Colombo 7 Maniumpathy | Daily News

Colombo 7 Maniumpathy


"As a teenager at times I used to watch from the windowsill life go by on Kynsey Road", explained Chrysanthie Basnayake (nee Wijenathen), recalling 1980s Colombo as if it was yesterday. Sitting at their ebony dining room table, with the chandelier sparkles catching the light it was hard to imagine that on her return from London on July 23, 1983 exhausted from Jetlag that she watched through blurry eyes a procession of men holding torches marching along Kynsey Road thinking it's a strange time of year for a Perehera! Next morning she woke up and her dad told her Borella town has been burnt to the ground and that they were lucky the house had not been among the 8000 homes destroyed and looted. Lucky, is an understatement, as the target was Tamil premises and over the next three decades of civil war the family faced a couple of bomb explosions that occurred practically on the doorstep, this time at the hands of the terrorists and yet refused however bad things got, to leave Maniumpathy.

Girl Power Charm

Fine details

They prayed that things would change for the better and that the country would be re-united as one and become the great nation it had once been. Like her 88 year old mother Cynthia who survived the London Blitz and sent to Cornwall for several years during the height of the Air raid bombings in the 1940s, a place during a time no one had ever seen a Sri Lankan before. Chrysanthie like her mother has always found the positives out of life even at its darkest and this might just be the reason that this stately house over five generations has created such a fascinating line of women. It is certainly the reason the hotel has so much girl power charm that it is hard not to fall under its spell. It is the very reason they selected to celebrate this fact by naming each of the boutique hotel's eight gorgeous suites after five generations of women who have influenced the spirit of the house.

The name Maniumpathy, named by Dr Saravanamuthu Hallock, I discover is a tribute to his town of Manipay, a thriving and wealthy locality of Jaffna. "By the standards of present day Colombo, it might be regarded as the 'Colombo 07' of Jaffna during the 19th Century," explains Basnayake. A man whose passion for detail can be seen in the immaculate restoration (aided by a perfectionist architect Chamika de Alwis) throughout this beautiful Colombo 7 residence. Adrian Basnayake readily admits with the widest smile that a petticoat government runs him, but one can see that behind these entire successful women are some extraordinarily talented and deeply humble men.

Educated and Learned

Maniumpathy like its namesake is set in wonderful tropical gardens and I am told by Adrian Basnayake "Manipay was known as the paradise of Jaffna, with its verdant green paddy fields that stretched as far as the eye could see. Its hard working people were a kindred society, who exhibited the traits of tolerance, and mutual respect. They were well educated and learned in various arts such as dancing, music and painting." Nandi, 'the bull statue' that can be seen overlooking the pool at Maniumpathy is the family crest incorporated into their corporate hotel logo as well. The iconic identity is even pressed into the white towels, reflecting the magnificence of the place.

My favourite room is the family suite with the attic, which is huge fun, and so spacious it almost feels like a house in its own right and the reason for its grandeur I discover is that Dr Savaranamuttu Hallocks surgery was once based in it. Dr. Hallock passed out from the University of Aberdeen and secured appointment with the Ceylon Medical Service. It is he who purchased the property at Kynsey road, what was then the 'Harley Street' of Colombo - stretching from the General Hospital of Colombo (presently the National Hospital of Sri Lanka) to the General Cemetery of Colombo, where most of Colombo's eminent physicians lived. I learn in the music room as I am shown pictures of various members of the family that his wife Annapuranie not only found the time to raise nine children but to travel by bullock cart around the island, clear jungle and plant 1000 acres of coconut. Back in the day as a civil servant he was paid in gold coins and this is how she brought the land where ever he was posted, so that each child had 100 acres of land to his or her name.

Stand for what is right

Annapuranie was so determined for her husband to specialize as a surgeon she persuaded him to go to England on a ships voyage. Being a devout Hindu it must have almost been the death of him, as weekly they would slaughter cattle for the rations of meat for passengers.

The house from its regal chandeliers to Prince of Whales 'fleur-de-lis' hand carved wooden decorative motifs in the form of open ventilation is a treasure trove of generations of fascinating history that is reflective in the great furniture produced by the islands master craftsman. Original structure built around 1868 and later added on to is now over 150 years old, has been the witness to an incredible number of historic periods that might have even led to the destruction of its very existence, but somehow the high white wall, the girl power of the family and their indomitable spirit to stay whatever the challenges is an accolade to a family who will always stand for what is right.

I am told when Chrysanthie was born there was an astrologer in the house who predicted that she would do something important for the house, which she laughs off as ridiculous as she is far too busy juggling mundane family matters. I think not running when Rome is burning to the ground is the single most important thing a human can do in times of conflict and to keep standing for three decades is the reason this much loved house is still here for the entire world to now enjoy. So go on do something really different and stay at Maniumpathy located in the Cinnamon Gardens area. You are likely to be received by Anithra, the 5th Generation at 129 Kynsey Road, Colombo - 7, Sri Lanka. 


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