Udawatta Kele Sanctuary (උඩවත්ත කැලේ)

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The lush forest cover of Udawatta Kele Sanctuary behind Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy has a long history dating back many centuries. It was declared Tahansikele or forbidden forest by the Sinhala kings who ascended the throne when Kandy became the capital city.

It was a royal forest reserve where no one was allowed to venture. Located close to Sri Dalada Maligawa and the royal palace in this verdant jungle there among trees, creepers, lichen, mosses, ferns, grasses, fungi, and bacteria found in abundance.

The forest remained impenetrable for many centuries where wild boar, monkey, hare, squirrel scaly anteater, porcupine, reptiles, monitor lizards, tortoises and varieties of birds, worms and insects live in perfect harmony with nature.

The pond in the heart of the jungle was the place where queens in the past bathed and used as their pleasure garden. At times of war, kings always used the forest for their defence against attacks and very often they escaped through the heavy foliage to a safer place.

In the past elephants, elk, and leopards roamed freely among tall giant trees and hanging creepers. The leaves that fell from trees and creepers on the ground keep the surface moist after intermittent showers.

Throughout history, the atmosphere around Udawattekale evoked a certain feeling of mysterious nature. The noise of cicadas makes the mystery deeper creating reverence and awe.

The Asgiri Upatha the historical record describes how Udawattekele became a forest reserve when the ancient village, Senkadagala was chosen as one of the early settlements in the country.

According to this historical record, the first settlement was founded during the rule of Gajabahu of Anuradhapura (114 -136 AC). There is a reference to the Maha Thera Palabathgala Wanaratana of the lineage of Dimbulagala Dipankara Thero who brought four other bhikshus to Senkadagala during the rule of Panditha Parakramabahu of Kurunegala.

However, King Wickremabahu of Gampola is popularly believed to be the founder of the city of Senkadagala who built his palace on a site carved out of Udawattekele. It is for this reason that the name Udawasalawatta is called Udawattekele, to this day.

Udawattekele was the watershed for the streams that fed the Natha Devale paddy fields, which were later made into form the present Kandy Lake. There were streams of water that flow down even to this day from Udawattekele. ” This forest possesses the scenic beauty of Kandy town” says Nihal Karunaratne in his account given in his text Udawattekele.

John Still has described Udawattekele” ” This forest is a very wet one and consequently very dense and much of it is bound into an unbelievably impregnable tangle by creeping bamboo whose long tendrils hard and then as telegraph wire from a mesh difficult for men to enter unless he can cut his way painfully yard by yard.”

Many writers have described the view from Udawattekele in a glowing manner. The picturesque setting with its thick foliage had stirred their imagination to describe at length when one of them said: “The early morning dew glistens like a million jets as the rays of the sun break through the trees”.

When the morning mist gently clears from the placid water of the pond in the middle of the forest glade, the shrill call of a bird from the nearby tree or a croak of a frog may disturb the stillness of the surroundings.

One can notice a monitor lizard swim lazily catching a glimpse of a prey in the water disturbed by its movement a blue kingfisher flashes across with its widespread wings when it fails to catch a fish.

With this panorama peace and tranquillity continue to prevail throughout this panoramic kingdom of fauna and flora.

Udawattekele is the only forest in the world found bordering a city. With the expansion of the city, it has been reduced to its present size.

The change taking place outside continues to affect the serenity and charm of the forest while it continues to remain a forbidden forest –

Source Udawattekele by Naihal Karunaratne.

By D.B.Kappagoda
Daily Mirror

Also See

Map of Udawatta Kele Sanctuary

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Traveling Directions to Udawatta Kele Sanctuary

Route 1 from Colombo to KandyRoute 2 from Colombo to Kandy
Though : kadawata – Warakapola – Ambepussa – Mawanella
Distance :120 km
Travel time : 3.45 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Katunayake Expressway –
Distance :150 km
Travel time : 3.20 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Route From Nuwara Eliya to Kandy
Though : Walapane – Raja Mawatha
Distance :100 km
Travel time : 3.0 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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