Meeyan Ella waterfall – මීයන් ඇල්ල

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 Meeyan Ella waterfall falling through the artificial groove built by British

Meeyan Ella waterfall falling through the artificial groove built by British
Photo by : Saranga J. Liyanagama

Height :30  meters
District :Kegalle

Meeyan Ella is a waterfall with a deep history yet unknown to many. The waterfall lies along the railway line to Kandy near Ihalakotte railway station.

The stream which creates the Meeyan Ella waterfall originates from a place called Helan-Madiththa on the Alagalla mountain. Originally the waterfall fell as a single stream over an rock and flowed over the villages of Walagoda and Thalagolla, joining Thalagolla Oya. Thalagolla Oya then gets connected to Ma Oya in Boella.

But today the waterfall drops as two steams  with a gap of about 50 meters along two artificially cut grooves on the rock surface. How this once a mighty waterfall became two small waterfalls is an interesting story.

After the last kingdom of Sri Lanka fell in to the hands of Britain, they started building a railway line from Colombo to Kandy to being the valuable goods produced in the hill country to Colombo for export.  The section of the railway line between Polgahawela and Kandy was built during the mid 1800’s and at Alagalla they faced a challenging task of building the railway across the large waterfall of Meeyan Ella.

To cross Meeyan Ella, the British had to build a tunnel across the Alagalla rock drilling over a 1000 feet through the rock. Realizing that this is a mammoth task, they looked for alternatives. The  final decision of the British was to block the waterfall upstream and cut two deep grooves in to the rock so that the  water will  fall as two smaller waterfalls.

With this task completed, the British created a 1400 feet long and 18 feet deep horizontal cut along the Alagalla rock to lay the railway line which was completed up to Kandy in 1867. But during the heavy rains this groove was not enough to handle the massive flow of the water on the stream and the railway was swept away number of times.

By the beginning of the 20th century it realized that this solution was a death trap during the rainy season and decided to build the tunnel as originally planned. The 1307 feet (400 meters)  long tunnel across the Alagalla rock was built during 1905-1906. Since this tunnel lay between the tunnel 5 and 6, it had been named Tunnel 5A. This is also the second longest railway tunnel in Sri Lanka, the longest being the Singimale Tunnel which is 1865  feet (558 meters) long. The Nakuttiya tunnel with a length of 2018 feet (615 meters) on the new Matara Beliatta will soon take this place.

You can reach this split waterfalls from the Ihalakotte Railway Station. Traveling along the railway line for 275 meters will bring you the Sangaraja Lena, a small cave where Welivita Sri Saranankara Thero lived in hiding learning Pali language. Walking a further 225 meters along the rail line will bring you to the entrance of the Tunnel 5A. If you wish to explore the tunnel its essential to speak to the railway staff at Ihalakotte and find out the latest train schedules. Being 400 meters long, facing a train inside the tunnel could possibly have fatal consequences.

You will find the path of the old railway line along the precipice of the Alagalla Rock parallel to the rail tunnel. The waterfall lies about 150 meters along this path. This path is overgrown with Mana Trees, thus its recommended to wear suitable clothing before attempting to cross this path.

The coconut tree standing at the beginning of this old rail path has its own tale. This point marks the grave of  S.P Appuwa. He was born in 1880 at Ihalakotte and part of the workforce who drilled Alagalla mountain to build the tunnel and maintained the railway line until his retirement. He had passed away in 1974.  The banana trees on the left too points to another grave of a railway staff called Gallene Gedhara Samara,  who passed away while working as a patrolman.

The tunnel is generally damp due the Meeyan Ella waterfall flowing over it. After about 75 meters you will come across a large hole on the left wall which opens up to the precipice outside. It is said that this hole was used to dispose rubble when the tunnel was being excavated. Now this hole provides breath of fresh air for those traveling through the tunnel.

 

Also See

Map of Meeyan Ella waterfall


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Travel Directions to Meeyan Ella waterfall

Route from Mawanella to Meeyan Ella

Through : Makehelwala
Distance : 9 km
Travel time : 20 mins  + 2o mins hike
Driving directions : see on google map

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