Category: Articles

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Vernacular Nautical Architecture in transition : A case study of traditional Sri Lankan fishing craft

This paper concerns the oru, the archetypal Sri Lankan craft, that is commonly but erroneously called “catamaran” Oru are of great antiquity and their age can only be guessed at. This vernacular form evolved from the need to build a watercraft using available bio-resources that could fit the nature of the existing inshore waters. The craft were made only of wood with all fastenings being, by choice, of coconut coir rope .

Posted in Heritage Article

Ignoring Vijithapura

Map of Vijithapura

I was privileged to discover Sri Lanka’s oldest recorded city of Vijithapura with its three consecutive moats that enclosed an area of about 250 acres as indicated in our most ancient Chronicle as having existed in at least the 6th Century B.C. when King Vijaya conquered Sri Lanka.

Posted in Heritage Article

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Uneatable

Franz Ferdinand with one of the elephants he killed in Kalawela, Ceylon, in January 1893.

It is recorded that 700 elephants each were killed by Major Skinner and Captain Gallwey . But they were outdone by Major Rogers who killed a record of 1300 elephants in the three years he was stationed in Ceylon.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Wild and Feral Buffaloes of Wild Sri Lanka

Wild water buffalo

Most of the “wild” buffalo found in Sri Lanka are actually feral, having reverted to a wild state after being released or escaping from domesticity. Many are those that live a double life, penned during the dry season and released to roam the forest trails.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Wetlands, Swamps and Mangroves

Mangrove Forest

Wetlands, Swamps and Mangroves are an integral part of Sri Lanka’s unique ecological and biological diversity, and are vital habitats for a large variety of fauna and flora.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Woodpeckers of Sri Lanka

Crimson-backed Woodpecker

There are nine species of woodpeckers in Sri Lanka. This includes three endemic sub species. One of the Sri Lankan species is different, and it has no crest like the others. It also has a different nesting habit.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Turtles and Tortoises of Sri Lanka

Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Today there are 250 species of turtles on earth. Seven of these live in the ocean and are called sea turtles. The remaining 243 species live on land or in freshwater ponds and marshes. The terrestrial turtles, those that live solely on land, are called tortoises.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Kingfishers of Sri Lanka

Black-capped Purple Kingfisher

In Sri Lanka we have seven species of kingfishers. They are the Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis), the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), the Ceylon Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting), the Three-toed Kingfisher (Ceyx erithacus), the Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopis capensis),the White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) and the Black-capped Purple Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata).

Posted in Wildlife Article

Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity

Common Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus) sleeping on a shrub in early morning

Biological diversity or biodiversity, refers to the variety of life in all its forms including plants, animals and microbes that exist and interact in the various biological communities and ecosystems.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Nocturnal Animals

Russell's Viper (Vipera russelii) - Katraj Snake Park, Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park and Wildlife Research Centre - Katraj (near Pune), State of Maharashtra, India -

Nocturnal animals sleep during the day, often in a burrow or den. When their ‘day’ begins, they move out slowly from wherever they have been spending the daylight hours and with the disappearing shadows, the forest comes alive with footfalls, scuttles, the soft beating of wings and screeches etc.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Marine Mammals in the Seas of Sri Lanka

A Blue Whale diving in the waters off Sri Lanka

There are four groups of marine mammals in the seas around Sri Lanka. They are the Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises and Dugongs. Since the first three groups belong to the scientific order Cetacea, they are referred to as cetaceans.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Ancient Reservoirs of Sri Lanka

Bathalagoda Tank

If Buddhism was the spiritual sustenance of the ancient Sinhalese civilization, then the wewa (Irrigation Reservoir) was its physical counterpart and, not surprisingly, the two principal symbols of our ancient kingdoms were the dagoba and the wewa.

Posted in Irrigation Article

Ecosystem based indigenous water management

Bathalagoda Tank

Sri Lankan history is deeply connected with its hydraulic civilization. The history of this ecosystem leads back to the 4th century B.C. or before. Basawakkulama sometimes known as “Abhayawewa” was identified as the most ancient Wewa, which was done by king Pandukabhaya.

Posted in Irrigation Article

Ancient Sinhalese Hydraulics

Bathalagoda Tank

The Sinhalese Engineers are the first Inventors of both the Hydraulic Surge Chamber and Valve Tower and the first to incorporate both the principles in the same structure, called a Biso Kotuwa more than 2,100 years ago

Posted in Irrigation Article

Sri Lanka’s Reservoirs and Irrigation Canals

Bathalagoda Tank

The greatness of the irrigation systems of Sri Lanka is summed up in the University History of Ceylon: “the construction of reservoirs originated from the meager knowledge the Indo-Aryan settlers had. From this basic elementary knowledge, there developed later the greatest engineering skill exhibited in the ancient Sinhalese Kingdom namely the progressive building up of a colossal and complex system of interrelated dams, canals and tanks, mingling the waters of rivers flowing in different directions; no parallel system of the same magnitude or intricacy existed in contemporary India.”

Posted in Irrigation Article

Ulpotha: learning tradition by living it


Ulpotha was one among thousands of abandoned ‘Puranagamas’ or ancient traditional villages of Sri Lanka’s Wanni. Tucked away in the foothills of the Galgiriyawa mountain range, Ulpotha has now been restored to its traditional life. Its restoration is a project

Posted in Attraction Article, Heritage Article

Squirrels of Sri Lanka

Giant squirrel @ Sigiriya

Squirrels are mammals and belong to the Order Rodentia and the Family Sciuridae. They are rodents like common rats. Squirrels are found in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Parrots of Sri Lanka

Parrots of Sri Lanka

There are 353 species of parrots in the world. They are in two groups, the true parrots in the family Psittacidae and the cocatoos in the family Cacatuidae. The shape of the beak, which is curved, characterizes these birds.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Pangolins and Porcupines of Sri Lanka

Pangolins and porcupines

Pangolins are mammals that belong to the Family Manidae and the Genus Manis. This genus comprises of eight species – Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Pangwan, Giant, Cape, Tree and the Long-tailed, that are spread over in Southeast Asia and Africa. There are four species in Africa and four in Southeast Asia.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Fresh Water Fishes of Sri Lanka

Rainbow Trout

Sri Lanka has over 103 river basins. Covering an area of 59,217 hectares, Sri Lanka has no natural lakes. However there are over 12,000 man made lakes (tanks) in the island. Tanks or man made reservoirs make up the main water bodies in the dry zone.

Posted in Wildlife Article

History and culture of elephants in Sri Lanka

Privately owned tusker

The association of Elephants in Sri Lanka and the man goes back to the pre-Christian era. There was an abundance of elephants in the country in those early days. The ancient Sinhalese kings captured and tamed elephants for their use.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Snakes in Sri Lanka

Russell's Viper

There are 294 species of snakes in the world and 96 are found in Sri Lanka. Of these, 50 species are endemic to the island. There are 13 species of sea snakes and 10 species of blind snakes in Sri Lanka.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Crocodiles in Sri Lanka

Saltwater Crocodile

Sri Lanka has two species of crocodiles. One is the Mugger or Marsh Crocodile (Hela Kimbula) and the other is Saltwater Crocodile (Geta Kimbula).

Posted in Wildlife Article

Bears and Buffaloes of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus inornatus) @ Kumana National Park

In Sri Lanka, bears are found in the lowland forests. It is not found in the forests of the higher elevations nor in the south-west of the island. The Sri Lankan bear has coal black, shaggy and coarse hair all over its body including the ears.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Butterflies of Sri Lanka

NATURE has provided us with many beautiful things that we continue to admire each day – birds, flowers, butterflies, trees, shrubs etc. Of all those that we admire so much and marvel at their beauty, butterflies are what many of us know least about.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Endemic Birds of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's endemic birds

Sri Lanka has recorded 436 species of birds. They can be separated into two types – resident birds ie birds that live in this country throughout and migrant birds

Posted in Wildlife Article

Wild Cats of Sri Lanka

Wild Cats - leopards

There are 36 species of wild cats in the world based on physical distinction and/or geographic separation, most species are further divided into sub species.

Posted in Wildlife Article Tagged with: ,

Sambur, Three Deer and Another

Spotted Deer at Yala National Park

There are four species of true deer in Sri Lanka – Sambur (Cervus unicolor), Spotted Deer (Axis axis), Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntiacus) and Hog Deer (Axis pornicus).

Posted in Wildlife Article

Reptiles of Sri Lanka

Karamal Bodilima (The Hump-nosed Lizard) - Sinharaja

There are five ‘lizard like’ reptiles that I will deal with in this article. They are the Agamid lizards, Geckos, Chameleons and Monitor Lizards. The agamid lizards are called Katussa in Sinhala and Onnan or Karata in Tamil.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Forests and Other Vegetation Types of Sri Lanka

Sinharaja Rainforest

Sri Lanka is one of the world’s bio diversity hot-spots. This means that we have a wide range of biological species, fauna and flora, in a variety of habitats. This article deals with the different forest types in Sri Lanka.

Posted in Wildlife Article

Galle [2] : “Tarshish” of the Old Testament

According to Sir James Emerson Tennant Galle was the “Tarshish” referred to in the Bible as the port where ships trading with King Soloman obtained their Elephants, Peacocks and Gemstones. Most certainly the place where the Galle Fort now stands as well as other areas in Galle like Unawatuna, Magalle, Kaluwella and even the China Gardens were all areas with historic connections which go back long before the Portuguese Era.

Posted in Attraction Article, Heritage Article Tagged with:

Sri Dalada Perahera (Kandy Esala Perahera) – මහනුවර ඇසල පෙරහැර

Carrier of the Relic Casket

Esala Perahera is one of the most colorful events in the Sri Lankan Calendar which is held every July/August. This is the only time the sacred tooth relic leaves its chambers lying deep inside the Temple of Tooth.

Posted in Attractions, Events Article, Heritage Article

Odyssey of the ‘Danta Dhatu’

Dalada Karanduwa

The ‘Danta Dhatu’ (Tooth Relic of the Buddha) is one of the most revered objects of worship by Buddhists throughout the world. It now lies in the sanctum sanctorum of the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy enshrined in an embellished reliquary.

Posted in Heritage Article

The history of the Sri Daladawa (sacred Tooth Relic)

Dalada Karanduwa

The worship of corporeal remains of the Buddha, as recorded in the Mahaparinibbana-sutta ( the Record of the Demise of the Buddha), was sanctioned by the Buddha himself on the verge of his passing away. The Buddha declared that four

Posted in Heritage Article Tagged with:

Makara Torana – The Dragons Arch – මකර තොරණ

Makara Thorana in Varaka Valadu Viharaya in Ridi Viharaya

A description of the Makara on the Makara Torana animal appearing in the Rajawaliya (v.192) runs as follows:“The makara has the front of an elephant, and the feet of a lion, ear of a pig, the body of a fish living in water, having teeth turned inside and eyes of those of hanuman and a nice tail.”

Posted in Articles, Heritage, Heritage Article Tagged with: , ,

The Nagas in Sinhala sculpture

Relic Shrine in Abayagiri Monastery

Sacred elements (Naga same term as serpent) consorted with the clouds bearing rain. These elements bestow upon the human world all the boons of earthly happiness such as abundance of crops, cattle, prosperity, offspring, health and long life. The following notes aim to examine the way of depicting in sculpture the genii, Naga presiding over the waters.

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Guardstones (Ancient Muragala) – මුරගල

Relic Shrine in Abayagiri Monastery

The guardstone or “muragala” were one of an association of three aspects of sculpture that adorned the entrance to buildings in ancient times, the other two being the moonstone (Sandakada Pahana) and balustrade (Korawak Gala) .

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Korawakgala (Balustrades) – කොරවක්ගල

The mythical Makara (Dragon) on the Balustrade ( Korawak gala)

The “Korawakgala” lies on the sides of the steps leading to the door or the entrance of the building. This is sometimes called the “Makara Gala” (Dragon Stone) as this stone represent an imaginary animal.

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Moonstones adorning the foot of stairs

The moonstone is a semi-circular slab of granite or limestone. This is usually the first in a flight of steps. It is richly designed in concentric (with the same centre) semi-circular bands of carvings of flowers, creepers, birds and animals.

Posted in Heritage Article Tagged with: ,

Moonstone – සඳකඩ පහන

The moonstone is a permanent feature of the buddhist building of all historical periods. This is a semi circular piece of stone which stood at the foot of a flight of steps in most buddhist buildings. Although the moonstone is generally semi circular, Sometimes you can come across square moonstones. It is thought that the moon stones originated as blank square stone and later developed in to a semi circular shape.

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