Ratnapura - A Gem of a City with Scenic Beauty
A Famous Location for Shooting World-Class Films that Tourists Can’t Afford to Miss
Ratnapura which –in Sinhala language means ‘The City of Gems is in the Sabragamuwa Province of the Republic of Sri Lanka; and is the Provincial Capital of the Province. Situated a little more that 89 KM (55 Miles) from the Capital City of Colombo –on the Colombo-Badulla Highway, via Pelmadulla and Haldumulla, towards the South-East. As it situated in the ‘Wet Zone’ of Sri Lanka, it receives the Monsoon rains from May to September. It is famous for its gems-rubies and sapphires. Tea and Rubber are also grown as ‘Commercial Crops’.
A wide network of roads is spread across the entire district, and public Transport is convenient. There are roads connecting Ratnapura with the Capital City of Colombo, Kalmunai in the Eastern Province, Badulla, Bandarawela and many other main towns throughout the island. Another feature that makes Ratnapura interesting is that the ‘Narrow Gauge’ Railway –laid by the British, in 1912 –between Colombo, Avissawella, Ratnapura and Opanaike is still functioning.
The town of Rathnapura lies in a deep valley –resulting in it being submerged following the slightest rain. The Manik Ganga or the River of Gems runs right through the middle of the town of Ratnapura. Most of the people are engaged in the Gem Trade; and one can see gem pits dotting the entire country side –from Avissawella, right up to Pelmadulla –or even beyond.
Ratnapura also functions or made to function as the ‘Base Camps’ for pilgrims to commence their Holy Trek to the Sacred Mount of Sri Pada or Adam’s Peak from the Ratnapura side. The other starting point being Dalhousie or ‘Nallathanni’ in Maskeliya. The mountain is reputed to be a place of many miracles.
Besides its religious significance, it is a place of scenic beauty –having a number of beautiful waterfalls such as the BOPATH ELLA off the town let of Kurivita, the KATUGAS ELLA –a popular waterfall among the local population, situated about 3 KM from town –in the village of Mahawelawatta, KIRINDI ELLA –the seventh highest waterfall in the country, which lies at a distance of 4 KM away from Ratnapura, on the main road to Pelmadulla. Ratnapura can also boast of being the home of the famed Disawe, or Local Governor – EHELEPOLA.
Kitulgala –the scene for the filming of the popular film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ took place in this township. The bridge built for the film still exists; and is still attracting sightseers both, local and foreign. As a result of the filming of this movie, the hamlet of Kitulgala has developed immensely. Kitulgala is situated at a distance of 100 KM from Colombo, on the Main Road to Nuwara Eliya, via Avissawella, Ginigathena and Hatton.
THE SINHARAJA RESERVE, the UDAWALAWE NATIONAL PARK, besides Kitulgala and Adam’s Peak contribute –in no small measure –to the ever growing popularity of this ‘City of Gems’.
The Sinharaja Forest –approximately 30 KM from Ratnapura is the last of the remaining Rain Forests of the country. It has now been declared a ‘Protected Area’. In 1989 UNESCO included the Sinharaja Forest in the World Heritage Site as well as the First National Heritage of Sri Lanka. It is a popular tourist destination for its eco value, Bird-Watching, Research –and for plain curiosity. It covers an area of 11,000 hectares; but the population ‘Explosion’ and indiscriminate Logging has markedly reduced its extend.
Another spot of interest is the UDAWALAWE National Park, in the Dry Zone. Large herds of Elephants, Deer, Sambhur, Barking Deer, Wild Boar and Water Buffalo can be seen within this park.
The Agricultural Industry of the town is also well developed, with large Tea and Rubber Plantations surrounding the town. Paddy cultivation has been confronted with an uncertain future – mainly due to many farmers giving up paddy cultivation for gemming.