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Sunday, 20 September 2015





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The earliest route from Colombo to Kandy

Now that the third route from Colombo to Kandy is in the offing, the topic in hand could be really topical. The only hitch is that the very prosaic topic as roads is dressed in mellifluous poetry. Further, these poems pertaining to the earliest route have been sung by an unknown folk poet.

Old Kadugannawa rock.                                                                           Pic courtesy:

However, a bit of prose is given in this introduction by the writer mentally wandering by herself in the days gone by when Colombo city was just one of the ports dotting the coastline. Even the Sandesha birds carrying their messages across the island never noticed it except for the author of Thisara Sandeshaya who sees it as a busy port as early as the 16th century. However, no roads were built to connect this city to other towns.


In fact, in the olden days of monarchical rule, roads were considered an interfering menace that spoilt the natural insularity and in most cases were not given any consideration. If considered at all, they were branded only as an open invitation to invaders. To the Kandyan kings especially, harassed by foreign invaders the thick foliage and the mountains were a godsend. Only guerilla warfare could thrive in it, for the rocks were gigantic and impregnable providing a natural defence while the waterways were unaffordable. The ruggedness of the path fitted the times as motor transport was unheard of.

But as history’s tale unfolded, the mighty Kadugannawa rock was pierced leading to the British conquest. All this time during the Portuguese and Dutch periods and the early British period a perilous journey had been made to Kandy from Colombo that awes one by the sheer bravado displayed in the adventurous venture. Its first section had been along the Kelani river bed and ending at Sitawaka (Avissawella). Mouth of the Kelani was the estuary of Modera while it ran many a mile from its womb in the central highlands, thus providing an easy passage for inland travel.

A Viththi potha (book giving information) includes these three poems that give the route from Sitawaka onward.

First verse

Sitawaka Thalduwath Apalapitiya Ruwanwella
Anguruwella Kannathota Mattamagoda me siyalla
Ampe Atalath Chittangala Udugama piyasa dulla
Arandarin Kekunavalath Narigala yana me siyalla.

Second verse

Vanduradeniyada Iddaya Malyaye pasukara
Atugoda ginnen Batalewala yana gam pasukara
Hettimulla Ahunugalla Divela gamath pera hamu wena
Vagirigala Walathara pattagama elanga paminena

Third verse

Dodagaha ruppe Watarakgoda veediya matakada ena
Walabaduwath maliyadda edanduwavath pasu vena
Manikkavene Ganetanne Makadawatha etha
Balana Amunupura Senkadagala Raja mawatha


How are many of these place names still in existence today? Along with the ancient route most of them have gone into oblivion.

Translations of the above 3 verses are as follows:

Beginning from Sitawaka, the road upcountry runs via Apalapitiya, Ruwanwella, Anguruwella, Kannathota, Mattamagoda and passing all these it rises to the heights of Ampe, Atala,Viththangala and Udugama, the village of splendour, then onto Arandara, Kekunawala and Narigala.

Then the road passes through Vaduradeniya, Iddaya and Malyaya (the throng of flowers), onto Angoda and Batalewela, Hettimulla, Ahunugalle, Divela and reaches the villages of Vakirigala,Valathara and Pathagama.

Now onto Dodagaha ruppe and Watarakgoda street, then passing Manikkawa Ganetenna and Makadawatha, onto Balana Amunupura and culminating its journey at the King’s street in Senkadagala.


The writer is not aware how many of these place names still exist but in her travels in the environs of Kandy during the past years she has observed some of these names on bus boards and even on streets in urban areas.

These include Sitawaka, Anguruwella, Hettimulla, Wakirigala and Ganetanne. It is purely due to the writer’s ignorance if some names still in rotation and connected to public use have been left out.

Further, the circumstances that led to the construction of a new road as an alternative to the aforesaid road passing through Hewagam Korale and Thun Korale should be presented briefly.

It could be summarily mentioned that the decision to build a new road to Kandy almost coincided with the subjugation of the 1818 rebellion. The dangerous phases of this rebellion, the British concluded were spawned by the lack of direct routes to Kandy to transport military forces. The old road was too hazardous and too circuitous for quick action to be initiated from Colombo to the rebel-ridden areas in the highlands.


The industrial revolution raging in Britain could provide the maximum support for the road building craze begun by Governor Barnes who succeeded Brownrigg who had to face the 1818 rebellion.

It would be a deep bow to history if at the site of the inception of this third road (the second one going through Kadawatha, and Kegalle and labelled today as the No.1 road), if a mini museum can be established providing a chance for the public to view the old routes.


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