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CARITAS RATNAPURA SETHMINI
Diocese of Ratnapura, Sri Lanka.
(Affiliated to National Secretariat for Justice, Peace & Human Development Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ conference in Sri Lanka incorporated by Act of Parliament No 17 of 1983)
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 Historical and tourist attractions
 
     
One of Sri Lanka’s nine provinces, Sabaragamuwa is located in the south-central region of our island and offers the visitor a plentitude of natural beauty, culture, history and adventure found on a variety of terrain. Sabaragamuwa Province consists of two districts Kegalle & Ratnapura.
 
GEMS
Sabaragamuwa Province is most famous for its gems, one of our island’s first exports, like elephants and spices. Certainly most of the people of this province have connections with the gem trade, in its many facets, either mining cutting, polishing and making jewellery. At the centre of this, quite the most beautiful of industries, is Ratnapura (City of Gems). Here you will find stones of excellent quality, luster and variety …sapphires, rubies, amethysts, topaz, garnets, tourmalines, cat’s eyes, star rubies and sapphires and the mysterious moonstones (feldspar), to name a few. Craftsmanship of high quality, all cutting and polishing is being done the traditional way by hand.
There are good gem museums, laboratories and showrooms just a couple of miles away from Ratnapura Town.
 
FLORA AND FAUNA
From one facet of nature to another… Sabaragamuwa is a place of great natural beauty and many of our island’s most famous scenic spots are located within the province.
Kalthota Farming Lands Rare Orchid at Sinharaja Morning Side Rare Orchid at Sinharaja
Non Perial Estate Vegitation in Sinharaja Rare orchid at Sinharaja Vegitation in Sinharaja
Beginning with primeval Sinharaja… one of the few virgin forests left, in the world, Sinharaja covers an area of 8900 hectares within which are found streams, springs, rivers, waterfalls, wild life, rare trees, valuable shrubs and medicinal herbs both indigenous and endemic. This tropical rain forest is rich in interest for the nature lovers with an adventurous soul. Naturally one can not drive through but walking along carefully prescribed paths will discover never to be forgotten sights and sounds. A walk through the Sinharaja may well be the nature tour to end all nature tours.
Udawalawa Elephant Transits Center Wild Elephant at Udawalawa National Park Wild Elephant at Udawalawa National Park Wild Elephant at Udawalawa National Park
Elephanat Orphanage - Pinnawala Elephant at Pinnawala Elephant at Pinnawala A Tamed Tusker at Pinnawala
Then there is Udawaalawa National Park which is now more or less synonymous with elephants, seen in all their playfulness, whole herds of them, adults and babies, bathing and playing in the water or feeding.. so many of them they defy counting .. on the tender tree shoots they love.
A monkey A Bird at Udawalawa National Park A Rare Bird Sinharaja Rain Forest
Of course there are other fauna to be seen and enjoyed as well… Leopard, deed, wild boar, crocodile…And well over 350 bird varieties. And speaking of birds “Kurulukelay” in Kegalle is the spot for them…. A walk in sanctuary runs by the Forest Department…and Kitulgala, across the river, which is a paradise for avifauna.

Bulutota pass is another place worth visiting for its scenic beauty … a walk through Horton Plains National park for some of the loveliest, wildest and most tranquil scenery on the face of the earth and the home of the rare bear monkey, endemic to Sri Lanka. Belihul Oya Rest House is a lovely spot to base you, with the river and its myriad little waterfalls chuckling and gurgling nearby.

On the subject of waterfall, Sabaragamuwa Province boats of so many that will have to mention a few of the most famous,.. starting with Baker’s falls, which rises from Belihul Oya and is named after an Englishman , Samuel Baker, who “discovered” it in the year 1948. Also Surathali Ella, Duvili Ella, Katugas Ella and Bopath Ella.
Bopath Falls - Kuruwita Duli Ella - Udagama Pulun Ella - Pelmadulla Alupola Ella - Ratnapura
 
ADVENTURE
For the more adventurous, there are off-season climbs of Sri Pad…pony trekking through world’s End environs and the stunning view, at the end, of the precipitous drop of over 4000 feet to the valley bellow, the misty walks through Horton Plains, with their beautiful flora… and for the dedicated anglers, nothing is more invigorating than a session of fishing the pools of the Kitulgala for Mahseer (BarbusTor) . For the more intrepid, there’s the prospect of rafting the kitulgala river which offers a fairly interesting stretch of white water
Cycling Trekking through a river White Water Rafting- Kitulgala White Water Rafting- Kitulgala
Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak, is Sri lanka’s holly mountain, sacred to for religions, Muslim’s and Christians believing the footprint on its summit to be that of Adam, Buddhist claiming the impression was left by the lord Buddha and Hindus taking it for that of the Siva. The mountain is held in great veneration and during the “season”(December full moon to May full moon…five full months) pilgrims of many faiths will climb to the summit, starting in the
pitch black night to be in time for the gloriously dramatic sunrise seen from the summit which, once seen, can never be forgotten. Such is its power that there are those who will make the pilgrimage to the peak year after year.

At the top there is nothing but the stupendous view… and a small shrine to the God Saman, who is the protector of the mountain, which by an interesting association, is also known most popularly amongst the Sinhalese people as Samanala Kanda (Butterfly Mountain) for during the season, millions of butterflies also make their pilgrimage to the Peak, quite covering it in lacy white. Sri Pada is 7360 feet above sea level and is reached hrough thick jungle
More of nature’s wonders, if caves and caverns seem mysteriously exciting to you. You must not neglect to visit Waulpane, yet another of our national treasures. Quite unique in Sri Lanka , the Waulpane caves are through to originate from the pre- Cambrian era and are rendered the more fascinating by their formations of stalagmites and stalactites and the fact that a water course (The Halwinna Dola) flows through the cavern, forming a thunderous waterfalls and pool.
The caves are also home to thousands of bats, whence the name, Waulpane, from the Sinhala word for bat: Waula. Bathalegala, or Bible Rock as the English named it, is a rock which truly resembles one of the fat Bibles one sees in ole churches. Rising out of the jungle, it is a dramatic sight. The Rakwana-Bulutota Pass, on a surprising hairpin bend, gives an amazingly good view across the island, on a clear day.
Beli Lena (Cave) – Kitulgala (Mahabage)    
Ratnapura’s gem pits have yielded more than jewels for ornament. A glimpse into the past, no less, from the numerous fossils (vertebrate) belonging to the Pleistocene age. From these, we know that lions, hippopotami and the rhinoceros were found in Sri Lanka in times past and that our island was inhabited by a race of aborigines, whose descendants, the Veddahs, live in their own protected areas, maintaining their traditions and ancient way of life, dress, and speech; in their way, making time stand still.
 
HISTORICAL AND ARCHEOLOGICAL REMAINS
The prehistoric settlements of the Samaragamuwa Province date back to a very early period, as proved by recent cave excavations as well as those carried out on other sites. The earliest settlement dates back home 29000 years.
A seated Buddha’s Statue at Salawa Temple Ancient Selawa Cave Temple
There are more than fifty drawings of animals and other figures, made by pre-historic man, at Dorawaka Kanda-Athlena (near Warakapola) and a dolmen (megalithic tomb), the only one of its kind in Sri Lanka, at Padavigampola.

In the 3rd century, BC, Buddhism came to Sri Lanka, making sweeping changes in every aspect of life. Fortuitously, bricks and mortar were in use by that time so numerous buildings, murals, drawings and pictures remain in a good state of preservation to tell the tale.

Among the many ancient temples in the province, we must mention the Saman Maha Devale, situated close to Ratnapura town and believed to have been built by the king Parakramabahu II (1236-1270 AD).The Saman Maha Perahera (pagent or procession) held at this temple in the month of August each year draws large crowds of devotees.

Berendi Kovila, built about the middle of the 16th century by King Rajasinha I , is located a quarter of a mile from Awissawella town. Opposite the Kovil are found the ruins of the old Royal Palace of King Mayadunne, and also used by his son Rajasingha.King Rajasingha supposedly killed 120 bihikkus (Monks) by throwing the in the river near the kovil. The people of this area say that on nights of the Poya (full moon),a golden vessel appears, floating on the water, which can not be taken by human hands.
Berendi Kovila - Awissawella Beli Lena (cave) - Kitulgala
Close by, is Maniyangama Royal temple, its cave walls covered with murals. Sankapala Temple, consisting of three caves containing inscriptions dating to the 2nd century BC, was built by Pussadewa. One of the ten commanders of the army of King Dutugemunu, who ruled over our island from 161 to 137 BC. After the major battles were over, Pussadewa became a Bihikku and meditated in one of the cave.
Delgamuwa Temple at Kuruwita is famous for being the hiding place of the sacred Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha for 44 long years. It is said that the temple custodian of the shrine in Kotte where the relic was kept, feared for its safty and swam the Diyawanna Oya (river) to Seethawaka Kindom, the gem studded casket hidden in his cloths, and hid it in a large grinding stone which can be seen at Delgamuwa to this day, minus of course the Sacred Tooth Relic, which was taken to the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy in the time of King Wimaladharmasooriya I.
The ancient Aluthnuwara Dedimunda Devala has a history going back to the reign of King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 AD). Built during the reign of King Dapulusena, this is the main shrine dedicated to the God Dedimunda in Sri Lanka and still the original Vishnu Devala, two inscribed stone slabs, old stone pillars and two rows of un carved rectangular pillars. There is an annual festival, held in July/August featuring perahera, fire walking and a water cutting ceremony.

Beligala so named because of its apparent resemblance in shape to that of a “Beli” fruit… contains the remains of an old temple of the Tooth Relic where it was once again kept in hiding at the end of the Polonnaruwa period. Nearby is Beligala temple, which has a beautifull shrine room with murals and a very ancient and sacred Bo tree.

Dadigama Kota Vehera,built by Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 AD) at the site of his birth place is worth a visit,as it the Wattarama Raja Maha Vihara, with ruins dating back to the 2nd century BC. Danakirigala Rock temple is one of the oldest in the Kegalle district and was known by the name of “Waddhamanaparwata” in ancient times. Since it is built on the summit of a high hill, it commands a spectacular view.

Nikapitiya Pothgulgala temple is situated in a very beautifull location and also worth seeing is Vakirigala temple (Mawanella) a small temple built on pillars, with fine murals in its shrine room.

Salawa temple (Aranayaka) is a small temple consisting of tree caves, all of them covered inside with murals. It is said that the last king of Kandy spent some time in hiding here, secreted behind the statue of the Lord Buddha.

Mediliya Raja Maha Vihara is also situated in a very beautiful location, which is very close to Hemmathagama and also worth seeing it. This beautiful temple built on pillars, with fine murals in its shrine room. It has many beautiful paintings and statues which belong to Kandy era.

Devanagala Temple at Mawanella is built on a 600 feet high rock, with a superb view of the surrounding area. There is a shrine room built on pillars and another which dates back to the period of king Parakramabahu I. There is also an inscription which notes the gift of land to the king’s commander-in-chief in recognition of his exploits in a war against Burma.

Ambululena Viharaya, Deliwela Kota Vehera, Gallen Viharya, Lewke Viharya, Degalakiriya, Makura, Rambukkana Dambulla Temple,Kota vehera, Muwampitiya are other temples worth seeing.

The Ratnapura National Museum is open every day of a week, from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, except Fridays. It houses a good collection of archaeological, zoological, and pale ontological, ethnographical and geological artifacts, all unearthed in Sabaragamuwa.

Sabaragamuwa Dance is an art form all its own… one of Sri Lanka’s most ancient, traditional dance forms which has been handed down, retaining its pure state, from generation to generation.
 
CULTURAL ACTIVITIES
Masks and costumes are traditional and show little or no variation through the centuries.

The music …mainly drum orchestra, with other percussive instruments, such as cymbals, bells and tambourines, is nothing short of compelling. The deep resonance of the drums and the complicated, repeating rhythmic patterns seem to sing and pulse with ones heartbeat.

The dances which use masks of various folk characters representing sundry supernatural beings are colorful, sometimes humorous, and often macabre. They are traditionally used as part of curative folk ritual, to invoke blessing, lift curses and heal sickness.

Other locations in this region worth investigation include ‘Saradiel’s Rock’ or Uthuwankanda (near Mawanella), a rocky crag which for a time was the retreat of Saradiel, known as “Sri Lanka’s Robin Hood”, who waylaid and robbed the rich (mostly British Planters traveling by horse-drawn carriage) in order to give to his less fortunate brethren. It is an interesting Hike to the summit for nature and adventure lovers alike.
 
MEDITATIONS
Sabaragamuwa with its scenic beauty and tranquil atmosphere lends itself naturally to the contemplation of life. There are several meditation centers in the region.

Kurulukele at Keglle,a bird sanctuary, also houses a meditation center. Salgala meditation center can accommodate 12 monks in insolated caves in a 600 acres jungle sanctuary.
Monks at Salgala Hermitage Budugala Temple
Nilmalgoda Karandulena Jungle Hermitage, Sinharaja Jungle Hermitage at Rakwana and Budugala Jungle Hermitage are three other famous centers, while the most famous is undoubtedly Kalawathi, whichis a popular health resort, where traditional ayurvedic (herbal) medicine is used in a holistic way, with herbal baths, oil massages, application and infusions serving to cure diseases, relex and invigorate. Situated in Polhngoda village, ratnapura, Kalawathihith Center is a place of great natural beauty.

Undulating mountains, cascading waterfalls, peaceful rivers…the constant chirruping of birds in untouched forests… these and the sites of interest, together with the many good hotels, rest houses and guest houses, make Sabaragamuwa an inviting prospect.

(Refered from www.sg.gov.lk)
       
 
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