Unearthing 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.

The 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 at Kanatte.

Legend 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.

Jawatte 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 Lane.

In 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.

That 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.

During 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.

The 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.

Clearly, from the Livramento tunnel no passage could have stood the pressure of the overhead water that extended to Narahenpita and beyond.

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