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10th January 1999

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Nature's gift

pic 07Tall imperial looking trees covered in lovely emerald vines, all contribute to the aura of tranquil beauty that is Udawattekelle. Udena.R.Attygalle reports....

In the ancient past,when kings ruled over the Kandyan kingdom, Udawasalawatte, the serene forest over the palace was a Thahansi kale, a sequestered forest, a place where the common citizen was barred from entering even to collect firewood. Only the king and his queens enjoyed the countless pleasures it offered.

Today many centuries later, the reign of the kings has come to an end, the Kandyan kingdom is no more, but beautiful Udawattakelle as it is known today, remains a strictly guarded nature reserve silently giving many immense pleasure and indeed many environmental benefits only a forest could provide.

As we entered the forest through the Thapovana entrance a cool gust of wind welcomed us, and in a moment we were walking along the very road that had been at the centre of controversy for some time. A proposal to open this road for vehicular traffic had the whole of Kandy up in protest. Government offices were inundated with protests so much so the Kandy post office actually ran out of post cards!

This proposal now seems unlikely to be carried out.

A few paces later we were in view of the famous pond. Legend has it that deep under its waters lies a Sembuwa full of gold, which rises to the top only once each year. Many a life had been lost in the quest of this fabled pot of gold. 

Encircling the pond is the lovers walk, its shady pathways surrounded by tall imperial looking trees covered in lovely emerald vines, all contributing to an aura of romance. No wonder it is called lovers walk!

pic 06As we moved deeper into the forest the familiar sounds of the busy town gave way to sounds of a different kind, a thousand times more pleasing to the ears. The screeching of countless unseen insects, the rustling of the leaves as the wind slowly moved through the forest canopy and the call of birds were all soothing and refreshing.

It wasn't hard to believe what the brahmin Senkhanda had seen all those years ago. According to the Asgiri Upotha the Brahmin coming out of his cave (which can still be seen ) had seen a jackal chasing a rabbit and the next moment this very rabbit was chasing thejackal. Professing this to be a sign of victory he had advised the formation of a settlement on that very spot. This settlement was named Senkadagala.

In those times this forest was spread over a 1000 acres, and even had elephants, leopards and elk among its many inhabitants.

Today it is only 207 acres and only 10 acres of it is virgin forest.The rest of it had been replanted at some time or another. Among the animals that inhabit it today , are the Ceylon jungle cat, the scaly ant - eater, many varieties of monkeys and snakes .

The reserve is guarded by four watchers and a gate keeper coming under the supervision of the Regional Forest Officer (RFO) and the District Forest Officer.

DFO Lal Abeygooneseka commenting on the duties of the forest office said that they were bound to protect this multiple use forest against encroachments , firewood hunters and deforestation. A conservation centre is also to be opened shortly to provide visitors with valuable information on the forest.

Requests for land from the temples and for other purposes it seems is the most difficult problem the forest office is facing at the moment. 

"When we have so little we must make sure we protect what we have," Mr Abeygoonesekara said. 

Leaving the forest office we were quite surprised to hear the sound of an ice cream man! All around us was thick forest ,but just below us was the bustling town. Herein may lie the reason behind Udawattekelle's love affair with the people of Kandy. It like the Dalada Maligawa and the Bogambara lake is an integral part of Kandy's identity. It is nature's gift to this beautiful city.

You too can visit this beautiful spot, for a nominal cost, in fact for students there is no charge at all. Almost 50 people, on average visit daily. Vehicles, though, are not allowed inside the reserve. For those who are interested in staying longer, there is even a circuit bungalow.

But please remember to be an eco friendly visitor so that those who follow may enjoy the undisturbed beauty that you may be lucky enough to enjoy.

It's party time

The rotary Club of Colombo East in association with Ally Weerasinghe Ltd in the true spirit of the season hosted the children of Shanthi Nivasa and Sumith Pura to a Christmas party on December 28 at Shanthi Nivasa. Pictures show some of the children enjoying the entertainment laid on for them.


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