buried mysteries of Jawatte cemetery
By C.G. Don Carolis
Ray Forbes' article titled "Holy well among Jawatte graves"
in The Sunday Times of March 3, 2002 and his reference to an article
written on the "Historic well of Jawatte Cemetery" by
Rev. Dr. Don Peter in the Ceylon Daily News of June 9, 1977, bring
to my mind the same feature of the Livramento cemetery as it was
known during my childhood and adolescence when I together with my
paternal relatives' children, my cousins more or less of my age,
used to freely visit the site that the article describes.
metal railings were firm as was the gateway leading down the steps
to the well and the entrance into a tunnel leading eastward a short
distance which we boys hesitated to enter for fear of reptiles -
present in those times.
The structure of the railings protecting the descent was situated
on the most elevated block of ground in the cemetery. Around the
margin of the block were grave-stones with inscriptions with dates
reading into the eighteenth century. The same were illegible when
I visited the site a decade ago. These dates may antedate the inscriptions
had it that "Parangi Kotte Giya". But this is unlikely
for the simple reason that the cemetery was and still is an elevation
of perhaps twenty feet above the public roadway, and moreover at
that level too swamps and marshland stretched far eastward - surely
impracticable for any tunneling underneath without danger of collapse.
was a term applied to an extent of land southward of Bullers Lane
which in olden times was the location where a national of Java was
said to have resided and I as a youth recall having visited a school
friend whose family resided in a bungalow in the midst of a plantation
of coconut palms before World War II and even by then there were
a couple of houses being erected down what subsequently became Bullers
or about 1920 the government commenced erecting bungalows along
Bullers Road east of the junction with Havelock Road and around
the newly created Paget Green centering Stanmore Crescent, Brownrigg
Road. The name Jawatte Road was then given by the Colombo municipality
to the roadway off Bullers Road leading to Thimbirigasaya. The racecourse
as it is, did not exist and was cinnamon jungle - the racecourse
then being on the Galle Face Green fronting the Colombo Club.
locality served by Jawatte Road had been known as Livramento; and
I recall friends of my father using this nomenclature to describe
the locality which became phased into 'Kalaa Bambalapitiya' until
the late 1920s.
the south-west monsoon rains all the grass fields surrounding the
elevated cemetery reservation became flooded, so did the so-called
Jawatte roadway. There was then no Kolonnawa bund until 1931 to
stem the flooding Kelani River.
floods extended from around the cemetery to Narahenpita and beyond
and the depth of water was of several feet. We boys used to fell
plantain trees in our parents' property and form rafts, viz: say
3 or 4 trunks pierced with hardwood spikes to make a raft punted
along the surface by our using say 12 ft long wooden poles.
from the Livramento tunnel no passage could have stood the pressure
of the overhead water that extended to Narahenpita and beyond.