Nugegoda: A glimpse into the past

Book facts : By Mervyn Herath and Jagath Savanadasa. Reviewed by D.C. Ranatunga

Rising from a marshy land…

The town was one time a marshland surrounded by elephant infested forest of Nuga trees and canals teeming with crocodiles. It was also known as Dimbulgas Handiya. Howling of jackals was heard in the nights and the Nawala canal had been the bathing spot of elephants. During the rainy season the entirety of the town and the surrounding areas were flooded and resembled a reservoir. Padda-boats were used for travelling from one point to the other.

In the early days this was the setting in Nugegoda. Many like me wouldn’t know how the marshland developed into such an important satellite town just outside the capital. Mervyn Herath and Jagath Savanadasa have done much research to record the progress of what was known as 'Nugeng Egodaha' (beyond the Nuga forest), an uninhabited area in the days of the Kotte kingdom. Their effort is a most interesting publication tiled 'Nugegoda – Glimpses of the Past'.

Who would ever imagine that the criminals tried before the king and found guilty were ordered to be "nugeng egodaha arang pala" (take beyond the Nuga forest) which in effect meant 'slay them'. The popular belief, according to the book, is that the executions took place under a particular Nuga tree which until recent times had stood by Poorvarama Road at the Rupasinghe Mawatha junction.
The authors say that when the Dutch took over from the Portuguese and started constructing waterways, the people who worked on the project called the area 'Nugeng egoda' which possibly was abbreviated to 'Nugegoda'.

The Kelani Valley train route passed through Nugegoda where a station was established 103 years ago before the construction of the High Level Road ('aluth para') in 1934. The solid 'kalu gal' walls of the station remain to this day.

The 'ambalama' built out of solid rock at the turn-off to Pagoda Kotte junction still exists though it is now used to paste posters and what not. Originally it had been built four feet above ground level to keep out the seasonal flood waters and the crocodiles.

The authors have taken great pains to trace the history of religious places and schools. Details of prominent and not so prominent families also provide a wealth of information on how Nugegoda developed over the years. The different areas in Nugegoda have been dealt with under separate chapters.

The near-200 page Sarasavi publication is a fine socio-economic study of a town which has seen rapid progress over a few decades.

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