The historically significant Thambapanni or Kudiramalai is an ancient sea port which lies in the western coast in the Wilpattu National Park.
On a beautiful day with perfect cotton candy clouds floating in the clear blue sky, we had arrived in the heart of the Wilpattu National Park, on the trail to the Kuveni Maligawa and Kudiramalai Point. This was where princes and queens had left marks of their reign in their palaces, most of which are crumbling today.
Our guide, Asela said there are many historically important places throughout the Wilpattu jungle, while some of the ‘palaces’ have become home to wild animals. The beautiful water-filled villus, once used by queens, are now bathing ponds for crocodiles and water birds.
Leaving the Kokmote bungalow, we drove 16 kilometres on the sandy track in the heart of the Wilpattu jungle when Asela told us to stop the jeep as we were in the ancient site of the ‘Kuveni Maligawa’. As the magnificent ruins emerged into view in the jungle, an ensemble of stone pillars among them greeted us.
I could see the basic structure of the palace buried in the soil, yet imposing, an example of Sri Lanka’s priceless and rich heritage.
There they were, exquisite stone pillars glistening in the morning sun. Lying in ruins were stone pillars believed to have been part of an edifice which belonged to Queen Kuveni; some of them standing, some leaning on others or buried in the earth among the huge trees dotting the jungle.
Vijaya and Kuveni
Kuveni, a queen of the Yakka tribe is said to have lived here when Prince Vijaya landed in Kudiramalai. It is believed that Kuveni and Prince Vijaya started their reign from this region of Wilpattu.
The guide described the beautiful villu nearby, called Kali, as the jewel of the Kuveni Maligawa. It looked like a huge basin filled with crystal clear water and was used to store pure water for the queen’s use.
We snaked through the jungle, crossing many villus and thick forest area, until we reached the Puttalam – Mannar gravel road. After driving a few kilometres on the muddy Mannar road, we branched off to the left and reached the vicinity of Kudiramalai.
The small hills got closer, as the canopy of the forest spread itself around us. In the middle of the green cover was a sea of blue in the form of a villu. Asela described it as Maila Villu, the second largest in Wilpattu. The coastal region was also home to the mighty white-bellied sea eagle.
The weather was better and the rays of the sun streamed out through the clouds as we reached the Kudiramalai Point, on the western coast of the Wilpattu National Park. The sea surrounding us was calm and in the distant horizon, we saw the small island of Baththalangunduwa. Standing on the edge of the cliff of Kudiramalai, I looked out and enjoyed the panoramic view of the mighty Indian ocean where a steep slope formed about 50 feet to the sea.
We walked around the site with Asela, who took us to every nook and corner of Kudiramalai. The geological origins of Kudiramalai are shrouded in mystery, but the general belief is that it is the site of an ancient meteor strike. The reason behind this belief has been the unique red soil and burnt rocks in the area. The soil contains high levels of iron and other minerals, that give it a unique reddish hue.
Kudiramalai is also known as the Horse Mountain and is associated with many historical theories. One legend says the Roman author, Pliny recorded an account of a Roman tax collector who was blown off course and landed in ‘Hippuros’ (Horse Mountain) in the monsoon season during the time of Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD).
Ruled by a queen
The other legend speaks of Kudiramalai being ruled by a queen called Alli Rani. Her warriors had been women and she had hated men. She was believed to have been fond of pearls and it is said that during her time, pearls were exported to Arab countries in return for Arab horses and that business was carried out from this port. This may be perhaps how the name of the area was derived and her palace is reputed to lie buried under the cliff.
Walking further on the cliff, we could see the ruins of a cement structure which was beyond recognition. Some believe these as the ruins of a huge figure of a horse that had given the region its name.
It had stood 35 feet tall, its front legs raised in the air and its rider clinging to the reins. A lantern that hung from the statue was believed to have guided ships into the port.
Further along the path to the shore, we could also see a cement tomb where a Muslim saint is believed to be buried. Asela said that in the past, there had been a fishing village in the bank of the Kudiramalai cliff.
The sky started greying as we left the site and the sea greeted us. However, today, Kudiramalai or Thambapanni stands in memory of Prince Vijaya who is believed to be the founder of the Sinhala race.
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Map of Kudiramalai Point (Thambapanni)
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Travel Directions to Kudiramalai Point (Thambapanni)
Route from Colombo to Kudiramalai Point (Thambapanni)
|Though : Negombo – Puttlam|
Distance :200 km
Travel time : 4 hours.
Driving directions : see on google map