Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dawn at Kantale Reservoir.

Kantale reservoir was built by King Agbo-II in the 5th century. It can be reached along Kandy-Trincomalee Road (A6 highway) 45 kilometers from Habarana.

Kantale Reservoir spreads over 3,500 hectares, and holds water from River Mahaweli. It is surrounded by huge forest reserves, and also considered as an IBA (Important Bird Area).

At the dawn, scenery around Kantale reservoir is refreshing and full of vibrant colour. The clean, carpeted road runs over Kantale reservoir bund.

Fishing canoes are out for the morning's catch. Eagles circle over the water looking for prey. People, riding bicycles are out for work. A grand statue of King Agbo-II overlooks everything.

(Special thanks to my friend Janaka Jayanatha.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dimbulagala: Over 7000 years in the making.

The rocks of Dimbulagala: believed to be the weapons facility of Ravana.

Dhumraksha, an uncle of King Ravana was believed to have lived on these rocks. He overlooked the sophisticated weapons facility built here by Ravana, where the weapons he used for long wars against his enemies were developed and stored for safety. Because of Dhumraksha, this rock came to be called as Dhumraksha-Giri, which became Dumrakgala that eventually became Dimbulagala.

To the top of Dimbulagala...
Ravana fought with Rama in 4000 BC with weapons that shook the earth. The chronicle Rajavaliya says that 24 palaces of Ravana built along the coast sank in the sea after taking these shocks.

Time passed in thousands of years. Dimbulagala was covered by the jungle and became a hideout for the remaining Yakkhas of Lanka. When Prince Pandukabhaya was fighting against his uncles before 437 BC a Yakkha queen called Chetiya helped him. Chetiya was said to be the queen of the slain king of Lanka by Prince Vijaya. Chetiya lived in Dimbulagala, where Prince Pandukabhaya met her and requested help in his war against the uncles.

Hideout of the Yakkhas.
182 years after King Pandukabhaya, Emperor Asoka's Buddhist mission arrives Lanka. Thereafter, Dimbulagala became a Buddhist monastery. 11,000 Arhats were said to have lived in the forests of Dimbulagala those days.

A very long time after, that is in the 1950s, Ven. Kithalagama Seelalankara Nayaka Thero arrived in Dimbulagala looking for a sanctuary for his meditation practices. While staying in the forest sanctuary, he promoted a small settlement with twelve families.

Ven. Seelalankara Nayaka Thero developed this village to support the viability of Dimbulagala Buddhist Monastery. The recent history of Dimbulagala is entwined with the name of Kitalagama Seelalankara Nayaka Thero's life, until it was tragically ended by LTTE terrorists on 26th May 1995.

Janaka and I on the way to the top of Dimbulagala.
Reaching Dimbulagala is easier from Polonnaruwa. Take either a Mahiyangana or Nuwaragala bus from Central Bus Stand Kaduruwela. The bus travels along Maradankadawala-Habarana-Thirukkondaiadimadu Highway (A11) through the Flood Plains National Park. After passing about 4km from Manampitiya Bridge, the bus turns to Manampitiya-Aralaganwila-Maduru Oya Road (B502) and drives about 3km to Dalukkane. From Dalukkane it turns to Mahiyangane-Dimbulagala-Dalukkane Road. After a little more than 5km the bus arrives at Dimbulagala.

From Dimbulagala junction it is a 650 meter walk up to the monastery entrance.

Take enough water and some biscuits or chocolate to quench thirst and hunger while climbing the rock. It is a tedious task, and you must not try this if you are not feeling well. It is better to wear good, gripping shoes than slippers because when you climb halfway the concrete steps end, and from there have to continue on a rugged rock trail.

Thanks to my friend Janaka, I can give you these pictures. The hand rails are available at some places only. Most of the way have to be climbed by clinging on to roots and tree trunks.

Ahas Maligawa Temple built on top of Dimbulagala rock.

The view from top of the rock near Ahas Maligawa.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Season of Robarosiya.

Sidewalk at Katugastota.
Kandy has gone pink once again. The season of Robarosiya flower has arrived. The breeze slightly shakes Robarosiya branches and makes the pink flowers rain down.

Kandy Lake Round.
The number of flowers in a tree are immense, you can barely see its green leaves.

George E. De Silva Park, Kandy.
In front of Sri Dalada Maligawa.
The city of Kandy and its suburbs like Peradeniya and Katugastota are under siege by Robarosiya, the April Flower.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Old Bridge of Katugastota.

River Mahaweli flows by the town of Katugastota, separating it from Kandy Town. The bridge over the river at this place connects the two towns. The other importance about this place is that it is the point where the borders of Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti (the three ancient political divisions of Lanka) meet.

The old bridge of Katugastota was commissioned for the transportation of Sri Lanka on 1st of March 1860, during British colonial rule by Governor Henry Ward. It is said that the Governor had organized a dinner dance on the bridge that day.
On the right bank of Mahaweli. The old bridge (right) and the new (left).

This bridge was strengthened in its first reconstruction in 1905, and in the second reconstruction in 1939. The plaque erected for the 1939 reconstruction can be seen on the bridge even today.

The plaque on the old bridge.

The plaque says:


The new bridge of Katugastota was declared open by President Mahinda Rajapakse on 26th July 2009.

The old bridge is still used by pedestrians who like to avoid the traffic on the new bridge. The old bridge is a good place to take a leisure walk and have a look at the river because there's no more traffic over it now. St. Antony's College is situated right at the Kandy-end of the old bridge. Therefore sometimes a few vans or three-wheelers that belong to visitors of the College can be seen parked on it.

Evening on the old bridge Katugastota.

The old bridge looks tired and resting, while the new bridge keeps securely holding the heavy traffic over the Mahaweli.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Walk by the Giritale Reservoir.

Morning at Giritale reservoir.

I wonder what was there, 14 centuries ago.

Somewhere between 608 AD and 618 AD, King Agbo II of Anuradhapura Kingdom chose the ideal place at Giritale to build a reservoir. When the reservoir was built, it became the naturally deepest reservoir of Sri Lanka, a record which it still holds.

On the roadside: Giritale-Elahera Road.

The construction of Giritale reservoir could have been a mighty project. King Agbo II mobilized his 5th century engineers to plan the construction. He might have organized massive manpower and animal power such as herds of tamed elephants and bulls to power the construction work as planned. King Agbo II ultimately finished the reservoir with a 550 meter long, 23 meter high dam, covering 24 square kilometers, containing 24 million cubic meters of water to support the agricultural economy of the country.
The road over the bund of Giritale Reservoir runs to Elahera.

The Deer Park hotel garden.

Fourteen centuries ago, the construction site of the Giritale reservoir could have been covered with thick dry-zone jungle rich in wildlife including deer, elephant, wild boar, squirrels etc. The workers might have taken meal breaks with chats and jokes to relax a bit while the work was going on. During the nights fireflies might have lit the jungle around the site.

Today, the scenario has changed a bit. Walk along the bund of Giritale reservoir, starting from Giritale junction towards Elahera. In the morning it is cool and a breeze blows. Fisher folk is out there rowing the canoes on Giritale reservoir, spreading the nets and bringing their catch.

Walking about a few hundred meters more you come to a centre of hospitality. The white letters on the brown wooden board reads, “The Deer Park”. The Deer Park has been built under the shades of huge dry-zone trees where tropical wildlife and vegetation is found abundant in an ancient Polonnaruwa kingdom setting. The environment is set to look like an epic palace garden in the history.

The Deer Park Hotel at night.