swiss Alps its lovely scenery, Brazil its wooded wilderness, the Alps their flowery meadows, and Peru is high plateau; but here, in Sri Lanka, easy of access and free of ardors of long journeys, are all these and a hundred other attractions, forming a consummate combination of the most delightful conditions a man can live: the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.

Four-fifth of the island consists of undulating plains that give way to the lofty mountains in the Sri Lanka Holidays Central Highlands of salubrious climate slightly titled towards the south western region. The concentration of hills in a single region, triangular in shape, south of Kandy, has resulted in “The Hill Country of Sri Lanka”, popularly called “Central Highlands of Sri Lanka”, a world apart in weather, climate, vegetation and terrain with the surrounding plains. Off the Central Highlands flow most of the 105 rivers of Sri Lanka in radial pattern to the plains surrounding it.

Rejuvenate at Hill country sanatoriums
Hatton, a starting point to Adam’s Peak Sri Pada mountain; Diyatalawa, A military canton established in the British colonial era; Haputale, Home to Lipton’s seat;  Sri Lanka Holidays Nuwara Eliya, the British colonial sanatorium, Bandarawela, the main market town of the hills; Ella, the Paradise Village are home to seamless plantations of Ceylon Tea, the finest tea in the world.

Get enlightened at Ancient Kingdoms: living testimony to the 2553 years of unbroken recorded Sinhalese Buddhist Civilization of Sri Lanka
Egypt has its great pyramid of Giza, Iran its sub terrain aqueduct system of Qantas, Indonesia its Borobudur, Rome its Vatican, Jordan its Edomite stronghold of Petra; but here, in Sri Lanka, easy of travel, within a few hours, are living monuments of heritage that rival all those: ancient Anuradhapura’s Jetavana Stupa, Abhayagiri Stupa and Ruwan Weli Seya Stupa; ancient Polonnaruwa’s and Anuradhapura’s vast ancient Irrigation networks consisting of enormous rainwater reservoirs, the man made lakes; ancient Golden Dambulla Golden Rock temple; medieval Kandy’s Sacred Temple of the Tooth; ancient Sigiriya’s Lion Rock Citadel. All these are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Begin Sri Lanka Travel in Colombo
Sri Lanka Travel begins at Colombo, the prime airport, sea-port, emporium and commercial capital of the Indian Ocean Island of Sri Lanka. Having visited Sri Lanka Holidays Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara (Sinhala: Kelaniya Royal Colombo Buddhist Temple), having learned a few important episode of 2553 years of uninterrupted glorious history of Sri Lanka, We make a move to Kandy. The Colombo-Kandy road begins at Queens’s House, Fort, Colombo. Do your Sri Lanka Travel with Riolta Lanka Holidays (Pvt.) Ltd., 10 minutes from CMB Bandranayake International Airport, Colombo. Riolta, bunpeiris.

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Mahavansa, A Narration by Fr. S. G. Perera, S. J.

August 21st, 2011


The great Sinhalese Chronicle, The Mahavansa (Mahavamsa) covering the period of 543 B. C. to A.D 301 together with Culavamsa that carry on the narrative to1795, the beginning of the British colonial period, and together too called Mahavansa is the greatest mine of Sinhalese history. Mahavamsa is an exceedingly well written, dramatic narration. Sri Lanka Holidays tourists would find it extremely handy to buy a copy of the translation by Dr. Wilhelm Geiger or Dr. Ananda W. P. Guruge in Colombo and study it throughout their stay in Sri Lanka.

Following is a narration upon Mahavamsa written by the Historian & Scholar Father S. G. Perera, S.J. (1882-1950) (born in Kalutara of south-western coastal belt of Sri Lanka Holidays; educated at Holy Cross College at Kalutara and Jesuit College in India; taught at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and Wesley College, Colombo)

The year 1937 is the centenary of the first publication of the translation of The Mahavansa by George Turnour. We are now so familiar with the name and significance and authority of the great Pali chronicle, and we have so many editions and translations of the work into English and Sinhalese, that we can scarcely realize the epoch-making character of Turnour’s work. It was he who first vindicated the authenticity of the chronicle and it was his publication that established its reputation for good. Before his day it was of course known that there was a chronicle called The Mahavansa; but it was known but vaguely and was looked upon as a mere collection of legend and fable, a sort of relgio-mythical purana, scarcely worth the serious attention of historians.

The reason for this misleading view was the great neglect into which the chronicle and Pali studies had fallen in the very country which was the subject of the chronicle.Not more than two copies were even known to exist at the time.Even sixty years later, when Geiger was preparing his critical text, the chief manuscripts that he consulted were two copies in the Burmese character brought from Mandalay. It had never been translated into Sinhalese. [1]There was a general belief among the literati that a commentary of The Mahavansa had been in existence, though not even the most learned had ever seen it, till the investigations of Turnour succeeded in tracing one in the Mulgirigala Vihara in 1827. The Mahavansa strictly so-called is the epic poem of Buddhist priest Mahanama. It continued by Buddhist priest Dharmakiriti, according to tradition, at Anuradhapura under King Parakrama Bahu the Great; Buddhist priest Tibbotuwe at Kandy under King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe; and by other scholars afterwards. The continuation is not The Mahavansa properly so-called; though of course the term Mahavansa may be used to denote the whole historical compilation, and is sometimes so used in the chronicle itself. This The Mahavansa is the old chronicle, and the later chronicle is The Sulavansa.

Footnotes by bunpeiris [1] Since then the Mahavansa has been translated into Sinhalese several times. The latest edition was published by Buddhist Cultural Center, No. 125, Anderson Road, Nadimala, Dehiwale (the town immediately to the north of Mount Lavinia of Sri Lanka Holidays), Sri Lanka in 2003. ISBN: 955-8540-84-6

Mahavamsa, An Introduction by Douglas Bullis

August 20th, 2011


My Sri Lanka Holidays is proud to present you all a series of introductory articles on Mahavamsa (The Great Chronicle). These articles are written by scholars, historians, translators of Mahavamsa and colonial British civil servants in Ceylon. The knowledge of Mahavamsa is bound to bring about Skanda Pandia Light and enlightenment to all the tourists of Sri Lanka Holidays visiting the numerous archeological, historical, Buddhist religious and cultural attractions, tourist destinations and sites of Sri Lanka.Following extract is by courtesy of Douglas Bullis: Mahavamsa, The Greatest Chronicle of Sri Lanka, Mahanama Thera, Modern Text and Historical Commentary by Douglas Bullis, Vijitha Yapa Publications, Sri Lanka, ISBN 955-1266-09-9

The epic of ancient Lanka’s founding and early history is probably the least known of all the world’s great chronicles. The Mahavamsa or ‘Great Chronicle” is much less familiar than its forebears, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.[1] The Mahavamsa describes the introduction of Theravada Buddhism into Lanka and the development of the Buddhist nation-state that predominates in Sri Lanka Today.

The Mahavamsa’s sweeping relation of the period from approximately 500 BCE through 301 ACE describes the origins of virtually every religious practice and social institution on the island. Some of these are; the commonwealth that developed between ruler, religion, and populace; popular Buddhism’s fusion with local shamanistic beliefs and practices from Brahmanism, Hinduism, and Tantra; the dilution of the caste system by removing its religious proscriptions; the perennially mistrustful relationship with Dravidian kingdoms in southern India; the great reservoir-based irrigation system; and the assertive yet non aggressive culture which developed from the cultivator mentality of the rice paddy and moral principals of Buddhism.

Beyond these social and historical issues, the Mahavamsa possesses literary qualities which place it alongside the best of the literature emanating from the Subcontinent’s civilization. Every Sri Lankan schoolchild knows long passages of the Mahavamsa by heart. No end of Sri Lankan writers devote sizable portions of their careers to its explications of popularization. The Mahavamsa and its successor the Culavamsa relate a 2,300-year span of history from the quasi-legendary arrival of an Indo-Aryan royal prince from about 483 BCE [2] to 1795, the beginning of the British colonial period.

For many years Western scholars thought the fabulous stories in the few available written copies of the Mahavamsa to be a mix of apocrypha and speculative literature. Only in 1826 did a British civil servant discover a long-lost commentary called a Tika, in a cave [3] in the south of the island. The Tika established the factual nature of much what the Mahavamsa related.

The Mahavamsa was overlooked for so long for several reasons. It was not readily available until many centauries after it was first inscribed. Until about the first century BCE the writing of religious scriptures was considered a sacrilege. The Lankan monks about 35 BCE who first committed to writing ancient Buddhism’s body of literature never developed the technique of producing it in mass quantities such as we are familiar with today. When the Mahavamsa’s author, Thera Mahanama, penned it in the late fourth century ACE, he was relying on over four centuries of oral transmission followed by three centuries of labourisly hand-scriven written editions.

During the Ceylonese colonial era [4], the Pali language of the original suttas (the ancient Pali spelling of the Buddha’s sutras) was so obscure that few Dutch or British bothered to learn it. Hence the Mahavamsa was largely the preserve of monks and elite Sinhalese until philologists became interested in it after the discovery the Tika in 1826. The Tika provided scholars with authenticating information which allowed the Mahavamsa to be fully understood as a work of great epic literature as well as combination of legend and fact. It now resides alongside the Mahabharata and the Ramayana as an epochal tale detailing the formation of cultural attitudes.

The most accurate Mahavamsa translation in this century was made by the German Sanskritist Wilhelm Geiger in 1912, although several less spirited nineteenth-century editions also were produced. Herr Geiger also translated numerous other documents which exposed to the west the Lankan people’s 2500-year –old culture. The most recent version of the Mahavamsa was translated by Ananda Guruge, a Sri Lankan scholar who also has been the country’s Ambassador to France and the United States. Dr. Guruge’s work is of such exactitude that every reader who desires to delve deeper into the complex literary qualities of the Mahavamsa must consult his book. Unfortunately, it is available only in Sri Lanka [5], and even there is hard to locate. Herr Geiger and Dr. Guruge are the inspirations for this study of the Mahavamsa and Lankan Buddhism, while the Pali Text Society’s translation is the ultimate resource for this book’s rendering.

Until fairly recently Western scholars too often ignored the historical knowledge of their Sri Lankan counterparts. This is a disservice to a people with a profound regard for their culture. Today a casual visit to a Colombo, Kandy, or Galle bookstore will discover an impressive body of cultural expression-scholarship, poetry, classic and contemporary literature, dances, music both ancient and new, cuisine, and garments. Lanka was, and Sri Lanka is, a fascinating coherent society. A visit to Colombo National Museum, the Archeological Museum on Anuradhapura, the great cave paintings of Dambulla, the Temple of the Tooth and Kataragama devale in Kandy, a Hindu kovil or the Christian churches along the coast, the myriad architectural works such as Aukana, the impressive irrigation system, or the brick standing Buddha at Lankatilaka in Polonnaruwa give a taste of the complexity and pride of the Sinhalese civilization.

[To be continued]

Footnotes by bunpeiris

[1] Ramayana and the Mahabharata of India are ancient Hindu epic poems written in Sanskrit whose historicity, to say the least, is unclear: Kurukshetra War and Rama-Ravana War aren’t authenticated. In contrast, <strong>Mahavamsa</strong> of Sri Lanka is an unparalleled historical chronicle. Its authenticity is amply borne out of archeological, epigraphical and numismatic evidence which corroborates supplements and clarifies the wealth of information recorded in it. You only need to visit Anuradhapura and read the chapters on King Dutugamunu, the Hero of the Nation in Mahavamsa. That would do. Till the rest is read.

[2] The accuracy of the year 483 BCE is challenged by the historians and scholars. The accepted year is 543 BCE.

[3] Tika, Sri Lanka’s Rosetta Stone, the commentaries written on ola leaf upon the narrative of Mahavamsa, was discovered at the ancient Buddhist library at Mulkirigala (Mulgirigala) Rock Temple located at a 25 minutes drive off the pristine southern beach of Tangalle , by colonial civil servant George Turnour in the year 1826.

[4] Sri Lanka’s colonial era: Portuguese [1505-1640]; Dutch [1640-1796]; British [1796-1948]

[5] Copies of The great chronicle of Sri Lanka, Mahavamsa, Chapter one to thirty seven. An annotated new translation with prolegomena by Ananda W. Guruge is available at S. Godage & Brothers, Godage Book Emporium, 675, P. De S. Kularatna Mw, Maradana, Colombo 10, Sri Lanka. It can be bought on-line at or

Maduru Oya National Park

June 26th, 2011

Maduru Oya National Park that lies between the Polonnaruwa-Batticaloa road and Mahiyangana-Padiyatalawa road in the districts of Ampara, Badulla and Polonnaruwa is created to protect the catchment area of Maduru Oya Irrigation Reservoir, Ratkinda Reservoir and Ulhitiya reservoir developed under the Mahaweli Development Project in the year 1983. Maduru Oya National Park is one the four Sri Lanka Wildlife Parks designated under the Mahaweli Development Project. The other three are Sri Lanka Holidays Wasgamuwa (Wasgomuwa) National Park, Flood Plains National Park and Somawathiya National Park. To protect the elephant population of Maduru Oya National Park, it has been proposed to create a corridor linking it to Gal Oya National Park. The elephant corridor would be called Nilgala Jungle corridor (10,360 ha). The concept was as same as those of other modern irrigation projects that necessitated the creation of new Sri Lanka Wildlife Parks: Udawalve reservoir – Udawalave National Park; Senanyake Samudraya – Gal Oya National Park; Lunugamvehera reservoir – Lunugamvehera National Park of Sri Lanka Holidays.


Location of and Access to Maduru Oya National Park
Maduru Oya National Park is located 265km north-east of Colombo, that is when the northern route, the most practical route from Colombo is taken: via Kurunegala, Dambulla, Habarana, Polonnaruwa and Manampitiya.
The gateway to Maduru Oya National Park is Manampitiya on Polonnaruwa – Batticaloa road, 25km north of the entrance to park.
Manampitya can be reached by railway line that runs from Gal Oya to Batticaloa via Kaduruwela, Polonnaruwa of Sri Lanka Holidays. From Manapitiya, a B grade road to the south via Dakukana leads to the village of Aralaganwila. From Aralaganwila onwards a minor road via the villages of Damminna nad Kandegama leads to the park entrance. At the park entrance close to the Maduru Oya modern irrigation reservoir are two circuit bungalows and one dormitory for the tourists.

Maduru Oya National Park can be reached from Maha Oya, arriving from the south too. The route to Maha Oya from Colombo is via Kandy, Mahiyangana and Padiyatalawa.
To the north-west of Maduru Oya National Park is Wasgomuwa (Wasgamuwa) National Park also of Polonnaruwa district and to the south-east is Gal-Oya National Park of Ampara district.
Ulhitiya Campsite facing the Ulhitiya Reservoir at the south of the park is an ideal location for the nature lovers for an overnight stay.

The expanse, climate, terrain and vegetation of Maduru Oya National Park
The low land dry zone park spreading 58850 hectares, features a 8km long rocky range of hills to the south-west of the park. 15% of the park is constituted by water bodies: Maduru Oya, Ulhitiya, Ratkinda, NDK and Henanigala reserviors and tributaries of the Mahaweli and Maduru Oya river systems.
Climatic conditions are influenced by the north-east monsoon during the months spreading from October to January called Maha harvesting season. The north-east monsoon is instrumental in the mean annual rainfall of 1650 mm. Mean annual temperature at the park is 27 degrees Celsius.
The tropical evergreen forest is characterized by Buruta (Sinhala: Satin), Weera, Palu, Divul (Sinhala: Woodapple) and Ehela etc. Open plains are dominated by shrub and grass.

Hot Springs at MahaOya
Maha Oya Hot Water Springs aren’t as crowded as Kanniya Hot Water springs at Trincomalee. Maha Oya Hot Springs located off the Aralaganwila road are protected by the local authorities.

Elephants at Maduru Oya National Park
Maduru Oya National Park is home to about 150-200 elephants. The best hour to witness herds of elephants is at 4-5 pm when sun begins to set over the vast modern man-made irrigation reservoir.

Mammals at Maduru Oya National Park
Apart from the elephants, Maduru Oya National Park is home to Water Buffalo, Sloth Bear, Leopard, Torque Macaque, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Jackal, Fishing cat, Spotted Deer and Wild Boar. Nocturnal Slender Loris, a rare specie has been recorded at Maduru Oya National Park. Among the smaller mammals are Porcupine, Black Naped Hare, Indian Pangolin and Squirrels.

Reptiles and Amphibians at Maduru Oya National Park
Among the reptiles at the Maduru Oya National Park are Common Monitor, Water Monitor, Black-tailed Python,K, Common Cobra, Mugger Crocodile and Estuarine Crocodile. Other reptiles associated with aquatic habits are Indian Black Turtle and Indian Flap-shelled Turtle.

Birdlife at Maduru Oya National Park
Among the more than 100 species of birds found at the park are lesser Adjutant, Wooly necked stork, Open Bill, Painted Stork, Racket Tailed Drongo, Yellow Fronted Barbet, Sri Lanka Junglefowl and Spurfowl.

Maduru Oya Modern Irrigation Resevoir
Maduru Oya Reservoir is a major modern reservoir (capacity at FSL: 596 million cubic meters) constructed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme. It was built by means of a dam 1090 meters in length and 30 meters in height across the River Maduru Oya. The catchment area of the reservoir spreads to an area of 453 sq,km.
Maduru Oya reservoir is built combining ancient irrigation technology with modern. Remnants of an ancient sluice and a dam were discovered while the surveys were done for the most suitable location for the dam. The ruins are believed to be “Mahadhara Gallaka” ancient irrigation reservoir built by the great builder of reservoirs, King Mahasena (275-301 B.C.), who built a thousand reservoirs including the vast Minneriya Reservoir. The ancient sluice gate and the dam are preserved in commemoration of Maduru Oya’s heritage of the ancient irrigation engineering.

Sri Lanka Aborigines or Vedda of Maduru Oya National Park
A community of Vedda people (Sri Lanka Aborigines) also called Wannila Aththo, the indigenous ethnic group of Sri Lanka lives within the park boundary in Henanigala.

Kuda Sigiriya
Kuda Sigiriya (Sinhala: small Sigirya) forest reserve in Dehiattakandiya is a biodiversity conservation site of Sri Lanka Holidays. This area is also of significant archaeological importance though unexplored as yet.

Sri Lanka Holidays Cultural Attractions nearby Maduru Oya National Park
An ancient sluice on the old ruptured earthen bund of the Maduru Oya was discovered in the 1980s.The sluice made up of stone slabs and bricks, is about 30 feet (9.1 m) high, 30 feet (9.1 m) wide and 219 feet (67 m) long. The upper sluice was built in two phases, the first of which dates to before the 6th century BC. The lower sluice is believed to be older than that.

Ruins of Buddhist shrines, temples, dagobas, statues, and hermitages are found in Henanigala, Kudawila, Gurukumbura, Ulketangoda, and Werapokuna belonging to various periods of 2553 years of unbroken recorded history of Sri Lanka. Early Brahmi inscriptions from first to third century AD have been discovered in Kandegamakanda.

The discovery of the ruins of ancient dam and sluice at Maduru Oya
Discovery of the ancient earthen dam and the sluice built during the reign of King Mahasena (275-301 B.C.) at the very location surveyed and calculated by the local and foreign irrigation engineering experts to build a dam straddling the river Maduru Oya in the year 1981, took Sri Lankans by storm. Some gasped, chuckled and took it on the stride: modern western engineering has just managed to match the ancient hydraulic engineering of Sri Lanka. Others grinned and bore it: in spite of the inland-sea like man-made made rainwater reservoirs at Sri Lanka Holidays Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, it was only then, it dawned on them that our ancient Sinhalese Irrigation engineering, the hydraulic civilization of Sri Lanka has been second to none, no matter, ancient or modern. Overnight, Maduru Oya became a house hold name in Sri Lanka in the year 1981.

River Maduru Oya
The River Maduru Oya has its source to the North-east of Central Highlands of Sri Lanka at Uva hills east of Bibile at an elevation of 274 m. (900 ft.) above sea level. It flows north-eastwards covering a distance of about 136 km. and disgorges into the Vandaloos bay near lovely beaches of Kalkudah and Passikudha on the east coast.

The largest Modern Irrigation Project of Sri Lanka
Maduru Oya was the first major project (1978) taken up for construction under the Accelerated Programme of Mahaweli Development. The Accelerated Mahaweli Development Scheme (multi-purpose Mahaweli river diversification scheme) is the largest irrigation project of Sri Lanka ever. The modern experts had the use of intricate surveys, sophisticated instruments, rainfall and river data to make their calculations. Obviously the ancient Sri Lankan engineers were also backed by a knowledge of exact sciences without which such a technological achievement would not have been possible thousands of years ago. The workers who were who were leveling the ground, cutting the trenches, removing the earth had noticed ancient bricks getting unearthed. No matter, chuckled or grin, all had their intuition raised, ante up: there could be easily be an ancient brick structure buried herein: it could be ruins of an ancient Buddhist stupa dagoba or a sluice or embankment of an ancient man-made rainwater. The use of heavy machinery-earth moving equipments- was restrained and manual labour was employed in delicate situations. Ruins of a dam and almost intact sluice, a masterpiece of irrigation construction were unearthed.
Hidden in the sands of time and evergreen forest in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka

A matted forest canopy had hidden the breached earthen embankment on the very spot that foreign and local engineering experts chose to straddle the river. The remains of the massive ancient embankment on the right bank of the river Maduru Oya, about 23 metres (75.4 ft.) high and pitched with round stones along the upstream slope to break the ripple action amply testified to the magnitude of the ancient man-made rainwater reservoir constructed by our ancient irrigation and hydraulic engineers.

The significance of the ruins of ancient dam and sluice
A technical review committee appointed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) made a special report to Mr. Gamini Dissanyake, the Minister of Mahaweli Devlopment Project, Sri Lanka: “The upstream portion of the sluice is a masterpiece of construction. Twin conduits with corbeled arches approximately 2.5 m. apart pass through the bund. At the downstream and a carved terracotta relief depositing between the two arches. The dancing figures have been mutilated and the marks of the chisel used can be clearly seen on the carved relief.” The report gushed: “Major irrigation works and water control structures have been constructed throughout the civilized world since the 4th Millennium BC. These works include earth and rock dams, spillways, canals, dykes and embankments – the same structures that modern day engineers design for the same purposes. Some of the structures were advanced in engineering concept, major in scale, and in view of the lack of sophisticated machinery for construction, Herculean in execution. “The sluiceway and old bund at Maduru Oya rank in the forefront of these works. Several unique features of this structure testify to the sophisticated level of engineering practiced by the ancients.

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Gal Oya National Park

June 15th, 2011

Gal Oya National Park was established to protect the catchment area of modern Senanayake Samudra irrigation reservoir (7760 ha) nearly four times larger than ancient Parakrama Samudra Irrigation Reservoir. Gal Oya National Park wholly encompasses the great reservoir. Located east of the Sri Lanka Holidays  Central Highlands, Gal Oya National Park straddles borders of Ampara district of Eastern Province and Monaragala district of Uva Province. The gateway to Gal Oya National Park is at Inginiyagala, 50km inland from the Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka. And Inginiyagala can be reached from Siyambalanduwa, a small town, which is also the gateway to Arugambay surf beach, one of the finest surfing beaches of the world where International surfing competition are held. The 300km route to Gal Oya National Park from Colombo lies via Sri Lanka Holidays  Ratnapura (City of Gems), Pelmadulla, Udawalawe (the location of  Sri Lanka Holidays  Uda Walawe National Park, home to 400 elephants), Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Moneragala and Inginiyagala. To the north-west of the park, within a couple of hours drive is the Maduru Oya National Park. A jungle corridor through Nilgala jungle (an area of 10,360 ha that was inhabited by Veddha, the aborigines of Sri Lanka until recently) has been proposed between Gal Oya National Park and Sri Lanka Holidays  Maduru Oya National Park [1] to allow the elephants traverse from one to other following the failure of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Colombo to have a veterinary surgeon attend an injured elephant at Gal Oya resulting in the death of the beast.

The expanse, climate, terrain and vegetation of Gal Oya National Park
The elevation of the park varies from 30 meters to about 900 meters, Danigala, Nilgala, and Ulpotha mountains being the highest peaks. Rain is received during the North-eastern monsoon resulting in an average annual rainfall of 1,700 milli meters.

Gal Oya National Park that extends to 540 km rolling country has Senanayake Samudra irrigation reservoir (7760 ha), the centerpiece of the park, bisecting it from east to west at its shortest breadth in the midway area, while extending three long narrow tongues to the northern part as well as the southern part. That is in the perspective while at Inginigala, 20 km west of Ampara.
In reality, the great reservoir begins at a location off the center, to the south, called Makara Kata (Sinhala: Dragon’s mouth). It was at this location the River Gal Oya falls in a natural tunnel to the reservoir.
45% the park is an ever green forest: Sri Lankan hardwood such as Vevarana, Halmilla, Veera, Palu, Ebony and Mahogany are found in great numbers. Rolling land is 33% savanna, tall grass called illuk and Mana, 09% grassland, 02% chena cultivations. The remainder is water bodies dominated by the Senanayake Samudraya. Some areas of the park are still home to herbs and plants that were planted centuries ago and made use in Ayurvedic medical treatments. A host of medicinal shrubs and trees including Aralu, Bulu, Nelli the three indispensable herbs of the Ayurveda medicine abound in the Nilgala area.


Gal Oya Boat Safari
Gal Oya National Park stand unique among the Wildlife Parks of Sri Lanka, in the sense it is best explored by boat unlike the other toured by jeeps. The park entrance at Inginyagala dishes out the chance to hire a boat to ride for 2 hours or more cruising 18km from Gal Oya bund to Makara Kata.
Boating Safari in Senanayake samudraya (Sinhala: Sea of Senanayake) brings all the tourists closer to the wildlife: the elephants swimming from one island in the reservoir to another; one of the islands called “Bird Island” as its name suggests, rich in birdlife, is the favorite nesting ground of the birds.

Jeep Safari
The jeep safaris can be enjoyed in two tracks, one of which is about 13lm and other only 5 km and other about 13 km. Jeep Safari too affords the opportunities for wildlife photography.

Mammals at Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park is a sanctuary to 32 terrestrial mammals: Sri Lankan Elephant, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Sri Lanka Leopard, Toque Monkey, Sri Lankan Axis Deer, Water Buffalo, and Wild Boar are among them.

Amphibians at Gal Oya National Park
Mugger Crocodile and Star Tortoise are the silent stars among Amphibians of the Gal Oya National Park.

Birdlife at Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park is a merry fly lucky refuge for more than 150 species of birds.
Among the resident birds are Lesser Adjutant, Spot-billed Pelican and Red-faced Malkoha.
The Indian Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Grey Heron, and Lesser Whistling Duck are among the common water birds of the Senanayake reservoir.
The White-bellied Sea Eagle, and Grey-headed Fish Eagle are the notable raptors of the area.

Butterflies at Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park’s butterfly species include the endemic Lesser Albatross.

Sri Lanka Holidays Cultural Attractions nearby Gal Oya National Park
Digavapi Stupa
Location: some thirteen miles east of Ampara
Ruins: 35 archaeological sites including the site of the ancient Buddhist shrine of Dighavapi hallowed by the visit of Lord Buddha.
Restoration: very slow in view of limited funds at the Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka
Devastation: very quick. The area declared under the Archaeological department is only four hundred yards in radius of each site leaving the other areas unprotected under the Antiquities Ordinance No. 9 of 1940. As a result of this pathetic situation there has been a great deal of illegal excavations, sand mining and encroachments in the open areas.

Buddhangala Hermitage
Location: 8km from the town of Ampara
Ruins: Buddhangala hermitage of about 1280 acres and Girikumbhila Vihara, where the Venerable Arhath Mahinda’s relics are enshrined, is located to the west of the hermitage
Restoration: following a century of negligence, the ancient site is being restored by Buddhist Monk Rev. Kalutara Dhammananda Thero.
The landscape: streams of water flows over and around the boulders of the ancient rock hermitage.
The highest point of the rock is about 150 Meters. On ascending to the top of it, one can see the Gal-Oya valley on one side. To the south are the Inginiyagala, Vadinagala and the Govinda Pabbatha which was once the realm of Buwanekabahu Äpa

Photographs are by kind courtesy of Mr. Pierre M. Richard.

[1] For Maduru Oya go to Maduru Oya

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April 20th, 2011

Taprobane: Ancient Sri Lanka as known to the Greeks and Romans Sri Lanka has been known by a multitude of names during its long recorded history spanning a c couple of millenniums and half. Of all the names that Sri Lanka was known, the names, Lanka, Taprobane and Serendib had lasted to date. Sri Lanka has deeply influenced the ancient voyagers, travelers, navigators and historians of cartography, cosmography and geography. Among Greek historians, navigators and cartographers, beginning with Onesicritus of Astypalaea, a commander in the fleet of Alexander the Great, the most common name for the island was Taprobane. This name was subsequently adopted by all Latin authors as well. It is generally agreed that the name Taprobane was derived from the Sanskrit Tamraparni (Pali Tambapanni) since the latter forms occur both in the ancient Sinhalese chronicles (Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa) and in the Rock Edicts of Ashoka, the great Mauyran Emperor of India with apparent reference to the island of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is the land of delights. Sri Lanka Holidays is the total holiday experience that reveals a significant multitude of diverse attractions in culture, nature, wild life, bird life and marine life.

Writes Edward Ives: Some writers, induced by the excessive fruitfulness of the island of Ceylon have supposed it to be the seat of terrestrial paradise; but this opinion is not mine: that it was the Taprobane of the ancients is not unlikely; and indeed there are strong reasons for believing that the island of Taprobane and Ceylon is the same. The ancient, particularly Ptolemy, observe that Taprobane was famous for producing the largest breed of elephant, which is also true of Ceylon. Taprobane likewise was greatly celebrated for its spices, and in this respect Ceylon may be said to rival it, for it produces not only ginger, pepper and cardamoms, but cinnamon also, and the finest in the world. Again Taprobane is said have abounded with precious stones; so does Ceylon; and its rubies, topazes and sapphires in particular are reckoned the best in the East Indies. Taprobane is celebrated for its great fertility, and in this Ceylon is not at all behind it, for from the luxuriance of the soil, they have five kinds of rice which ripen one after another. From all the above circumstances so exactly tallying with each other, we are led to conclude, that island called Ceylon was the famous Taprobane of the ancients. A voyage from England to India, 1773, London.
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Major Thomas William Rogers

April 15th, 2011

In memory of Major Thomas William Rogers: St. Marks Anglican Church at Badulla of Central Highlands.
At Badulla, the terminal city of the highland railway line of Sri Lanka, is an unpretentious Anglican Church that hides behind a lych gate at the foot of the hill below the fort. On a wall covered with memorial tablets is a dedication to Major Thomas William Rogers ( 1804 -1845).

“This church was erected to the honour of God in memory of Thomas William Rogers, Major, Ceylon Rifle Regiment, Assistant Government Agent and District Judge of Badulla, by all classes of his people, friends and admirers. He was killed by lightening at Haputale, June 7, 1845, aged 41. In the midst of life we are in death.”
Major Thomas William Rogers, a pioneer administrator in Badulla during the British colonial era, is now seldom remembered, in spite of his significant contribution towards laying the road network in the Sri Lanka Holidays Central Highlands. Illustrious Major Skinner lamented “after his death it required four men to perform with far less efficiency, promptitude and punctuality than when they were administered” Today, Major Rogers is most remembered as the man who killed 1400 elephants and lost count.

Elephant hunting

Elephant hunting

Most of the colonialist civil servants took up killing elephants as a sport and called themselves sportsmen. Then there were rare others who were driven onto the guns by necessity of their profession as well as in extending assistance to Sinhalese villagers so that their cultivation could be protected.

The arrival of demi-devil of the wild elephants at Uva province of Sri Lanka
In 1824, 20 year old Rogers arrived at Trincomalee, Ceylon and became a second lieutenant in the Ceylon Rifle Regiment. When stationed in Colombo, Rogers became a friend of no lees a person than illustrious Major Thomas Skinner, the builder of Colombo Kandy Road. In 1828, Rogers was appointed Commandant of Alupota, an important bastion. Alupota had been a British stronghold during the Uva Wellassa Rebellion in the year 1818. Rogers was to spend six years in the wild, roadless jungle military station overrun by herds of elephants, which devastated the crops of the Sinhalese villagers. Such was the regular encroachment in large herds, in night after night, in Ceylon, the elephants were likened to wolves in Europe by the British colonialists. Rogers spurred by the circumstances, following initial fumbling, in good time, became an elephant hunter of great skill and courage. Rogers soon became a legendary elephant hunter in his own lifetime.

Major Rogers, the demi-god of the Sinhalese villagers in Uva province of Sri Lanka.
Given the record of the Rogers, it is difficult to believe that there was ever a swifter pair of hands that held a rifle. His hunting exploits made such a deep impression on the Sinhalese villagers, it was said no elephant could ever get too close to him.

Killing 1400 elephants during an 11 year period (1834 to 1845) is astounding by any stretch of credulity. One would imagine Rogers was a day and night professional hunter hired to get rid of the elephants encroaching the villages to lay waste the paddy fields, chena (slash-and-burn) cultivation, topes of coconut trees and groves of banana. Occasionally, whole lands of cultivation were devastated in the course of a single night. Elephants having a great liking for the leaves of the coconut, when unable to reach them with their trunks, would throw their whole weight against the tree, and persist with great pressure till it is laid down.
Today herds of wild elephants are mostly seen at the grassland forests and irrigation reservoirs in the plains. Elephants are the star attraction in most of the Sri Lanka Holidays National Wild life Parks. However during the colonial era wild elephants roamed in large herds in the Central Highlands. The capability of the elephants in enduring extreme climatic change is especially significant: they are at home in valleys of the interior; on the elevated thickly-wooded forty five degree steep mountains which run upto six thousand feet above the sea-level.

Major Rogers, the highland road builder based in Badulla
Rogers, an engineer by profession, was the Assistant Government Agent and District Judge of Badulla. The modern map of Uva owes much to the planning of Major Rogers. Contributions of Rogers to the construction of highland roads under the leadership of Major Thomas Skinner was well recorded in the colonial history of Sri Lanka, then called, Ceylon. He was credited with connecting Nuwara Eliya with Badulla. Furthermore, he was instrumental in building roads, Badulla onwards to three directions: to Bibile and through Bibile to Batticaloa on the east coast, a distance of over 200 miles through difficult terrain; Badulla to Ratnapura, all the way through the hills to the west of the island; Badulla to Wellawaya and then continued this road to the south coast at Hambantota.
Rogers, traversing from Badulla to Kandy, avoiding the arduous climb via Ramboda to Sri Lanka Holidays Nuwara Eliya, traced the Lower Badulla Road via Walapone and to Sri Lanka Holidays  Kandy. However, since the tea plantations never penetrated the wilds of lower Hewaheta and Walapone during the colonial era, the path had fallen into disuse. It took no less than another 140 years for the path to be converted into a broad highway. That was by late Gamini Dissanayaka while the Mahaweli Development Project was at its busiest days in the 1980s. Today it is one of the most picturesque roads in Sri Lanka Holidays.

Rogers misses a shot at Hambantota
In his endless close encounters with herds of wild elephants Major Rogers was caught napping, caught by the trunk of an elephant only once; that was on the 29th of December, 1841, when he was exploring a new forest track in the Hambantota district.

Following is an extraction from Ceylon and Cingalese written by Henry Charles Sirr, 1850, London
The major had shot at an elephant, but the ball glanced off, merely inflicting a flesh-wound; the creature, infuriated with pain, raised its trunk, uttering the terrific trumpet-like squeal, which they always make preparatory to a charge. The elephant seized Rogers with the proboscis, and carried him a short distance, then dashed him on the ground, into a deep hole, and trampled upon him, breaking his right arm in two places, and several of his ribs; and it was only the small size of the hole into which he had been thrown that saved his life, as the elephant had not sufficient room to use his full strength.

When his brother sportsmen came up to the Major, they found him lying senseless, and, so soon as he recovered his speech he stated, that he was perfectly conscious when the elephant both seized and trampled upon him, but that he knew attempting to escape, or struggling was worse than futile, and that he was entirely passive upon principal, as he had often reflected upon such an event occurring, and had resolved to remain perfectly motionless. We believe no greater mastery of mind over matter, or resolution, was ever recorded than this.

Lightening kills Rogers at Haputale of Central Highlands.
The death of the most fearless elephant hunter ever was melancholy as well as extraordinary. No mortal elephant could kill him in spite of more than 1400 death or life encounters. An elephant wouldn’t be shot dead unless the ball of a rifle is sunk right into the brain. In all those encounters, Rogers was swift and dead on the target and prevailed except the one narrated above. He had much more than fabled cat’s nine lives. Whom, the elephants couldn’t kill, it took no less than a bolt of lightening.

Following is an extraction from Ceylon, Beaten Track written by W. T. Keble, 1940, Colombo
It was when he went up to Sri Lanka Holidays  Haputale to meet the Government Agent, C. R. Buller, that Major Rogers met his tragic death on the 7th of June, 1845. Mr. and Mrs. Buller had arrived in Haputale, and Rogers went up from Badulla to meet his chief. They had probably been doing some outdoor inspection work, when a sudden thunder-storm blackened the sky and the mountains, and compelled them to take shelter in the Haputale Resthouse. The rain beat down upon the roof as they sat in the inner roof as they sat in the inner room of Haputale Resthouse. After a time the pattering of the rain drops grew less violent, and major Rogers stepped out onto the verandah to see if the storm had abated. He turned round and called out to Mrs. Buller: “it is all over now”, when suddenly there was a blinding flash of lightening, followed by shattering thunder-clap. The central pole of the pandal before the house was split down the middle, the coolies and horses in the back verandah and outhouses were all struck down, though not seriously injured; but Rogers fell forward with his face to the floor, dead. It was evident that the lightening had been attracted by his military spurs, for one heel was discolored.

Tomb of Major Rogers at Nuwara Eliya,
Right behind the golf course at Nuwara Eliya of Central Highlands is an old colonial cemetery. All around the wall of the cemetery is a ditch, which was once a moat wide and deep enough to stop the elephants crossing onto the cemetery. Thus cemetery was well protected from the wild elephants then abounded at Sri Lanka Holidays Nuwara Eliya. Therein at the cemetery lies the remains of Major Rogers. The tombstone that elephants couldn’t reach was visited by a bolt of lightening. The tombstone of Major Thomas William Rogers is cracked with lightening.

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Senerat Paranavitana

April 11th, 2011

Dr. Senerat Paranavitana (1896-1972), Sri Lanka
Senerat Paranvitana, was trained in epigraphy under the guidance of K.V. Subrahmanya Ayyar at the Office of the Government Epigraphist of India, Ootacamund, South India, in the years 1923-1926. In 1936, he obtained the doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Leyden, the Netherlands, on the first four chapters of his monograph on The Stupa in Ceylon. His supervisor for this thesis was J. Ph. Vogel, a leading authority on Indian archaeology.

In 1940, Senerat Paranavitana became the first Ceylonese Archeological Commissioner. He held this post for sixteen years. In 1958, he became the Professor of Archeology in the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, the first chair of its kind to be established in Sri Lanka.

A self-taught prodigy in the field of archaeology, Senerat Paranavitana combined his talent with other aspects of culture such as history and linguistics, in which he excelled equally. Possessing indigenous vision and intuition, he comprehended with exactitude the nature and design of edifices concerned and conserved then accordingly. Such monuments as the Kantaka Cetiya at Sri Lanka Holidays  Mihintale, the Vatadage at Madirigiya and  Sri Lanka Holidays Sigirya Lion Rock Citadel are among the main contributions of Paranavitana to the archeology of Sri Lanka. Since his first edition of an inscription in 1926, he made innumerable contributions to foreign and local journals which dealt not only with epigraphy, but also with various other branches such as history, art, religion, languages and literature.

His untiring work on aspects of Ceylonese culture brought him many distinctions. Senerat Paranavitana was awarded the Silver Medal by the Royal Society of Arts, London in 1950 and the Gold Medal by the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1955. He was the honored possessor of three D. Litt.s from the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya at Sri Lanka Holidays Kandy, the Vidyodaya University of Ceylon at Colombo and the Vidyalankara University of Ceylon, Kelaniya. The British government honored him by making him an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1951) and Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1952). Senerat Paranvitana, held the post of President, Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society for three consecutive years (1957, 1958 and 1959). He served as Editor of Epigraphia Zeylancia (from 1929), Member of the Editorial Board of the Annual Bibliography of the Kern Institute, Leyden (from 1935), Corresponding Member of I’Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient, Member of the Consultative Committee of Artibus Asiae, Associate Editor of the Ceylon Journal of Science (Section G) (from 1933), Editor of the University History of Ceylon, vol 1 pt. 1 (1959) and vol. 1 pt. 2 (1960) and joint Editor of A Concise History of Ceylon (1961).

Senerat Paranvitana,’s magnum opus is his work on the Sigiri Graffiti (graffiti on the mirror wall of Lion Rock Citadel Sigiriya), published in two monumental volumes by the Oxford University Press in 1956. Among his other publications are The Shrine of Upulvan at Devundara (1953), The God of  Sri Lanka Holidays  Adam’s Peak (1958), Ceylon and Malaysia (1961), Inscriptions of Ceylon –Vol 1 (1970), The Greeks and the Mauryas (1961) and Arts of Ancient Sinhalese (1971). Vol 2 of the Inscriptions of Ceylon and The Story of Sigiri were published posthumously.
Above extract from the book Sinhalayo is published herein by courtesy of Ratna Paranavitana
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March 27th, 2011

Ancient Stupas (Dagobas) of Sri Lanka
The sights of modern and ancient Stupas or dagobas of Sri Lanka, seated prettily on a built up ground or perched on a natural elevation or a hill, sheltered by the foliage of all shades and tones of green set up a regular feature of your Sri Lanka Holidays. Serenely overlooking the landscape, the great white symmetrical domes painted in white or blue-white brings about enormous soothing influence to release the tension on the stressed minds.

Mihintale Mahaseya Stupa

Mihintale Mahaseya Stupa

Stupa in the Sinhalese civilization
Moreover, the concept of Sinhalese civilization being based upon triple pillars of irrigation reservoir, Buddhist temple and dagoba (stupa), most often the expansive rice fields in the foreground and irrigation reservoirs in the background spread over the landscape. The stupa is the most pleasant and most prominent feature of the Buddhist temples of Sri Lanka. The group of buildings at the Buddhist temples of Sri Lanka consist of complementary elements: pilimage (Sinhala: image house), bodhigara (Sinhala: enclosure with the Bo Peeple tree), Vihara (Sinhala: dwellings of the Buddhist monks) and of course stupa.

Tissa Maha Stupa at Tissamaharama

Tissa Maha Stupa at Tissamaharama

The scale of the stupa
The ancient cities had the main stupa designed in line with the scale of the city. It was an urban concept of displaying the same respect and reverence accorded to the stupa at the villages. The dominance in the landscape and the sphere of influence created by the stupa was unmistakable, whether at the southern town of  Sri Lanka Holidays Tissamaharama of the ancient Ruhuna, ancient Anuradhapura (UNESCO World Heritage Site), medieval Polonnaruwa (UNESCO World heritage Site) in the north central plains or the Somawatiya sanctuary in the north-east.

Ruwanweliseya Dagoba phot credit to Nandasiri Wanninayaka

Ruwanweliseya Dagoba photo credit to Nandasiri Wanninayaka

Stupa Vs Cosmos
To illustrious Dr. Senerath Paranavitana (1896 – 1972), the eminent archeologist-historian-epigraphist of Sri Lanka, to whom the Sinhalese nation owes a great debt of gratitude for his tireless archeological discoveries, works and interpretations, stupa or dagaba symbolized the cosmos. The rational of the three relic chambers inside the hemispherical dome is explained thus: “That at the ground level symbolized the earth, the one above it the heavenly world and that below ground the subterranean world of the serpents.” Dr. Paranavitana’s view assumes the omnipresence of the Buddha or Tathagata in the world. “The simple and austere lines of the hemispherical white dome would thus have conveyed to the pious devotee the idea of the vault of heaven, with the celestial abodes represented by the superstructure. The relics enshrined within the stupa which at once symbolized the world and the Tathagatha, would convey the idea of the Tathagata being immanent in the universe. The umbrella, the symbol of sovereignty, suggested to the faithful the idea of the Buddha being lord of the world. Whatever the symbolic significance of the stupa may be, it reflects a harmonious synthesis of simple artistic beauty with architectural design and philosophical thought.

Stupas-at-anuradhapura, a view from Minintale

Stupas at Anuradhapura, a view from Mihintale: to the far left is Mirisavatiya stupa; at the center is Ruwanweliseya stupa; to the right, the blurred image is that of Jetavana Stupa. Image by courtesy of Thorondo.

The most venerated stupas of Sri Lanka
Among the most adored great stupas of Sri Lanka are Jetawana stupa (400ft in height), Abhayagiri stupa (370 feet), Ruwanweliseya (338 ft) located in Sri Lanka Holidays Anuradhapura, the greatest monastic city of the classical world. Among these ancient stupas too, Sri Lanka Holidays Golden Sand Ruwanweliseya stupa built by the King Dutugemunu (161- 137 B.C.), the Hero of the Nation, is the most adored, most visited great stupa of Sri Lanka.

the wild elephant is a regular visitor of Somawathiya Stupa

The wild elephant from the nearby sanctuary is a regular visitor of Somawathiya Stupa

At a monumental height of 338 feet, Ruwanweliseya stupa also called Mahathupa or Swaranmali chetiya covers over an acre and half with a diameter of the circular base being 294 feet. The immense dimensions of the great stupa make the famous Sanchi Stupa (60 feet) of India, which is the largest monument of this class of the same age in India, dwarfed into insignificant proportions. 250 years later Sri Lanka Holidays Abhayagiri stupa (370 feet) built by King Gajabahu (113-135 A.D.) at the Abayagiri monastery (founded by King Vattagamaini Abhaya or Valagambahu (103-102 B.C. and 89 -77 B.C.), towered over Ruwanweliseya.


Somawathiya Stupa

Another 350 years later, King Mahasena (276-302 A.D.), the builder of vast Sri Lanka Holidays Minneriya irrigation reservoir, would do still better: that was by the monumental Jethawana stupa which was originally built to 400ft in height and surpassed, at that time, only by two of the larger pyramids of Egypt. Today restored Jethavana stupa, still the largest among the stupas in Sri Lanka stands majestically, east of the Sri Lanka Holidays  Golden Sand Ruwanweliseya stupa.
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Rock Temples

March 23rd, 2011

Rock Cave Temples of Ancient Sri Lanka

Ancient Sinhalese had drawn to rock caves as ducks to the water; and they had hoarded river water and rainwater by way of vast irrigation reservoirs as if there was no tomorrow. But then, even today, those vast ancient irrigation reservoirs extend the life-line to the nation. Then again, while water thus collected, naturally has been for the physical sustenance of the people and self sufficiency of the nation, rock caves were solely for the ascetic Buddhist monks leading themselves to the higher spiritual stream of the faith. The nation, the Sinhalese and the faith, Buddhism has been interwoven into the fabric of Sinhalese civilization since the arrival of Arahat Mahinda, the great Buddhist missionary to Sri Lanka from India during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa (307-267 BC).

Rock caves that had given shelter and shade to the ascetic monks, scattered throughout Sri Lanka run into many hundreds testifying to the existence of thousands of bhikkus, who chose those for their abodes for long years of meditation. The rock caves being isolated from the general mode of life and immersed in the profound silence in the wilderness, provided sanctuary to lead a life of sanctity and piety in search of higher levels of spiritual stream.

The villagers took upon themselves to cleanse and smoothen the rough rock caves into habitable dwellings in a process that required labor in no small measure. Scholar Buddhist monk Dr. Walpola Rahula narrates the preparation that was adopted as far as back in the 5th century AD, as follows:

First of all the cave was filled with firewood and the wood was then burnt; this helped to remove all loose splinters of rock as well as to dispel unpleasant odors. After the rock cave was cleaned, walls of brick were built on the exposed sides, and doors and windows fixed. Some-times walls were plastered and whitewashed. Then such simple articles of furniture as a bed and a chair necessary for a recluse were provided.
A cave thus appointed was a pleasant residence to live in for a person of unsophisticated aesthetic sense quiet temperament, besides it was an ideal place for deep meditation. The inside of a cave is pleasantly cool during the hot season. Unquote

Most often the walls and ceilings of the rock caves were painted with history of Buddhism, life of Gautama Buddha and episodes from the history of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, a multitude of Buddha statues of varying dimension from colossal to life size were carved of the granite rocks. The finest of such rock cave temple has been Sri Lanka Holidays  Golden Dambulla Rock Cave Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site) at Dambulla. Among other popular rock cave temple that are visited today by the Sinhalese Buddhist pilgrims and Sri Lanka Holidays tourists are Mulkirigla Rock Cave Temple, more than 70 rock caves at Sri Lanka Holidays Ritigala Monastery, rock caves at Mihintale Monastery, Dimbulagala rock Cave Temple and Sithulpawwa Rock cave monastery.

Following rapid spread of Buddhism during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa (Sinhala: dear to the gods) (307-267 BC), the Buddhist monks according to Scholar Buddhist monk Dr. Walpola Rahula, “could not be allowed to live alone in lonely caves and huts on mountains and in jungles cut off from society, ignoring their obligations to the people who supported them and looked up to them for guidance.”

As a result of this necessity, village temples emerged within the prosperous villages; monasteries with royal patronage were built in the neighborhood of flourishing cities; the religious intercourse and social obligations between the Buddhist order of Sangha and the laity was elevated onto a higher level. The supreme fruit of this development was the concept of Sinhalese villages of Sri Lanka Holidays that consist on triple pillars: rainwater reservoir; Buddhist temple and dagaoba (stupa).

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March 20th, 2011

Ceylon, the terrestrial Paradise

Sri Lanka Holidays is proud to present you all with gleanings off the book written by a Portuguese Captain named Joao Rebeiro during the colonial era in Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, titled “The Historic Tragedy of the Island of Ceilao” dedicated to his most Serene Majesty Dom Pedro the Second of Portugal. The classic historical narration was first published in Lisbon on the 8th January 1685. Captain Rebeiro lamented on the loss of coastal belts of Sri Lanka to the Dutch. The book was translated from Portuguese to English by Dr. Paul E. Peiris (a Sri Lankan, then called Ceylonese) in 1947 at Colombo, the emporium of Sri Lanka Holidays.


I should wish all who have traveled over the world or have read of its greatness, to tell me if they have seen or heard of any part which produces the treasures which as we have shown, are to be found in this Island [1]? If we take the whole of Africa, we would not find there more than a little gold obtained by purchase, together with some amber and Ivory.

America produces gold, silver, pearls, emeralds, some amber and numerous drugs; but we ought to remember that so vast is the extent of the country, that it is named the New World, and that it stretches from Pole to Pole, including numerous kingdoms and provinces, and that the majority of them lack most of the articles we have described. These which have some, have not got the others.

Brazil produces sugar and tobacco; in Arabia there is incense, myrrh, dates and horses; in Persia, silk and some drugs, while pearls are found in the Gulf; in Gusarate, cloth and drugs; in Canara, rice and pepper; in Malavar, pepper, cardamom, and ginger; in the Xoromandel Coast, cloth; in the Kingdom of Carnate which is subject to Golconda, diamonds; in Bengala and throughout the Kingdom of the Mogor, cloth, rice, sugar and wax. There are also numerous provinces which have some products and not others. In pegu are found rubies and lacre; in Sumathra gold, copper, tin, benzoin and pepper; in Champa, ebony, calamba and aguila; in Borneo, camphor, diamonds and pepper; in Siam, benzoin and drugs; in China, gold, silk, musk, and drugs; in Japao [2], silver and copper; in the Malucas, cloves; in Banda, nutmegs and mace; in Timor and Solor, sandal.

The products of each kingdom of Europe are well-known, but they are more the result of cultivation than the gift of nature; accordingly we do not refer to them.

We see that several of the lands which we have named include numerous large kingdoms, and they cannot fail to have a reputation for great wealth. What then should we say about an Island, the greatest length of which is not more than seventy two leagues [3], and which produces the five commodities we have described, in such store?

Its cinnamon [4] is the best in the world; its gems [5] are in such abundance, and only diamonds and emeralds are wanting; its elephants [6] are the most prized of any within our discoveries, its pepper [7] is the finest in the East, the pearls [8] and seed pearls of its waters are considered very excellent. I do not speak of the numerous other drugs which the Island produces, and of which we take no account. Some amber is found on the coast.

Methinks that those who declared that this Island is the terrestrial Paradise, did so not in consequence of its fertility or the profusion of every kind of dainty to support life, nor for the blandness or healthfulness of its climate, nor for the footprints two palms long [9] which the Gentiles have fabricated to attract veneration to the spot; but because while its extent is so limited, it produces such an abundance of riches. Unquote


Footnotes by Sri Lanka Holidays bunpeiris
[1] Island of Sri Lanka was then called Ceilao by the Portuguese.
[2] Japan was then called Japao by the Portuguese
[3] Distance between the two furthest points (northernmost point in Sri Lanka, Point Pedro and southernmost point of Dondra Head or Devi Nuwara -Sinhala: City of the Gods) in north-south axis: 432 km; the distance between furthest points in the west-east axis is 224 km. Area of the island: 65625 sq. km.

[4] Even today Ceylon Cinnamon is the finest cinnamon in the world. Moreover, Sri Lanka is the main exporter of cinnamon in the world. Sri Lanka, since the ancient times has been an Island famous for a spectacular range of tropical spices. Even today, Sri Lanka spices are not only grown in the wild but also systematically cultivated. During your Sri Lanka Holidays, you will be visiting a spice garden at Matale on our way to Kandy from Golden Dambulla Rock Cave Temple at Dambulla.

[5] Sri Lanka has been legendary for its gems since the biblical times. Sri Lanka Holidays  Ratnapura (Sinhala: city of gems) located in a valley on the banks of a major river called Kalu Ganga, has been unearthing almost every variety of gems ranging from precious stones to semi precious stones. The most vigorously marketed gem of Sri Lanka is Ceylon Sapphire. Ratnapura of Sri Lanka Holidays also unearths chrysoberyl cat’s eye, ruby, garnet, perodot, topaz, tourmaline, alexandrite, spinal and zircon. During your Sri Lanka Holidays Ratnapura primitive gem mine (large-scale mechanized mining isn’t allowed in Sri Lanka in view of possible environmental hazards), gem markets, gem merchants, gem shops and gem museums too can be visited. Sri Lanka is one of the major gem exporters of the world.

[6] Sri Lanka Holidays Afford all tourists the opportunity to sight herds of elephants at close range in its numerous wildlife parks. The popular of wildlife parks called Minneriya National Park, Kaudulla National Park and Wasgomua National Park are located within an hour’s drive from the transportation and accommodation hub of Habarana. The location of Habarana makes it the ideal base to explore the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa (UNESCO World Heritage Sites) within the Cultural triangle of Sri Lanka Holidays. Uda Walve National Park and Gal Oya National Park too afford the opportunity to view large herds of elephants. So are Ruhuna Yala National Park, Willpattu National Park and Maduru Oya National Park.

[7] Following the arrival of Portuguese in Sri Lanka in the year 1505, the seaport of Cochin in India, which had been famous for Black Pepper (such was the value of the spice then, it was called Malabar Gold), was pushed down into a secondary source of Black pepper.

[8] Sri Lanka had been famous for its sea pearls during its colonial era. Such was the scale of ripping Sri Lanka of its pearls by the Portuguese, Dutch and the English for nearly 500 years (since 1505 to1948), today Sri Lanka is no longer a major source of natural sea pearls.

[9] This is a reference to Sri Pada (Sinhala: resplendent footprint of Buddha) Adam’s Peak (2,243 metres) also called Samanala Kanda (Sinhala: butterfly mountain). Sri Lanka Holidays Sri Pada night ascent (illuminated all the way up to the summit) trekking pilgrimage season begins in December and last till April in the following year. The night ascent has been the traditional trekking mode in view of the spectacular phenomenon of light and shadow of the mountain on the summit at the crack of dawn. The longer route (southern route) to the base of the Sri Pada Adam’s Peak begins at the valley of Ratnapura and the shorter route (northern route) begins at a higher elevation at the Central Highlands city of Hatton, home to vast plantations of Ceylon Tea.

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