Saturday, January 31, 2009



By Gamini Jayasinghe

When you travel to the world heritage city of Kandy from the capital, Colombo you will feel a slight climatic change after completing about one hundred kilometres of your journey and as you pass this highly vegetated area with a lot of water spouts, ravies, rocks and the blue sky with scattered clouds above them, you will feel physically comfortable and mentally enchanted. The whole environment is marvellously beautiful and you will be enraptured with delightful and lovely sceneries all around. This is Pahala Kadugannawa, the boundary between the central and Sabaragamuwa provinces.

If you travel in a private vehicle you are sure to get down there to watch the environment and to enjoy fruits, eats and drinks that are readily available for visitors. Your heart and mind will say “you are not to sit and doze here but to pause for a while to please your eyes with all that is freely made available by the environment.” Even if you use public transport, you can watch the scenery through the glass shutters.

The area is divided into two agro-ecological zones i.e. the low country wet zone of elevation below 300 m. and the mid country wet zone elevation above 300 m. It should be mentioned though with regret, that this area would have been more pleasing if the natural habitat along the road had been allowed to remain intact. Except for a stretch of land from Kadugannawa to Balana along the railroad the natural habitat in the whole area is completely lost. The paddy lands are increasingly being filled and prepared for commercial purposes. At present the natural vegetation has been converted to mono-crop habitats virtually without undergrowth. There are small spice gardens in the area. Flora in home gardens includes varieties such as jak, coconut, bread fruit etc. The wet lands consist mainly of rice paddy areas.

Kadugannawa Ambalama

The old neglected Ambalama in Kadugannawa is one of the remaining ancient wayside resting places in Sri Lanka. This ambalama is the work of Englishmen who wanted to provide a rest house for horsemen going to the hill country from Colombo to take a break or spend the night safely. This structure is of utmost archaeological value. This is a bigger and more elaborate ambalama which has a room in addition to the hall. A half wall is erected round the hall. A tiled roof adorns this ambalama.

This structure needs to be protected. Its roof was damaged while the walls were cracked. This ambalama is now being repaired presumably because the authorities have felt the need to maintain these structures which are of historic value to the nation. It is a felt need to preserve the structures, places and environments of cultural and archaeological value. This ambalama is situated on the left hand side of the road on your way to Kandy from Colombo and on the steep side of the huge rocky mountain facing a range of mountains on the opposite direction. This is attractive scenery with a track of paddy fields in between mountains and stream starting from the mountains and flowing to meet Maoya at Mawanella.

Ambalamas; wayside shelters

Just as the rest houses we have today, ambalamas were the inns constructed for the benefit of pilgrims and other travellers during the good old days. It was also a convenient spot for traders during that era were to rest since most of the time they carried their wares and walked from house to house. There were no motor vehicles then; the only mode of transport was the cart. While short distances were covered on foot, carts were used for long distance trips involving days of travel. These inns were referred to by various names such as “mahwah madu” road side sheds, “madams” and ambalamas. On occasion, the villagers got together and built ambalamas for the benefit of passers by or a wealthy person in the village erected one to earn merit. As Gauthama Buddha has preached “the house holder should dig wells, construct tanks, plant trees, and erect rest houses on the roads and construct bridges over rivers to conquer the three worlds.

Ambalamas were constructed at strategic points such as junctions, mountain tops and places of scenic beauty. Some of the ambalamas were simple structures with an open hall and four pillars to hold the roof. Bigger and more spacious and elaborate ambalamas had a room in addition to the open hall. Such ambalamas were divided into compartments for those who spent the night and sought privacy. They were generally built near a place where water was available. It was usual to have a drinking water pot known as “pinthaliya” meaning water pot for merit at every ambalama. These were of stone or made of clay which were covered with lids and provided with coconut shell cups tied to handles. With recent developments in transport and lodging facilities, an ambalama is considered as an “unwanted” and outdated structure and consequently, most of the ambalamas have been demolished. It should be mentioned that the ancient glory of the remaining structures should be preserved to depict the cultural aspects endowed to us from the past.

Batalegala Mountain –the Bible Rock

The most attractive rock capped mountain that comes into view from the road at the ambalama is Batalegala also calleed Bible Rock by Europeans presumably because the rock has the shape of the Bible or because they have heard “Batale” as “Bible.” This is situated in Aranayaka, an ecologically important area in the central hills in the Kegalle district. It is 798 metres in height. The lower part of this rock caped mountain is an aquifer and there are fountains everywhere and the most important one is Ahupiniella which is the starting point of Maoya. A number of mountains in Aranayake including Ambalakanda are visible from Pahala Kadugannawa.

Galavidaputena – Kadugannawa roadway rock tunnel

One may well remember that he or she had to go through a tunnel in the highway when you travelled towards Kandy from Kadugannawa ambalama. This tunnel is the most striking feature of the road. This is a place where there is a hilly mountain rock, an elbow bend and a precipice. The road had to be constructed with due consideration of the rock and the very steep side of the mountain which is a ravine hundreds of metres deep. This had to be done without leaving room for earth slips or landslides. Until recently the engineers had not been able to trace the road avoiding the rock. The only decision they could arrive at was to tunnel through the solid rock. It would have been a strenuous job to quarry the rock and construct the road through it. Whatever the costs involved in the exercise, the rock tunnel still remains a marvellous creation of road construction technology. The new road constructed in the 1970s by-passes the original British road. After enjoying the endless beauty the country can offer, you travel through the tunnel and in no time reach the summit of the hill and the town of Kadugannawa where the main road branches into three directions; the straight road to Kandy, the one to the left to Balana and Pottepitiya and the road to the right side to Gampola. At this point the highway and the rail road meet after Kelaniya. From Kadugannawa the main road and the rail road run parallel up to Kudaoya railway crossing.

Uthwankanda Sardiel

The hideout of “Sardiel” the famous character dubbed as the Robin Hood of Sri Lanka is not far away from Kadugannawa. The mountain which Saradiel is said to have lived on can be viewed from the main road and the rail road. From the hill top Sardiel could see anyone passing that point. According to hearsay, the hero of the unprivileged people had operated his activities from this mountain which is not accessible easily. He had waylaid and robbed the rich including foreigners and distributed the robbed items among the poor.

How train travellers see Kadugannawa

Kadugannawa Railway Station is very important because it is situated at a strategic point. Trains start to climb from Rambukkana. After passing Rambukkana the trains run through two tunnels situated close together. There is a large rock capped mountain called Alagalla through which the trains pass. It is the second largest tunnel in the journey to Badulla.

Tower of Captain Dawson

The famous tower built in memory of Captain Dawson who constructed this treacherous section of the main road about 40 years before the rail road, stands on summit of the hill. Before the construction of the road through the pass, the Central Province was accessible only to hill climbers. This pass was the only means of access to the mountain district from the west. Prior to this, there were only two roads even in the Maritime Provinces. The British colonist who is reputed for designing and constructing the road, Captain, W.F. Dawson of the Royal Engineers is commemorated at this place by means of a light house like tower which soars fifty-eight metres into the sky from a rock where the railway line runs parallel to the main road. There are 1110 wooden steps to climb to reach the top of the tower.

From the top of the tower one can see the surrounding environment including Sri Pada or the Adams Peak on one side, and the city of Kandy surrounded by the Mahaweli Ganga on the other side. An inscription in English at the base praises Captain Dawson whose knowledge of science and skills in road construction had helped to plan and execute the construction of this road and other public utility works. Captain Dawson died of dysentery in 1829 while surveying the Mannar Channel in the north of the island. The whole island mourned for him. Sir Edward Barnes had notwithstanding Captain Dawson’s junior rank, selected him for the position of C.R.E. (Commanding Royal Engineer) which was a colonel’s command, for Sir Edward knew from his peninsular experience the merits Captain Dawson possessed as an officer. The monument was erected a few years later.


  1. தங்கள் தமிழ் ஆர்வமும் தொண்டும் நன்று..


    உலக சினிமாக்களில் என்னதான் உள்ளது. அவர்கள் மட்டும் உலக விருதுகளை வாரி குவிக்கிறார்கள். அந்த சினிமாக்கள் எவை..?

    அது போன்ற சினிமாக்களை பற்றி அறியவும் பார்த்து ரசிக்கவும் அன்புடன் அழைக்கிறேன்.

    உலக சினிமா பற்றிய எனது வலையை பார்க்கவும்

    தங்களின் மேலான கருத்துக்களையும் கூறவும். பிடித்திருந்தால் பின் தொடரவும். நண்பர்களுக்கும் சொல்லவும்.


  2. Thank you Surya! Please continue your good services!!!

  3. Ungalai pondravargalin asirvathathudan nanum pathivu poda arambithu ullan.

    Kandipa ungaluku pidikum endru nambugiran.

    கருணாநதி அரசு மருத்துவமனையில் ?
    அன்புள்ள முதல் அமைச்சர் அவர்களே,
    உங்களுக்கு உடம்புக்கு முடியவில்லை என்று நீங்கள் அரசு மருத்துவமனைக்கு சென்று இருந்தால் என்ன லாபம் என்று கிழே பதிவு செய்து இருகிறேன்.