Kalutara Bodhiya [4] – Queen Victoria in CGR history

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Kalutara Bodhi
Kalutara Bodhi

primary root main first article The 144th anniversary of the Sri Lanka railway or the former CGR and its history that appeared in the Sunday Observer of August 25 under Reader’s Forum needs an important addition to complete it.

The railway extension from Colombo upto Kalutara South was completed in 1879 on schedule. But the extension from there to Alutgama was completed in 1890, with a record delay of 11 years, where Queen Victoria comes into the history of CGR. It was due to the sacred Bo tree or Kalutara Bodhiya as now known which stood as an obstruction to build the track beyond Kaluganga. The engineer’s decision was to cut down the Bo tree.

It proved no easy task as Kalutara Buddhists rose against the engineer’s decision. The Asst. Govt. Agent’s residence and the Kachcheri were all there near the Bo tree and the AGA being a Christian took no notice of the Buddhist-uprising. The Buddhists then applied to the G.A.W.P. who stated that he was helpless in the matter. The Kalutara Buddhists then appealed to the Governor. His reply was the same.

As the last resort they rushed to the Most Ven. Waskaduwe Sri Subhuti Thera Maha Nayake of Amarapura Nikaya who was living close by and stated their predicament. The Maha Nayaka said it was very simple and asked them not to worry. He sent for Maha Mudaliyar Louis de Zoysa and the necessary petition was prepared in the same night and forwarded it to Queen Victoria with a copy to the Crown Prince who became King Edward the VII later.

The Maha Nayaka and the Prince were good friends after having met him at the Queen’s House in Sri Lanka in 1875. The order from Queen Victoria came sooner than expected stating “Do not touch the Bo Tree”.

After that the railway to the South proceeded most respectfully bending away from the Sacred Bo tree. Similar trouble arose over the Bo tree at the Amlabangoda railway station site. But the timely warning from the Garumuni Walawwa avoided it, creating a double bend for rail track between the Ambalangoda railway station and the bridge over Madampe river.

by W. L. PIERIS, Panadura
letters to editor
Sunday Observer

Also See

Map of  Kalutara Bodhiya

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Travel Directions to Kalutara Bodhiya

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