Uva Province

Uva Province

Uva Province

 

The Uva province, meanders in awesome beauty completely off the beaten track as far as the traveler is concerned. It has the lush and verdant Badulla, with its often cloud canopied mountain expanses, as its capital city. And this amazingly undulating mountainous region claims the signal honour of hosting the greatest traveler that ever set foot on this beautiful island – The Lord Gauthama Buddha.

The impressive list of the great and famous who traversed this region includes the legendary Emperor Ravana who is credited with having hosted Sita, his captive Indian Princes, in his summer residence in the hills as well as Lord Skanda who settled in the apex of the province at Vadi-hiti-kanda with his new found love.

Saturated in rich folk lore and legendary exploits, the Uva province was endowed with perhaps one of the best ten finest teas in the world branded as “UVA TEAS”. Ecologically, politically and culturally therefore one finds Uva to be utterly satisfying as a serious tourist destination- and of course everyone delights in tasting the golden brew from some of the nation’s finest tea plantations, a historical page from the days of the British Raj I ancient Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon. Incomparable really when one reckons with the fact that Uva can simultaneously satisfy the taste buds of the tea connoisseur, the globe-trotting historian, the nature enthusiast, the hiker or the naturalist and those who prefer a quiet holiday and health resort. Uva’s enchanting minor waterfalls which swell in the monsoonal season, rugged mountain peaks, panoramic vistas, diverse eco systems, where climate and scenery metamorphosise within an hour or two, add significantly to its diverse attractions.

The ancients generally bisected the region featuring Bintenna, the great plain and Wellassa – the land of a surfeit of verdant rice paddies, beautifully wafting on Uva’s terraced slopes and valleys. Welcome to the granary of the east. It remains bisected even to this day into the Upper Uva embracing mountains and valleys and the Lower Uva comprising vast acres mostly covered with herbal forests, paddies, giant reservoirs and habitats of herds of elephants and several varieties of fauna and flora. The capital Badulla has of late tended to spread out branches of economic growth with scores of minor townships providing ample family fare in well stocked commercial concerns which nevertheless have not robbed Uva of her rather laid-back lifestyle which perhaps explains why tourists love to linger somewhat long in this sprawling refuge in the hills. The area that comes within the towns of Bandarawela, Haputale and Welimada is known as the health triangle of the island. The torridly hot summer in the south and north finds an exodus of domestic and foreign tourists to the region where the heavenly cool temperatures, night and day, add an almost tangible sweetness to the very air one breathes. Blessed with an eminently good network of roads the traveler can motot up to Uva very comfortably or as very many do, take the train that travels ever so romantically through its mountain reaches which lie in the embrace of cold, cloud-covered pine forests which blanket every mountain. Scottish and English travelers have often compared this region, among others near-by, with the Scottish and British highlands.

 

ACCOMMODATION IN UVA
One has a wide range to choose from by way of accommodation. There are star class hotels, rests houses, guest houses, hotels, pilgrim rests, home stays and eco-lodges. Up market accommodation is available only in towns like Badulla, Bandarawela and Katharagama. Rest houses run by the Hotels Corporation are located in most of the towns and they maintain a fairly high standard, providing excellent Sri Lankan cuisine. There are hotels that provide snacks, meals and accommodation according to your tastes. Many provide average services and mainly cater to budget travelers. Guest Inns are more or less motels located by the road side. They are ideal for an over-night stop over. They are cozy and very often run by the owners. They go out of their way to make the guests comfortable with a touch of Sri Lankan hospitality. The pilgrim rests are around religious shrines and they offer basic facilities for large groups or individuals. If it is inter-cultural exchange one is looking for, they are the ideal spots to experience Sri Lankan living. Tourists often go for the home stays where they automatically become members of host families. Many who walk in as guests walk out as permanent friends. It’s typical Sri Lankan living and a great experience. Then there are the Eco-Lodges run by enterprising youth, mostly close to the forest areas and these are ideal retreats to be with nature. What more does a traveler need ? But suddenly there’s the strident trumpeting of a wild Elephant from somewhere close by under a scorching sun… and what with this and the other thrown in, Uva certainly is a must on anyone’s agenda. Morning however can be easier on the nerves as you thrill to birdsong from the tress just outside your window. They all leave Uva feeling great !

 

Maduruoya National Park

Maduru Oya

 

The general belief in the island is that this tank was constructed during the times of the kings. But folklore and evidence tend to suggest rather positively that this came into existence long ages before that when hydraulic agriculture held sway islandwide. During the construction of the new sluice gate in the year 1981 a discovery was made that took us back to a great civilization. It’s a construction of a sluice gate that had been done around the first century B.C., very much earlier than the arrival of Prince Vijaya which took place in the sixth century B.C. The ancient name of the reservoir had been Mahadaragal which turned in to Maduruoya over the years. The present reservoir covers an area of 6400 hectares. The dam extends to a distance of 1.5 kilometers. The Omunagala rock with its pointed pinnacle is a distinct landmark that could be viewed from the reservoir. The valley below the tank bund gives a panoramic view of the lands that are being irrigated and the farmer dwellings. The ancient reservoir had been below the present one and traces of it are still visible. The Maduruoya wildlife reserve is just a few kilometers away and after viewing the dam and the reservoir the day can be turned into a wildlife safari. A large herd of elephants that has made the area its domain is a special attraction here. Maduruoya’s ambience is enriched by a water park, lush vegetation, wildlife, butterflies and a rich birdlife sanctuary of sorts.

 

 

 

Sri Bakthi Hanuman Temple

Sri Baktha Hanuman

 

In the epic ‘Ramayana Bakthi’, Hanuman plays a very important role. He was the spy who crossed the Adam’s bridge and entered Lanka in search of Sita on behalf of Sri Ram. The reason he was known as Bakthi Hanuman was that he had a great devotion to Sri Ram. It is said that once he cut open his chest and showed the letters Ram embossed on his heart, just to prove his devotion. He played a major role in the final destruction of the Lankan emperor Ravana. He was responsible for setting fire to the Ravana kingdom. One wonders how he found a centre of worship in the very land that was destroyed by him. The Hindu population and the religious tolerance that exists in Sri Lanka paved the way for the establishment of this temple. It is located in the heart of the land where Ravana and Ram met in battle. On one side of the valley is Ravanagoda, the stronghold of Emperor Ravana and the other is Ramboda where Ram and his armies camped out ready for battle. Located right in the middle of the legendary site off the main highway that connects Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, it seems to be the ideal spot for this statue. The Chinmaya mission of Sri Lanka built this temple at a place known as Thawalanthenna which means ‘wagons plain’ – maybe an ancient caravan resting place. The statue that overlooks the valley from the mountain top is 16ft high. It’s carved out of solid granite. Every full moon day poojas are held here attended by thousands of devotees. Some conduct special conch shell poojas that are very interesting but costly. The area is full of scenic beauty, lush tea carpets and cascading waterfalls.

 

 

Buduruwagala

Buduruwagala

 

Approximately 8 kms off the main road that connects Wellawaya and Matara (turn off at Buduruwagala School) is one of the tallest Buddha Statues in the island. Stop when the narrow road comes to an end and you wonder how far the trek will be because one sees no sign of rocks anywhere. But all one has to do is to walk a few meters along the foot-path flanked by scrub forest and take the first bend. The first glimpse of the colossus would bring you to an abrupt stop, in awe. The statue rests engraved into the rock edifice [that depicts a venerating elephant, down on his fore legs] stands 15 meters high. The sculptor has turned out the hand bent high at the elbow in the symbol of what is known as “Abhaya Mudra”, the symbol of peace. The giant statue of Lord Buddha is flanked by those of “Avaloketheshwara” – the Buddha next in line and Bodisathwa statues with attendants including goddess Tara. Traces of original plaster and painting can to this day be observed in a few places. Ruins of a pond and a stupa are in the vicinity. This is believed to date back to the Mahayana period of Buddhism in the island. No monastery or temple remains are in existence. Until recently there was not even a roadway up to this shrine other than a foot path and the only ‘devotees’ to visit would have been elephants and other animals that roam the jungles here. Due to the calm and quiet in the area many have chosen this as their favorite meditation centre. A serene lake with dugout canoes is an added attraction.

 

 

Muthiyangana Stupa.

Muthiyangana Stupa.

 

One of the most important Buddhist religious shrines in the island is the Muthiyangana Temple, located in the heart of Badulla town. Folklore has it that when Lord Buddha visited Lanka, he arrived at Badulla via Mahiyangana and rested. It also says that the beads of sweat that fell from the Buddha’s body on to the sand, turned to pearls. Thus the name Muthiyangana evolved which when translated means “The Pearl Garden”.
The beautiful river “Badulu Oya” winds round the temple premises. The complex forms a serene atmosphere with its two elevations. The lower one we enter first is the monks residence, and after receiving their blessings one walks up to the second stage where you encounter the milk white stupa, the shrine rooms and the Bo Tree, the latter being believed to have been from a branch of the giant sacred tree at Anuradhapura. To anyone interested in a quiet, tranquil evening, it’s an ideal get-away from it all. According to the calendar of events, the annual grand festival at this temple is held in the month of May when the full moon bathes the skies. The drums of Uva then echo in the valley at night when the temple procession starts parading the city streets. Giant elephants dressed in all their caparisoned splendour surrounded by glistening dancers are sure a treat for the eyes. The carnival atmosphere that prevails in the streets is a veritable elixir that draws one into the celebrations. This great spectacle is only second to the annual Kandy Perahara [ street procession]which is a popular attraction in the island.
Muthiyangana is well worth a visit.

 

 

Bambaragala Ella

Bambaragala EllaMuch controversy surrounds this waterfall that a stone’s throw from the roadside as one travels from Bandarawela to Wellawaya, just below the Ella Gap. The Ravana legend that surrounds the area and the Ravana cave that is located close by have led many to designate the name Ravanaella to this fall. The genuine Ravana fall could however be seen on the Kithalella road as one travels by train from Bandarawela to Badulla or via the minor road that turns off close to the railway overhead tunnel at Ella. Then Bambaragala fall that leaps over a high rocky crag, rolls down languidly at lower levels. It’s one of the most unique looking waterfalls in Sri Lanka. No one ever passes it without stopping to witness the grandeur of this site. As the fall comes down in stages, there always are visitors scaling up the sides of the fall jumping from one rock to another. This dangers inclination has reportedly claimed many young lives. The highest fall of the complex is 49 mtrs. If one is to trek down below the waterfall a typical self sufficient village could be reached. No roadway connects this village to civilization and the farmers produce everything they need. Their only needs from the outside world are salt, oil and boxes of matches. The handfull of children who trudge miles to a town for education often supply the needs from outside. The village produce is transported weekly on the backs of pack bulls for trade at the fair on a mountain. A visit to this ancient village where time stands still is a unique experience.

 

Ella

Ella
Elle is a very popular get away especially for the foreign travellers and here the mountains are not that high but the valleys are so deep. That has a unique scenic view, here the lower plain drops down to nearly 1000m. below and the panorama is fantastic. The road way wiggles past the canyons almost 27km down to Wallawaya. The small town has such a tremendous western population and at times you would certainly have to look carefully to see if there are any locals around. The main attraction here is the Ravana legend with Ravana Ella water fall, Ravana Cave and the Bambaragala water fall. There is a beautiful Old Military trek along which the invading armies arrived on the hills to destroy the capitol city Badulla. They were all massacred by Lankan rebels at Randeniwala where stands a monument today. The area is dotted with hotels, motels, guest houses, inns, homestays and restaurants. The railway engineering marvels namely the Demodara Loop and the nine arches Bridge are popular attraction in the area. The climate here is unique as it’s the point where the mountain climate takes over from the dry lower plains.

 

Badulla

BadullaBadulla the capitol of Uva province is in a basin with mountain ranges right around, Namunukula being the main mountain. It’s a city with plenty of historical value. At an altitude of about 680m is almost the gateway to the east coast. The mountain Railway terminates here. It is easily reachable by bus or train. A beautiful river meanders through the town and it rolls down to the lower plain at Dunhinda falls. It’s one of the wildest cataracts in the island. In the heart of the city is the famous Buddhist shrine which was visited by Lord Gauthama Buddha according to legend. The Hindu shrine in the town is the Kataragama temple and the Al Adan Mosque where the Muslims pray is quite a landmark. The St. Marks church next to the Kachcheri which was the former king’s place adds glamour to the city. The sky line is mountain Namunukula and rock hill where hiking and trekking is possible.

 

Bandarawella

Bandarawella A small town in the Health Triangle of the island first developed as a Railway town. The mountain Railway terminated at this point before it reached Badulla, later. It was one time known as the garden city as it was the home of many European planters, Railway engineers, and also the Christian missionaries. The Sinhalese lived in the hamlets while the Tamils occupied the plantation hills. The Moor population arrived as there were opportunities for business. The city hub is popular for shopping and the Sunday fair is quite an attraction. There are many scenic roads for nature walks and hikes. The attractions around are Dowa Rock temple, St. Catherine’s seat, Pilkington’s point, Millennium point and Lipton’s seat all located on Poonagala range which takes you up to the top of the Diyaluma fall. A hill station for relaxation.

 

Katharagama

Katharagama – The Shrine of Divine Love ?

 

Legend has it that Katharagama is the cradle of a love triangle. The younger son of Lord Shiva, and Skanda the younger brother of Ganesh, on arriving in Sri Lanka fell in love with a daughter of a tribal leader – Valli, and settled in a jungle hamlet on a mountain peak at Vedahitikanda. Consequently his goddess consort, Theiwaniamma left Mount Kailash, the Himalayan abode of gods, and settled down at Katharagama close to her husband. 2 shrines built in their honor still exist. Throughout the year devotees visit this shrine to seek the blessings of this deity or to fulfill their vows.
The annual festival that is held in July every year draws tremendous crowds.
It takes on the atmosphere of a carnival. The jungle echoes with the thunder of drums, chanting of prayers of devotees, the peeling of bells and blaring conch shells. The sight of Elephants and pilgrim devotees bathing together in the near-by river in preparation for the coming night’s pageant are an amazing spectacle. Equally sense-stimulating is the sight of firewalkers and others in various stages and forms of devotion. A long queue forms with pilgrims carrying trays filled with fresh fruits to be offered to their gods in return for favors. Humans and beasts merge to make this annual festival a success to please their favorite deity. People of many faiths are seen paying homage to their gods which many conclude sustains the belief that “there’s only one God”. In the adjoining premises is a Buddhist stupa called the Kirivehera. Buses to the site are from Buttala and Tissamaharama with all major abutting towns running very frequent bus services for the convenience of the visitor. All levels of accommodation are plentifully available in the vicinity.

 

Dunhinda Fall

Dunhinda Water Falls

 

Dunhinda is one of the most visited waterfalls in the island. The Badulu Oya, a tributary of the Mahaweli river, falls down a 60meters high cliff forming what appears to be a smoke screen, thus lending it the name Dunhinda which in translation means ‘smoke screen”. It’s located off the Badulla – Mahiyangana road and a short trek of about 2kms along an interesting jungle path gets you to the main waterfall, past a mini fall which too is charming. Legend runs deep in this waterfall. The historical legend is that once the city of Badulla was submerged by a flood and the king ordered a vedda chief to cut a giant creeper that was blocking the path of the river. The Vedda completed the task in a precarious manner swinging on a vine on the hill slope. Once the giant creeper was cut, the water roared down carrying the creeper a distance of 2kms. The creeper finally came to rest in an ancient village which was thence named Pussellawa, a derivative from the name of the creeper which was ‘Pus.’ This village remains so named to this day. Thus was the grand waterfall formed. Although it is a beautiful sight its one of the most dangerous waterfalls in the island. Many who try to have a cool dip by the fall have lost their lives. The bank of the pool as you get down from the viewing platform looks so inviting. Its here that some of the water flows through an underground cavern and once caught in the current, there is no return and the body finally surfaces miles down the river.
The waterfall is well worth a visit.