- The Heavenly Harmony of Hakgala -
A leisurely walk in the Hakgala Botanical gardens can be a most rewarding experience. The season for visiting this garden is said to be between the months of April and August.
Situated some 10 kilometres South of Nuwara Eliya, the road to Hakgala along the Badulla road is a pleasant downhill drive, mostly through pine forests. It was the end of August when we visited and it was still a riot of colour.
The first hint that one is approaching the Hakgala gardens is the Hakgala rock peak which looms protectively over ‘its garden of delight’. The rock of Hakgala rises 450 m above the garden, forming an inspiring backdrop, shaped like the jawbone of an elephant, from which it is said the place gets its name.
The Hakgala gardens are not without legend. According to folklore, it is believed that this was once the pleasure garden of Ravana of the Ramayana epic and where his love, the princess Sita was hidden.The present botanical gardens were founded in 1860 by the eminent British botanist, Dr. G.H.K. Thwaites who was superintendent of the
The site initially was for experiments with cinchona whose bark yielded quinine, esteemed as a tonic and febrifuge. Quinine at that time was widely used to counter malaria.
Hakgala is a temperate hill-country garden, where the lovely low-country lotus and water lily mingles in their serene simplicity with sophisticated English roses, pre-historic looking ferns, and endemic orchids. Where the garden ends, starts the Hakgala natural reserve, home to a variety of wild life, including bears, monkeys and birds. The curving road that rises from the main gate between well laid banks of colourful flowers is but a glimpse of what is to come.
The terraced rose garden full of English flowers seemed to be the favourite of most visitors, as they posed alongside these stylish beauties. It was cameras everywhere, as man made his best efforts to capture the exquisiteness of the rose, bringing to my mind the Jim Reeves favorite:
“Each time I touch a rose petal,
And feel the sweet fragrance it brings
I know there is a God up in Heaven,
No human can create such things.”
The flowers of Hakgala seem to vie for your attention; reds, blues, purples, oranges and yellows, their names too many to remember as they stand to attention in well formed squads.
But there is definitely more than the beauty of multi coloured flowers at Hakgala.
At Hakgala, trees make art. Huge trees and tree-scapes seem to abound in the garden with their ancient knotted and twisted trunks encrusted with mottled bark in a variety of browns and blacks, making their own individual drama. Looking at these wonders, I am not surprised at Kahlil Gibran’s words when he wrote;
“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.
We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness”.
An interesting tree which we noticed was named Badulla tree. This tree is said to have valuable medicinal properties.
Winding pathways will take you to the romantic rock garden and the water garden where boulders blend with ponds and meandering streamlets that trickle through mossy banks under the cool gloom of green. Few visitors seemed to visit this area where the beauty and harmony of nature itself was so prominently displayed.
The fern garden gave an inkling of some pre-historic garden with tall tree ferns shading giant ground ferns. As someone has said, the fernery at Hakgala is truly a shady harbour of many quiet walks in the shade of the Hakgala rock.
At Hakgala you can set free the artist in you to find art and drama in the many tributes to mother earth, whether you look up at a gigantic tree or down into the nooks and crannies that fill the lush gardens with its winding pathways.
The Japanese garden however was a sad and neglected disappointment after we climbed to it along an enchantingly rugged pathway. But its saving grace was an unique sculpture of a huge pot with an elephant spout, in which my little daughter took extreme pleasure.
The seed room is also an interesting place for aspiring botanists. And definitely there may have be en more places we would have missed due to the dark skies and threatening rain. Hakgala indeed is an enchanting place.
By Kishanie S. Fernando
Daily Mirror, September 04, 2006
September 6, 2009