Holy Emmanuel’s Church of Hanguranketha (හඟුරන්කෙත ශුද්ධවූ එම්මානුවෙල් පල්ලිය)

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Holy Emmanuel's Church of Hanguranketha
Holy Emmanuel’s Church of Hanguranketha

Hanuranketha is a small town in Nuwara Eliya District which was known by the name Diyatilakepura or Diyatilaka Nuwara during the Kandyan Kingdom. This town was used on numerous occasions as the temporary capital of the Kingdom of Kandy. King Senarath (1604-1635) was the first king to build a royal palace in Hanguranketha.

Much of King Senarath’s reign was dedicated to resolving domestic issues. Formerly a Buddhist monk, he approached governance with righteousness rather than shrewdness. Fleeing to Meda Maha Nuwara with the Sacred Tooth Relic, he later sought refuge in Diyatilaka Nuwara and Bintenne, evading Portuguese threats (Seneviratna, 1983).

The original palace built by King Senerat was renovated by King Rajasinghe II (1635 – 1687), who overpowered 2 major invasions of Kandy Kingdom by the Portuguese. In 1630, the famous Randeniwela Battle killing the entire Portuguese army except 200 POWs ended the first invasion. The second invasion took place in 1638, ending with the Gannoruwa Battle, which completely destroyed the invading army. He renamed the city of Diyatilakepura as Hanguranketha.

King Vimaladharmasurya II (1687 – 1707) before ascending the throne in Kandy had spent his childhood days in Hanguranketa. Their successors, Vira Parakrama Narendrasinha (1707-1739) and Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe (1739-1742) embellished the city of Hanguranketa and renovated the Palace (Abeyawardhana, 2004).

But in 1808 this palace which was then used by Sri Wickrama Rajasinhe (1798 – 1815), the last king of  Sri Lanka was burned to the ground by the British forces under Major Johnson.

Legend has it that the ancient route from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya passed through Hanguranketa, Maduwala, Gonakele, and Pelvaditenna. Initially, it was a pedestrian footpath, but it later accommodated more affluent travellers who rode on horseback. However, due to the threat of robbers during the nighttime, the road was restricted to daytime use only. Along the route, resting places were provided for weary travellers.

With the establishment of Coffee plantations in Nuwara Eliya, a Catholic priest encountered difficulties continuing his journey on horseback beyond a certain point. The horse refused to proceed, prompting the priest to stay overnight. The following day, he discovered the body of a traveller murdered by robbers who had ventured out during the night. Viewing the spot where he had taken refuge as sacred, the priest initiated the construction of St. Emmanuel’s Church..

Subsequently, a Catholic school was established in Hanguranketa, specifically in a place known as Gnrugedera in Damunumeya. This school has since evolved into a central college now known as CC College offering education in Sinhala, Tamil, and English. Remarkably, the board once used for writing the alphabet in sand is still preserved within the school (Abeyawardhana, 2004).

However, in reality, the current church was built by philanthropist  Charles Henry de Soysa of Moratuwa and opened in 1886.

In the year 1855, Father E. T. Higgins, a representative of the Diocese of Colombo came to Haguranketha and proposed to build a church near this school site. For that purpose, the land adjacent to the school was donated by the village headman named Damanumeya Kotuwe Gedara Wijeratne (දමුණුමෑය කොටුවේ ගෙදර වි‍ජේරත්න). On August 4, 1880, Mr. Sansayda Soysa, a member of the Soysa family, built a semi-permanent building here and started worshipping God for the first time.

He passed away in 1881, but with the financial donation of another philanthropist of the same generation, Mr. Charles Henry de Soysa, this church was brought to the current permanent building with all other equipment including the altar.

Lady Ladamulage Catherine Silva, who was the wife of philanthropist Charles Henry de Soysa, who made many donations to the people including Moratuwa Prince and Princess of Wales College, Colombo De Soyza Hospital, Soysapura Soysarama, Moratuwa Emmanuel Church, built the pastor’s house of this church.

A special feature found in this church is a stone moonstone near its main entrance. Such moonstones are generally found in Buddhist shrines and buildings near its main entrance. This a plain moonstone and lacks any elaborate carvings.

According to legend, this moonstone has been brought to the church from the Hanguranketa Palace which the British burned down.

References

  1. Abeyawardhana, H. A. P. (2004) Heritage of Kandurata: Major Natural, Cultural, and Historic Sites. Kandy: Kandurata Development Bank, in association with the Central Bank of  Sri Lanka.
  2. Seneviratna, A. (1983)  Kandy: an Illustrated Survey of Ancient Monuments With Historical, Archaeological and Literary Descriptions Including Maps of the City and Its Suburbs. Colombo: Central Cultural Fund, Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
  3. Gunarathne, R. (2017) සඳකඩපහණ පියමැන අල්තාරය පාමුලට, දිනමිණ | ජාතියේ පුවත්පත. Available at: https://archives1.dinamina.lk/2017/03/31/විශේෂාංග/32014 (Accessed: 09 May 2024).

Also See

Map of Holy Emmanuel’s Church of Hanguranketha

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Driving Directions to Holy Emmanuel’s Church of Hanguranketha

Route from Kandy to the Holy Emmanuel’s Church of Hanguranketha
Through: Haragama – Marassana
Distance: 32 km
Travel time: 1 hour
Driving directions: see on Google map

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