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Monday, March 25, 2013

Namal Uyana, a sanctuary for birds and animals

Situated in the approximate centre of our country, the town of Dambulla contains a rich heritage of historic value. Just 15 km away from the Dambulla town, upon arrival at a two-way junction one is presented with a vast acreage of thick wooded jungle of green and encompasses an area of approximately 2,000 acres.

Ven Wanawasi Rahula Thera
Going through Dambulla and heading towards Jaffna on the A-9 highway and on branching off at Madatugama junction and going towards Aadiyagala, one gets on the Galewela - Dambulla highway 91. At the junction, turning towards Ibbankatuwa tank in the outskirts through Komaliya towards Galkiriyagama, and Pubbogama, from there towards Aadiyagala, after a distance of 2 km, one gets closer to the dense jungles.

Turning off at Galewala, through Kalaruwa on the Kekirawa and turning off at Aadiyagala is a closer route to get to the jungle.

Situated in the Anuradhapura district in the Palagala Divisional Secretariat and the Galkiriyagama Police division, sits a beautiful little village named Ulpathgama, which has great historic significance but its importance was not made aware since its close proximity to the scenic greenery of the vast forest area surrounding it. However, those aware of the value of this forest made use of it for the disreputable activities of the illegal feeling of these valuable trees. Some rob the ancient treasures found in caves and in the process, these thieves who have no heart or conscience kill innocent human beings.

When approached from any road, one comes across the famous area of “Namal Uyana”, Asia's largest location containing Rose Quartz. Having a mixture of dry zone and wet zone climates, a visit to this area will envisage an unforgettable never-before-experienced adventure to please the eyes, calm the mind and body. The experience cannot be described in words but must be seen to believe.

Pink quartz

It is said in folklore that the pink quartz contained in “Namal Uyana” was taken to India to decorate and beautify the famous Taj Mahal. This valuable stone is present in approximately 600 acres in this forest and interestingly there is no presence of any common black rock in the entire area which goes to show the natural value of the area and is worth taking note of for posterity.

The known area of Namal Uyana is approximately 2,000 acres and within these boundaries contain national treasures of great value in the form of artefacts and statues is an indication of the beauty of this strategic forest in the years gone by and is worth nurturing for the future generations to come.

Ranavaya is the village situated in the East of Namal Uyana. Sri Lanka's historic event of great Dutugemunu Elara war named “Vijithapura battle” took place in this location and is recorded in the books of history. King Dutugemunu having defeated King Elara in this great battle was able to rule in this region. From Vijithapura to the village of Ranava is roughly 15 kilometres. It is reported that the villagers of Ranava made weapons and took to the battlefield and joined forces with the King's soldiers to support King Dutugemunu in this great battle. The famous ‘Aadiaagala letters” written by King Dappula the fifth is found in front of the ‘Devrada Randaru’ temple in Ranava.

The ‘Aadiyaagala Letters’ contain details of how the King had no power to capture a traitor who entered this village. Namal Uyana which is surrounded by the villages named Morothegama, Ulpathagama, Narangaswewa, Ranava and Dambulluhalmallawewa is not only a sanctuary for birds and animals, but also a place of mental and physical relaxation and meditation for people of all walks of life and is the only such location containing its unique features in the island.

I visited Namal Uyana with the intention of ascertaining the historical significance of this area and wish to inform and educate readers in this historic exercise.
Upon entrance to Namal Uyana, one is privy to a spectacle of Na trees which is a sight to behold.

Na tree

It is said that the famous Ven Mangala-Sumana-Revatha and Venerable Sobitha Theras received enlightenment under the Na tree. Hence, the Na trees have great significance in Buddhist history and worship. History has handed down this reverence for the Na tree to such an extent that when one enters Namal Uyana, travellers have a heightened sense of reverence from deep within leading to a meditative experience.

The fragrance emanating from the Na flowers bring forth a sense of serenity of both mind and body. It also brings to mind the true value of nature and in being one with the environment.

Hence Namal Uyana is Sri Lanka's largest Na tree forest covering approximately 200 acres which is a vista of flowering trees as far as the eye could see. Due to the sheer beauty of this spectacle, the Government through a Gazette notification on April 26, 2005 has declared this sanctuary a protected forest area.

When trekking through the forest, there is a huge “Moragaha” which is reported to have been a contributory factor to the adding to beauty of the Na trees. Namal Uyana was made famous through Ven. ure's ecological balance.

The true spirit of Buddhism is portrayed through this simple example of a tree which unlike man has no enemy and harbours no grudge or takes revenge but instead protects, feeds and shelters both man and beast and is a vital truth enhancing the value of Buddhist teaching.

It is indeed a wonder when one meditates on the fact of how Wanawasi Rahula Thera who is reported to have received shelter under this Moragaha. He was protected by wild animals and vicious snakes by this tree.

Rose Quartz rocks
Although man is destroying nature and plundering the forests by the felling of trees etc. the trees in return only provide shelter and protection to both man and beast and help preserve natthis Ven. Thera lived amidst the dangers and discomfort of a forest in solitary status and yet found peace and contentment amidst the trees, especially living perched on the high branches of the Moragaha.

Historic artefacts

It is a deep seated fact that a true Buddhist knows no fear and is one with nature so that no harm comes to those who do not wish harm to others.“In the same way we preserve and protect the environment we live in, it will in return protect and nurture us. Therefore, I love them like my own children”, said the Ven. Wanawasi Rahula Thera.

In the sites containing historic artefacts and statues it is reported that they have been places of religious worship estimated to be during 8 AD.

What we witness today of the sheer beauty, religious and historic significance of Namal Uyana and is portrayed was initially made famous by this bhikkhu. One cannot talk about Namal Uyana without talking of the Ven. Rahula Thera. The true beauty of Namal Uyana and the valuable Rose Quartz is closely linked with an unbreakable bond with this humble bhikkhu.

This 2,000 acre Na tree forest has received world acclaim for its beauty and cultural heritage and has been declared a heritage site has been promoted and nurtured to the public largely due to the untiring efforts of this Ven. bhikkhu who practically single-handedly looked after this Na forest for 22 fruitful years. Ven. Rahula Thera achieved the goal of turning Namal Uyana into a renowned site of religious significance through the inspiration of a dream he had.

This dream became a reality and today is a national treasure and world renowned heritage site.

The blue whales are back in Trinco - Eastern Sri Lanka

The blues are back in Trinco

Since the lost whales of Trinco were rediscovered in 2010, by a team of naturalists at ‘Cinnamon Nature Trails', numerous sightings of blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins have taken place making the season up in the East a rewarding experience. The great blue off the coast of Trincomalee seems to be a popular playground for these marvellous marine mammals during March through April each year.

As in previous years, the Cinnamon Nature Trails team is ready to take guests on a voyage that will almost guarantee a sighting of Whales and Dolphins including a glimpse of a super pod of Sperm whales often seen in Trinco during this period. With all safety measures in place and a crew well experienced to make your cruise pleasurable. The Eastern whale watch is set to begin shortly off the city by the sea.

Head of Eco Tourism for John Keells Resorts Chitral Jayatilake mentioned that all guests who will flock to Trinco this season for whale watching are welcome to submit tale fluke images for an ongoing Blue whale ID programme, while clear images once selected will be uploaded to a Flickr site with picture credit.

Chaaya Blu Trincomalee is situated just a few kilometres off Trincomalee and was built to reflect a retro chic design. Its strategic location gives guests the opportunity to experience these large marine mammals and the acrobatic spin of Dolphins just a few minutes away from the resort, or perhaps if one is lucky enough just at the very shores of the sea at Chaaya Blu. A selection of Beach Chalets, Superior rooms and two Suites make up a total of 81 rooms, with two restaurants; one specialized in seafood and two bars which cater to your every whim.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Foreigners showing disrespect to Buddha images

Three French tourists were given suspended six-month prison sentences in Sri Lanka after their holiday pictures appeared to show one of them – a woman – kissing a Buddha statue on the lips.
All three – two women and a man – pleaded guilty to desecrating a Buddhist shrine in the central town of Kandy and were also fined USD 11 each, police said.
As well as the woman's apparent kiss, the man tried to imitate the pose of the Buddha and their actions hurt the feelings of Buddhists in the country, police told a magistrate in Galle.
Officers were alerted to the incident after the visitors tried to get their holiday pictures printed.
The tourists were free to go as their jail sentences were suspended for five years and the magistrate did not make any order to expel them from the country, he added.
Sri Lanka is majority Buddhist and is sensitive to foreigners showing disrespect to Buddha images. Shrines and temples have banned tourists visiting unless they are conservatively dressed.
Sri Lanka banned US rap star Akon in March 2010 arguing that he had produced a music video involving scantily clad women in front of a Buddha statue.

"The studio employee saw the images and alerted the Galle police who arrested the tourists yesterday and the case was concluded today because they pleaded guilty," said police spokesman. 

Eight years ago, Sri Lanka's supreme court ordered police and customs to seize Buddha Bar music and bikinis with Buddha images after monks complained they hurt local religious feelings.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sri Lanka’s second international airport

Sri Lanka’s second international airport- the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota was inaugurated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa today (18 March).Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota declared opened today by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa - Pix by Sudath Silva
A special SriLankan Airlines flight carrying President Mahinda Rajapaksa landed at the new Airport . Therefore the president was recorded as the first passenger of the new Airport.
This is the first time that a new International Airport is being constructed in Sri Lanka. Situated 15 Km North of Hambantota , the construction work of the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) began in November 2009 and the first stage has now been completed to serve one million passengers per year, it will also handle 45,000 Mt of air cargo. A total of 2,000 hectares has been reserved for the project out of which 800 hectares have been used for the stage one, spending USD 210 million.
It has the capability to serve the latest operational aircraft and more advanced aircraft of the future, and has been designed fully in keeping with recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The MRIA has the only runway in Sri Lanka that could facilitate the most modern Airbus 380.
The inaugural test flight landed in the airport on October 16,2012 in a measure to test air travel control instruments installed at the Mattala Airport. The first plane was a Hawker Beech craft B200 registered as AP-CAB in Pakistan. The second test plane to land at Mattala was a SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-200, January 29,2013.
The most impressive factor of the architecture of the MRIA is that it has preserved the Sri Lankan identity in its construction while incorporating modern facilities and techniques. This Airport is constructed as an eco-friendly project and it has already secured a category 10 international certification.
MRIA will be promoted as a transshipment hub that links to the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, which is about 15 miles away, and would act as an alternative to the Bandaranaike International Airport.The new airport commences its operations at a time the Tourism Industry of Sri Lanka is experiencing a steady growth, recording more than 46% annual growth over the years.
The biggest advantage of MRIA is that it is located at the centre of the Hambantota district, bordering Monaragala and ?Ratnapura districts. Nuwara Eliya is a two hours and forty five minute drive through Ella-Wellawaya, which is a very scenic route. The surfing destination Arugam Bay is about three hours away and the Yala National Park that drew over 15,000 tourists in December 2012 is just 35 minutes away from the airport.
With the increase of tourists to the area associated industries will ?be developed where the local community can engage in fruit and vegetable cultivation, ornamental fish farming as well as horticulture. Unlike in Katunayake where land is not available, there is ample land in Hambantota.
The location of Mattala close to the Yala sanctuary would enable foreign tourists to disembark at MRIA and tour the Southern area of the country, enjoying wildlife and sunny beaches.
On completion of the stage two of the construction and development work, the MRIA will be geared to cater to around seven million passengers per annum.
The aim of Mahinda Chintana to upgrade Naval and Aviation services in Sri Lanka is now becoming a reality.
The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, once completed, will provide a gamut of services to function as an international aviation centre.
The project will help fulfil the goal of making Sri Lanka an aviation hub in the world, to face regional challenges, and attract foreign revenue and investments.
- Menaka-Off2srilanka.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


A group of students who had written some words in Tamil and had totally disfigured the appearance of the Lion's Paw section of Sigiriya. This incident was reported on the 15th. It is reported that this group of students had been accompanied by teachers as well. According to reports, there had been 2 male students and 1 female student involved in this incident. They are supposed to have scribbled various names with the use of pieces of granite and bricks. It is also reported that they had resorted to this act with much freedom as there had been any security-guard present. Further, the teachers who were there with these students had not being willing to admit that this act was something wrong.

  Later on some onlookers who had come there had protested against this offence. However, it is reported that these students had carried on with their activities and on noticing a person trying to photograph the act, a teacher in the group had expressed his displeasure. At a later stage, on complaints made, the suspected 2 male students and the female student had been taken into custody by the security forces.

  The Director of Archaeology has said that an  inquiry would be held over this incident. According to an official of the Ministry of Central Cultural Affairs who had inspected the site concerned has remarked that this damage could be brought back to the former state but the damage done to its natural appearance would however be lost.

  The first occasion when the first markings on Lion's Paw of Sigiriya was revealed was in1896 by Mr.Bell, a Britisher who was then the Commissioner of Archaeology. It is purported that there had been factors to prove that a face of the lion had existed at the place, according to historians, which had later on collapsed. It was also reported of an incident where a lightning had struck at the site of the Lion's Paw. A further incident was reported in 1967 where a person had applied tar on the figures of the Sigiriya damsels.

  Sigiriya has been named a site which has attracted first place as the tourist attraction of Sri Lanka as well as of World Heritage.