part of Relief of Sri Lanka in the series on Social studies(overline)
Penne Plain – the cradle of our civilization
The land around the coastal plain of Sri Lanka is called the Penne
Plain, which is the second in our divisions of the island, according
to topography. This area is 30 – 300 metres in elevation.
As you can notice in the given map, the Penne Plain covers roughly
about 1/3 of the land of our country. It is noted for a number of
distinct features, both natural and man-made. They are :-
1. Relict Mountains
2. Fertile River Valleys
3. Tanks and Canals
Though the Penne Plain is between 30 – 300 m above sea level,
there are a few isolated hills situated in this region. These isolated
hills range from a height of 309 to about 554 m.
hills, which are called Relict mountains, are important for various
reasons. Kataragama and Mihintale, for example, are important for
religious reasons; Sigiriya for its aesthetic beauty and historical
The lowlands bordering the coastal belt is important because
of the early settlements. For centuries, people lived mainly in
this area. Most of the rivers that originate in the central highlands,
flow through these lowlands, thereby making the area fertile. As
you are aware, most of the early civilizations of the world, originated
and developed in the river-valleys.
The Indus Valley
civilization in India, the Nile civilization in Egypt, Mesopotamian
and Babylonian civilizations in the Euphrates and Tigris valleys,
and the Hwang-ho civilization of China, are a few important examples.
In Sri Lanka
too when people began to live along Malwatu-Oya, Menik Ganga and
the Kelani river, they developed a civilization of their own. As
the rivers provided water for their crops, agriculture became their
main occupation and so the first settlements developed. Here began
the first villages, which grew to be cities later.
Anuradha gama and Kachar-agama, which respectively became Anuradhapura
and Kataragama are examples. Anuradhapura, which became the first
capital city of Sri Lanka developed along the Malwatu-Oya.
It is in these lowlands that tanks were built by our ancient
kings to store water for irrigation purposes. Canals were dug to
take the water to irrigate the fields. Nuwara Wewa, Kala Wewa, Minneriya
Wewa and Parakrama Samudraya are a few of the important tanks.
In the long
history of Sri Lanka, the number and the size of tanks and canals
grew in ancient Raja Rata and Ruhuna, to support the large population
that flourished around the major centres of civilization.
Most of these
irrigation systems went into disuse, as the people moved away from
the Penne Plain. Most of them, however, were restored in later years.
By Kamala Silva