Today at Colombo
places in Sri Lanka
Colombo is the commercial centre of Sri Lanka. In the
16th century when the Portuguese arrived, Colombo was a small trading post.
They immediately realised the important strategic value of Colombo in order to dominate
the coastal region. Protected by an impressive fortress they developed the harbour and the
town. From those fortifications nothing much its left. The Dutch connected the lakes and lagoons
around Colombo with canals like in Holland and laid out many more spice gardens, as they
were very keen to increase the lucrative spice trade. Under the British rule the harbour
was considerably enlarged and Colombo gained more and more in importance. After the
opening of the Suez Canal the city became an important port for transit and catering
between Europe and the Fareast. Today Colombo has a population of more than one million,
which is rapidly increasing as many people from the rural areas come daily to Colombo
looking for work and employment in order to participate in the fame and wealth of the
From written records, Anuradhapura was made the royal capital by the
king Panduk-Anhaya in 380 BC. It remained residence and royal capital for 119 successive
Singhalese kings till the year 1000 AC when it was abandoned and the capital was moved to
Polonnaruwa. In the 3rd Century BC the missionary Mahinda son of the
North-Indian emperor Asoka brought the teachings of Buddha to Anuradhapura, which has to
this day influenced Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the form of the Theravada school. After the
conversion of the kingdom to Buddhism an extraordinary age of cultural ascendancy and
common weal started.
As a Buddhist
stronghold Anuradhapura became famous and was honoured far across the region, as result
there were innumerable processions of pilgrims to the holy city. The reason of all these
pilgrims for coming was the presence of the holy Bo-tree, which was grown form a branch of
the very tree under which the Lord Buddha found enlightenment, as well as to visit the
Thuparama dagoba which contains as a relic the collarbone from the Lord Buddha.
The historical chronicles, like the Mahavamsa, written by monks,
give us, a complete, and unbroken documentation of the rise and fall of the Singhalese
(Buddhist) kingdom. The economic basis for the rise and the dominant role of the city were
the many tanks and channels, which wise rulers, have built and became a blessing for the
rice cultivation and production.
At its zenith the city's area was as large as Paris today with a
population of more than half a million. At the boundaries of the old holy city, still
venerated today, lays the new district town with only a population left of 40'000, a mere
shadow of the old mother. Unfortunately the old monuments are not in a state of good
preservation, as they were covered by thick jungle for many centuries and this has had a
devastating effect. The old Anuradhapura of today is scattered with erected stone pillars,
remains of walls from palaces, monasteries, and temples etc., and between old trees
imposing dagobas rise majestically into the sky.
Kandy was been founded at
the end of the 15th Century by a nobleman of the Singhalese court. There exist
numerous legends about the foundation of the city, but there is also much evidence that
the area was populated long before this foundation. Kandy is and has always been the
centre of Singhalese nationalism. As defiant fortress in the mountains she successfully
resisted the Portuguese and the Dutch, and it took the English two decades to conquer
Kandy, capturing the last Singhalese king and sending him to India into exile where he
later died. All Ceylon was then British colony and Kandy lost its role as capital but
became due to its situation on 500 m above sea level a popular resort town of the new
rulers. Later Kandy was the centre of the coffee industry and after a fungus infection
destroyed almost all coffee plantations, a centre of the tea industry. The holy tooth
temple where as a relic a tooth of the Lord Buddha is kept and venerated is the holiest
shrine of the Singhalese Buddhism. No newly elected president of the country, party leader
or any other dignitary can neglect to go immediately after his election or inauguration to
Kandy for a visit to the temple of the holy tooth. Today Kandy is a city with a population
of 160'000. In the heart of the city, close to a lovely little lake, lies the holy tooth
temple, which was the last palace of the Singhalese king. Kandy with its lake and nestled
within green hills is a lovely place with a very special atmosphere.
Polonnaruwa is second of importance as royal city to
In the 11th Century the capital was moved from Anuradhapura to
it was hoped that this new residence in such a difficult accessible area would be better
protected from the notorious raids from the Indian Sub-Continent As a result Polonnaruwa
became a splendid residence and capital. During the reigns of the kings Parakrama Bahu the
Great (1153 - 1186) and his successor Nissanka Malla 1187 - 1196 the Singhalese kingdom
reached its last golden age, of which the splendour of its buildings and palaces the
impressive irrigation system with artificial lakes, tanks and channels give clear
As in Anuradhapura the monuments and
ruins are situated in a lovely tropical area, surrounded by paddy fields and jungle. The
buildings are less grandiose and imposing dagobas are missing, with the exception of the
Gal Vihara, a group of monumental Buddha satues, belonging to the most famous periods of
Singhalese sculptural achievements. But many of the buildings and constructions are in a
much better sate of preservation than in Anuradhapura.
Kasyapa son of king Dhatusena (459 - 477 AC.) had his father
arrested and walled alive within his tomb. His brother Moggallana, who was the legitimate
successor to the throne, was sent into exile abroad, and Kasyapa was named king. As he had
the power, he was in constant fear of his life. For this reason, he left the capital city
of Anuradhapura and went into the wilderness where he built on top of a huge monolith
which, rises 200 m from the jungle into the sky, his palace. Around this rock he
constructed impressive fortifications. From Sigiriya he ruled the kingdom for 18 years
(479 - 497 AC) until such time his brother Moggallana returned from India with an army.
Beaten in battle he committed suicide in his rock fortress.
At the base of the monolith was the capital city and on top the
citadel and the palace. Of its past splendour only rests of walls remain. The main
attraction for the visitors are the famous frescos which date back to the time of king
Kasyapa."The Heavenly Maidens", remnants of an enormous gallery which contained
once five hundred frescos. No one really knows whom the seductive beauties represent, but
it is easy to believe that they are heaven-dwelling nymphs from a realm of radiant light.
The inscriptions (graffiti) on the so called mirror wall are the testimony of visotors
from the 5th to the 13th Century AC, who were impressed by the
beautiful heavenly beings. The graffiti are an important document of the development of
the Singhalese language.
Nuwara Eliya is situated in the central mountains -
2'000 m above sea level. It is Sri Lanka's premier hill resort. Splendid scenery and fine
bracing mountain climate. Temperature average 10° C. Nuwara Eliya is decidedly English in
someway (houses , gardens and places names) and was actually planned to be an English
village by a pioneering Englishman, Sir Samuel Baker in the mid 19th Century.
Heart of Sri Lanka's tea country, Nuwara Eliya teas are some of the country's best.
Many of Sri Lanka high mountain peaks
including the highest Pidurutalagala (2524 m) are located in this district. Excellent
walks and drives, exceptionally good golf on the18 hole course, one of the best in Asia.
Trout hatchery, market, gardens of flowers, fruits and vegetables, not commonly associated
with Sri Lanka, Haggala Botanical Gardens famous for its collection of roses and the rare
Negombo is the major beach resort on the coast north of Colombo. Here,
in an old world atmosphere of 17th Century churches and forts; dozens and
dozens of hotels, guest houses restaurants and bars have sprung up along the beach. Beside
luxury hotels are small, very simple guests houses. What is left from the former fishing
village, you can explore at the Negombo lagoon with its many outrigger canoes.
Negombo is situated 40 km north of Colombo, close to the international airport. Long,
palm-fringed, wide, sandy beaches are inviting for long walks and especially for sea
bathing. With its many shops, restaurant and bars the centre of Negombo offers to the
visitor many distractions. It is worthwhile to go on a boat trip to the lagoon or one of
the old canals dating back to the Dutch colonisation.
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