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Monumental mount

Historical legends of Narangala mountain range:

Although Sri Lanka is a tiny country, the beautiful mountain range located in the central highlands has created history as a landmark. Besides, the central highlands have been legendary in continuing the country’s territorial integrity for many centuries.

During the independence struggle against the colonial administration, the central mountainous region covered by the hills and rocky Mountains of Namunukula, Lunugala, Kodgala, Haputale, Madulsima and Narangala in the Uva province has offered shelter to those involved in the struggle.

Narangala mountain range is a beautiful landscape and environment zone, located within the boundaries of Haliela, Soranatota and Kandaketiya Divisional Secretariats in Badulla District. The 4540-feet peak is formed like a mountainous elevation. In Uva Province, Narangala is the second most attractive hotspot. Namunukula mountain range is the topmost hotspot in the region.

The Narangala mountain range dates back to the Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka at Mahiyangana nine months following the enlightenment. It was on the Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day in 528 BC.

The Uva inhabitants believe that the Buddha came to Mahiyangana expecting to leave his footprint on the top of Narangala Mountain. However, a group of villagers settled down in the vicinity were farming with wild buffalos. This phenomenon has compelled the Buddha to abandon the idea of leaving a footprint on Narangala. This indicates the agribusiness-based lifestyle that existed 2600 years ago in the small villages around the Narangala mountain range.

King Walagamba’s reign

Another significant historical incident related to the Narangala mountain range comes from King Walagamba’s reign. The king found shelter in hill country owing to the Chola invasions between 105 and 89 BC. King Walagamba and his retinue took shelter in the Bogoda Vihara area, situated along the right bank of the Nachangala mountain range. The king called ordered a tunnel to be dug from Bogoda Rajamaha Viharaya (close to Narangala mountain) to Dowa Raja Maha Viharaya in Bandarawela. One area of the tunnel was built on the peak of the Narangala Mountain. The evidence of that entrance is visible in Bogoda and Dowa temples.

One folktale of Uva relates how a Buddhist monk, with a dog, toured through the tunnel near the Bogoda Rajamaha Viharaya, in order to check access to the old road. The dog appeared from the Narangala hill, but without his master. It seems that these tunnels, constructed over 2,000 years ago, pose some danger in the middle. The monk could probably have become the victim of a vicious animal.

Between the 16th and 19th Centuries, Badulla was a sub-capital of the Kandyan Kingdom. The road between Badulla and Kandy was positioned to the southern part of Narangala. The Upper Uva mountain area has been split into three subdivisions: Udu-kinda, Manda-Kinda and Yati-Kinda.

The Narangala mountain range is located in the suburban areas of the Yati-Kinda division.

The famous book of poetry, Maga Salusanka, written in the 18th Century, provides details of the main villages of the old Badulla-Kandy road. It also highlights the villages close to Narangala Mountain. Alugolla, Koholila, Kahatagaharappa, Galpotta, Millagaruppaha Bogota and Uma Oya are also located along the right side of the Narangala hill. In the 1980s, a group of journalists from a Sinhala daily walked through this ancient road from Badulla to Kandy following the Maga Salusanka to prove the heritage to the present generation.

Significant facts regarding the Narangala range reveal that the knoll that had been burning for more than one year from November 1817 to November 1818 indicates the period of the independence struggle in Uva-Wellassa. The Ceylon Gazetteer, published in the British era, elaborated the Narangala range in this manner:

“Narangalakanda, a lot of significant size in the province of Weyaloowa, about 8 miles of Horanatota. At the base of this mountain is a remarkably large cavern or dell, which furnished a shelter to the rebels in 1817.’’

The note has clearly explained that the cavern or dell near the Narangala mountain range had helped in the training and gathering of the Army in the liberation struggle of 1817-18.

In a note on the 1817-18 insurgencies in the British writings of January 1818, Captain Blan Kenengge mentions how from the rebels travelled from Kandy to Wellassa through the Narangala mountain range across the Uma Oya.

‘Ooma Oya a river which branches off Mahaweli Ganga and intersects the road from Kandy to Badulla 5 miles from Kurundoo Oya. It often rises to a considerable degree; and January 1818 was so high that Captain Blank Kenburgh was obliged to pass his men over a hanging foot bridge, leaving behind all the heavy baggage.’

Following October 1818, leaders of the independence movement, including Kappetipola, were sheltered by the local sponsors. They took the government for a ride in anticipation of repression by the British forces as well as the imperialist powers. According to information presented by the spies to the British, many of the surviving local leaders were caught on the Nagaragala mountain range during the Independence struggle.

Independence struggle

The Kandaketiye Raterala who contributed to the independence struggle was arrested on December 28, 1918, in the Viyaluwa area. The Jayakagedara Mohottala detainee was stopped while they were approaching the Narangala mountain range. Tennawatte Raterala, Allokkan Mudiyanse and Thambakumbure Pihinarala were also arrested near the Narangala Mountain.

At the end of the liberation struggle of Uva Wellassa, the British nationals on the spot kept some records of the Narangala region. On March 26, 1819, six months following the war, John Davy passed through the villages of Kalupahana Idalgashinna, Welgahahahena Heimbeliaththewela, Ketawela Alugolla, and arrived in Badulla. He identified the situation of burned villages and the turbulent surroundings in the environment as recorded in his book ‘An Account of the Interior of Ceylon.’

In his Eleven Years in Ceylon, Jonathan Forbes records his observation of the Narangala Mountain on his way to Badulla through the Uma Oya. The book, published in 1833, has beautifully captured the many places in Uva Province.

Ten of the top ten sights in Sri Lanka, published in 1893 by Henry Truman, deals with Sri Lankan botanical gardens. This book also contains information about the Narangala mountain range. In a brief description on the ecosystem of the Narangala area in 1860, C W Ondaatje records how the expanse of the hills at Narangala was used for shade cultivation.

“From Taldana pass 4 miles from Badulla, we notice a Chain of hills covered with Chena cultivation, the highest of which is Narangala. The lower Badulla can also be seen wandering along the Badulla-Oya. From many other points’ great and interesting prospects of the nation can be easily commanded”.

In 1887, the British Royal Meteorological Society’s monthly journal, Francis J Warren, wrote an article about the weather in Sri Lanka and recorded it as the main place in the hill country including weather and sights of the island.

“The Southern part of this central dividing ridge with its spurs includes some of the highest peaks in Ceylon, thus starting from Kirigalpota, in the South, Totapola 7,746 feet, Hakgala 7,147 feet, Pedro Talagala 8,296 feet, the highest mountain in the Island, False Pedro 6,782 feet, and finally Hantane near Kandy 4,120 feet, are passed on the main ridge; while the Great Western 7,264 feet, and the Peacock 4,975 feet, are spurs on its western side; and Narangala 5,006 feet, Gommale 5,516 feet, Mahakudagala 6,900 feet, Diyatalawa 5,026 feet, are the culminating points of some of its spurs on the Eastern side”.

The average rainfall value in the Narangala area is 2,656 millimetres. As the plantation economy expanded throughout the 19th Century, the coffee plantation was introduced to the Narangala area because of its tropical climate. With the degeneration of the coffee planters, the growers were keen on spreading tea plantation throughout the region. Tea is the primary source of income for the occupants of Narangala area. Cocoa was also introduced to the nearby Kinekale estate. But cocoa could not produce a good harvest.

The nine-kilometre road from Dikwella (Haliela) to Keenakale via Narangala Mountain and the five-kilometre road up to Keenakale from Maditale was constructed in 1891. In 1891, a road across Badulla from Ketawala was constructed across a St. James Plantation. As the new road from Badulla was open for transport, the old road stretched between Badulla and Kandy was deserted.

Following the conquest of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815 and the establishment of the road system and administrative mechanism, the 1817/18 rebellion is the worst tragedy the British encountered. The war-backers were voted down, locked up and captured. None of their descendants was chosen for the government positions thereafter.

On November 20, 1818, a government order issued by Governor Robert Browning approved the appointment of a government agent as a new head to Uva Province. It was mentioned that ‘A government agent will be living in Uva, and he was assigned to Uva, Wellassa, Wiyaluwa, and Madugalle Gabadagama.’ Accordingly, Major A Martin was appointed as the government agent of Uva region on February 1, 1820.

Ancient temples and antiquities

On November 31, 1818, Godegedara Dissanayake Herath Mudiyanse was appointed to the posts of Disava, Bogoda and Rilpola Korales. Katugaha Bandaranaike Herath Mudiyanse was chosen as the district leader.

In 1851, Rambukpotha Senevirathna Mudiyanse was named as Soranathota, Oya Province, Bogoda and Rilpola Dissaya. In 1861, Hewelawala Rate Mahatthaya was appointed to the Soranathota, Wililuwa Oya palatha which belongs to Narangala area.

The Narangala mountain range in the northwest direction to Badulla town consists of two major mountain ranges. Its eastern section is the main hill forming a stump.

It can be seen at the western end of the mountain, which is similar to that of the Bethalagala Mountain (Bible Rock). These valleys flow through the mountains of Badulu Oya and Uma Oya, with more than 120 waterways and small water lines. The famous Bogoda Wooden Bridge, built on the Golandara Oya, also flows through the Narangala mountain range.

The Narangala Mountain range is surrounded by a host of ancient temples and antiquities. Bogoda cave, Bogoda wooden Bridge and Bogoda Raja Maha Viharaya with ancient paintings are a few highlights. Buduge-kandana ancient Walagamba Viharaya, Kohavila Pattini Devalaya, Soranatota Booliyadda Devalaya, Galuda Ampitiya Archaeological Building, Kandegedara Sri Sudarshanaramaya, Sri Vidyasagara Maha Pirivena Galauda Sri Dharmnicathana Maha Pirivena and Maluwegoda Raja Maha Viharaya Vihara are also located in the vicinity.

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