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Rumassala the ‘Beautiful rock’

The impressive cameo note, in the Daily News Travel by Ganga Pradeepa, nudged me into musing about Rumassala and its environs. There is a strong reason for such reflection. I hail from Unawatuna, and was born and bred on the leeward side of the sheltering Rumassala.

First, let me make a brief observation about the popular etymology of the name of this village - Unawatuna. Most people tend to settle for the ready interpretation, that, Unawatuna derives from ‘Onna-wetuna’ (There, it fell).

Sama Chethiya

But, in reality, the name ‘Unawatuna’ denotes a minor harbour - ‘a cove or a small bay’. It becomes from Una-patuna (Oonapattana) - small inlet. This expression has been used to denote natural harbours, in ancient Sri Lanka (Dambakola Patuna, Yapa Patuna etc.).

For centuries, ocean going vessels, called at Galle and Unawatuna. A helpful ocean current allowed ships to drift almost effortlessly to these natural harbours of the southern coast.

Though the Portuguese Captain Laurenco de Almeida, intended to sail to the Port of Colombo, the current brought him to Galle. Age-old lore has it, that, Tarshish - a Port referred to in the Bible, is in fact Galle. Around the cove of Unawatuna, there are traces, that speak about links with lands beyond the ocean. Even today, there is a place on the shore at Unawatuna bay, known as ‘Ja-kotuwa’ - ‘The camp of the Javanese people’.

The very name of the capital city of the Southern Province - Galle - has been whimsically interpreted in popular etymology. They try to make out that, Galla is derived from Gala which means cattle-shed. But, Galla simply means forest or grove as in such instances as Attana-galla, Tan-galla. At times Galla changes into Golla.


To return to Unawatuna - in quite a strange manner, there are several ‘falls’ associated with the area around Unawatuna.

The hillock of Rumassala figures prominently in a mythical ‘fall’. The core theme of the Indian epic Ramayana is a mythical encounter between Rama and Ravana. When Rama’s brother Lakshman was near-fatally wounded in battle, there was only scant hope about his life. The Prince’s life could be saved only if certain herbs could be fetched from the Himalayas. Speed was of high essence. Hanuman the Monkey God undertook the mission. At the site, he forgot the names of the herbs.

He broke of the chunk of one mountain, where the herbs occurred. When the chief physician extracted the essential herbs, Hanuman threw away the chunk of the mountain. It fell to the ground and came to be named Rumassala. Ru-mas-sala, could be translated as ‘Beautiful Rock’. Incidentally, its present name ‘Buona Vista’, seems an echo of the original meaning, since ‘Buona Vista’ implies, ‘Beautiful Sight’.

There is yet another ‘fall’ associated with this region. As Pradeepa indicated, in a far off age, a meteorite from outer space would have fallen in this area. Sir Arthur C. Clarke has stated that, spot in this region does not come within the magnetic field that envelops the whole earth.


In consequence, Sir Arthur explains, that, Exhausted geo-stationary satellites end up high above this place around Unawatuna, and keep on milling round and round.

It is interesting to note in this context, that, when Arthur C. Clarke came to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), way back in 1956, he made Unawatuna his first home. The mystery associated with the Rumassala area, may, in all probability, have intrigued him. When we were children, the elderly folk told us stores about the mystery of Unawatuna and Rumassala.

There are fruit groves in Rumassala which, only those travellers who genuinely lose their way, would come upon. Among precious herbs, in the Rumassala region, recording to folk-lore, is ‘kalu-nika’, a medical plant with life-giving properties.

Ganga Pradeepa dwells extensively on the Peace Pagoda . This sacred edifice, gives a totally new significance to ancient Rumassala, converting the whole rock into a monument for harmony and peaceful co-existence.


There are other places of high significance, a visitor to Rumassala should not miss.

A fascinating Buddhist Theme Park is evolving around the Elders’ Home in Rumassala.

A well-proportioned statue of the Buddha, is the predominant feature of this Park. Serene, tranquil and compassionate the statue of the Buddha contemplates the ocean below. The originator and the main implementer of this concept, Sarath Dias, had this sacred statue of the Buddha constructed to symbolise the miracle of whole series of Buddha statues, that mysteriously withstood.

The hideous, massive and monstrous onslaught of the Tsunami. Other images at this Buddhist Theme Park, depict the Introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Arahant Mahinda and his saintly retinue. On September 17, 2008 a statue of Anagarika Dharmapala, became part of this site.

Social worker, Buddhist activist and community leader, Sarath Dias, keeps on adding to this Buddhist Theme Park. The Arrival of Buddhist Nun Sanghamittha, bearing a sapling of the Sacred Bodhi Tree from India, will be depicted in an edifice that is currently being constructed.


While at Rumassala, one must make it a special point to see a very old institution of learning. The Buona vista school possesses an impressive history. Among its alumni, are Sir Oliver Goonetileka, Prof. Senarath Paranavithana and Martin Wickremasinghe.

Rumassala shelters, those under its shadow, when the Tsunami struck. But, on either side of the Fortress Rumassala, Tsunami’s effect was grievous and disastrous.

Rumassala is undergoing a process of fast urbanising, roads, residential places, restaurants are being continuously built.

When we were children, we sat on the comely beaches and had literary debates and recited poetry. Rumassala was then a place of mystery, and had been inhabited only peripherally. But, with all the modernisation, a streak of mystery still remains.

On a visit there, if you momentarily stepped beyond the beaten track and walked among the trees and bushes that still stand, you may even come upon the miraculous Kalu Nika - the life giver.

by Kalakeerthi EDWIN ARIYADASA
Daily News 2 January 2009


Driving Directions to Rumassala

Route from Galle

Route from Colombo

distance :5 km

Travel time : 10 mins

Driving directions : see on google map

distance :125 km

Travel time : 2.5 hours

Driving directions : see on google map





Home > Attractions > Roomassala

Created :May 25, 2010
Updated : November 20, 2010


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