2nd part of Relief of Sri Lanka in the series on Social studies(overline)
Penne Plain – the cradle of our civilization
Penne Plain :-
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

Relict Mountains:-
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.

These isolated 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 factors.

Fertile River Valleys:-
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.

Tanks and canals:-
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

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