Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti comprised the ancient Tri-Sinhale. The Ruhunu Rata or Rohana Deshaya was an independent kingdom spread over about three-fourth of the country. The Uva province which belonged traditionally to Rohana, was declared in 186 to be a separate administrative unit.
When studying the religious, cultural and social history of Sri Lanka, the Uva province receives a special place. At times, the history of Uva extend beyond the Anuradhapura era, and pre-Vijayan history.
According to the Mahavamsa, by the first century A.D, Uva had been known as Huawa (Mahawamsa, Chapter 60). There is evidence to suggest that the present name, Uva had been coined in the 17 th century.
The boundaries of Uva.
The Maha Disava of Uva is as large as 3277 1/8 square miles. About 32 square miles are reserved for water reservoirs. While one boundary is the Mahaveli river, on the other side, the Walwe river, Galoya, Kubukkanoya, Manika river, Kiridi oya, Walawe river and the mountains they originate from, bring great beauty to the Uva province.
The boundaries of Uva according to a folk-song are,
From the southern and Eastern sides,
Marked by the Sripada
And the Walawe river
The bounderis of Uva were marked
The Historical Yudaganawa cheithya situated in the Monaragala District, is of great historical value.
The Yudaganawa temple is located about 2km from the Buttala town, on the Monaragala-Wellawaya road. Surrounding the temple are the Manik river on the East, the Puhulgala Mountai range on the North, the Yudagana river and a paddy field on the west, and Buthgal or the Buttala city on the South.
The largest templeever built in Sri Lanka is the Yudagana temple and is 1038 Square feet in circumference.
There are many legends regarding the Yudagana temple. One of them is that King Dutugemunu built the temple to ward off the sins of war with his brother Saddhathissa. The opinion of Prof. Senerath Paranawithana is that the temple is the ancient Cheeragama or Keeragama which was built for the demise of king Parakuba’s (1153-1186).
History bears evidence that the Yudaganawa temple was built in the 2 nd Century A.D. by King Mahanaga. It is believed that the king had built a thousand temples in the area. According to the Mahawamsa, the Dutugemunu-Saddhathissa war took place here.
The Maligawila Buddha Statue.
The Maligawila temple had been known in the past as Ariyakara. The villagers believe that the name was changed to Maligawila on account of the great palace and lakes in the area. The Maligawila temple is spread on 250 acres of land.
The history of Maligawila runs back to the 7 th century and 8 th century A.D. Historically, the statue here had been built by King Dappula.
There are many theories about the height of the Maligawila statue. It is 54 feet and 110 tons in size. There is evidence that the statue had been made in another place, and transported here. This is the only temple that has been built without any supports, and is an important Thereada Buddhist statue
Dambgoda Buddha Statue.
When travelling about a kilometer on the road near the Maligawila statue, the Dabegoda Bodhisatva statue is seen. This area was known as Kana grama in the past, referring to the healing of eye diseases.
The dabegoda Statue is an Apa Loketheesvara statue. This statue, with Mahayana influence, shows evidence of a seven storied building built around it. The two eyes of the statue depict the sun and moon. According to folklore, gems were placed in the eyes in the past.
This area was known as Dewala kanda in the past, and had been dilapidated for some time, and reconstructed in the 1990’s.
The Dematamal Vihara which is situated in the Okkampitiya Grama Sewa Wasama of the Buddata Divisional Secretatriat of the Monaragala district, is a Buddhist place of worship with great historical importance. The Dematamal Viara is recorded as the first Panchawasa Vihara in the country, ( containing Cheiththiya, Pilima Geya, Seemawa shala etc…)
According to the story, rhe Dematamal Vihara had provided protection to prince Saddhatissa. It is a famous fact that the two brothers were against each other. The prince Tissa who lost the war had hid at the temple. The priests had tried to secretly transport the prince out of the temple. Prince Gemunu having seen this had said, “Tissa, Don’t do that!” Therefore, it is thought that Dutumal became Dematamal.
It is reasonable to say that the Dematamal Vihara is a special Vihara in the country, since a Upa Pala decorated the kotha, similar to the Shanthi Stupa system of India. This is the only cheiththiya to have a Upa Pala. The Upa Gala is 18 feet in height. A rare guardstone can also be seen.
Also, after turning at the Kubukkana junction and travelling about 6 km, turning to the right from Okampitiya, this temple can be reached.
This Vihara is situated far from the Buttala city at Palawaththa.
The history of this Vihara begins with king Mahanaga. When the queen had felt the need to deliver her child at Mannaram diya, she had said that the child should be caught. Thus, the place became Yatiallathota.
Later on, a palace, Bisokotuwa and Cheiththiya were built in the area. Another folk-tale is that the water had been brought there from the Yudaganawa tank. According to inscriptions, King Nissankamalla had renovated the vihara. The historical Kutumbala Vihara is situated nearby.
Kirala Kelle, as the Sinhalese name implies, is a ‘mangrove forest’ covering an area of 1,800 ha, accessible from Matra- Hakmana and Matara-Akuressa roads and 3 km from Matara. It is comprised of marshlands, irrigation cannels, and mangrove habitats. Home gardens can be found in the immediate boundary of the wetland.
It is an important wetland supporting many species of plants and animals. The Nilwala Flood Protection works and expanding agriculture has changed the ecology of the forest. A network recently repaired of irrigation canals has restored the water flow in the mangrove area. Kirala Kelle today stands as an ideal habitat for wetland biodiversity, and is considered as one of the most valuable conservation areas in the Matara District. Being close to Matara town, it is a potential site for nature-based tourism.
Presence of fossils of the Window pane oysters (Placenta placenta) in the area indicates that the area has been subjected to inundation by sea water during the Pleistocene period (3 million to 10,000 years before the present).
Kirala kele supports about 35,000 people from 11 surrounding Grama Niladari divisions, There are about 16,000 living in the immediate surrounding of the wetland system. Many people use the wetland for raising cattle, growing paddy and other crops, and in fishing
Habitats in Kirala Kelle
Kirala Kelle is made up of several different types of wetlands – marshland, mangrove areas, paddy lands, and irrigation canals – as well as numerous home gardens.
Scatterdly distributed Kirala (Sonneratia caseolaris) can be found at the edge of the irrigation canals. Belipatta (Hibiscus tiliaceus), Wel Kadurau( Cerbera manghas), Diyadanga (Dolichandrone spathacea) and Kerankoku (Acrosticum aureum) also found in the area.
The largest area is marshland. The dominant species found in the marshland are Olu (Nymphaea pubescens), Manel (Nymphaea nouchali), Kumudu (Nymphodes indica), Cyperus platyphyllus, Nalagas (Phragmites karka), Induru (Hanguana malayana), Hambu pan (Typha angustifolia) and Borupan (Eleaocharis dulcis). Although Hambu pan can be used for handy crafts, community of Kirala kelle is not extensively used this resource to earn extra income.
3. Irrigation Canals
Several very attractive aquatic plants are found in the irrigation canals. These include Nelum (Nelumbo nucifera), Olu (Nymphaea pubescens), Manel (Nymphaea nouchali), Kumudu (Nymphodes indica). People collect flowers of these for supplementing their income. Bordering the canals is Mudukiyya (Pandanus odoratissima).
In a recent rapid, preliminary survey, 83 plant species belonging to 40 families were recorded in Kirala kelle, Aquatic vegetation dominates the area; a considerable population of herbs, shrubs, and small trees are also found. People use many of these plants as food sources. Fruits of Kirala (Sonneratia caseolaris), seeds of Olu (Nymphaea pubescens), and young leaves of Kerankoku (Acrosticum aureum) are some popular food items. There are important medicinal plants such as Pupula (Vernonia zeylanica) and Ranwan keekirindiya (Wedelia chinensis). Reeds, Hambu pan (Typha angustifolia) and other Reed species, are also very common and are used, in a limited way for handicraft industry.
This complex, rich wetland habitat is the home for many animals. Thirteen species of mammals have been recorded from the site, including the common and endemic Purple faced leaf monkey (Trachypithecus vetulus), and the Toque macaque (Macaca sinica). They feed on vegetation, and can be a nuisance on home gardens..
Wetland birds are the most prominent animals of Kirala kelle. One hundred and three bird species were recorded fom Kirala kele, of which 48 are wetland birds. Large flocks of Lesser whistling ducks (Dendrocygna javanica) ia a common sight; Other common birds include the Asian Openbill (Anastomus oscitans), Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), Purple heron (Ardea purpurea), Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus), and Pond heron (Ardeola grayii). Kirala kelle not only provides the feeding ground for many bird species, but also provides nesting habitats for many bird species such as herons, cormorants, egrets, coots, weavers and Munias. An influx of migratory wetland birds can also be observed during the migratory season from early September to late March every year.
Freshwater fishes form an important part of the wetland and provide food for the communities. Small scale fishing is very common to supplement household income.. About 25 species of fish are found in the waters of the wetland. The exotic species, Tilapia (Oreochromis mosambicus) and Niloti (Oreochromis niloticus) are the most abundant. Other commercially important fish are the murrel (Channa striata), spotted snakehead (Channa punctata), stinging catfish (Heteropneustes fossilis) and walking catfish (Clarias brachysoma).
In addition to the above, many species of butterflies, reptiles, amphibians and hundreds of invertebrate species also decorate the biological wealth of Kirala kelle.
Threats to Kirala kelle
Occasional land filling, unless arrested now can be a serious problem in Kirala Kelle. Currently, there generally is management of solid waste; however, with expansion of tourism, it is necessary that at least the current state of solid waste management is maintained. Although it is not extensively distributed, very aggressive invasive plant Wel aththa (Annona galbra) can be found along the irrigation channels. Unless management actions are not taken, this could be serious threat Kirala Kelle.
According to the Fauna and Flora protection ordinance, “no person shall hurt, shoot, kill or take any wild animal, or take or destroy any egg of any bird or reptile or any nest of any bird within the area”. Therefore, it is evident that even though permits are not required to enter the Kirala Kelle, it is still a protected area, and there are certain things that one should bare in mind during an excursion.
Proper management of Kirala Kelle is important for conserving the biological, hydrological and ecological aspects and for the surrounding communities to continue to use it in their daily lives. Kirala Kelle also offers an excellent nature tourism site which will also help the communities to earn money. Thus it is your responsibility to ensure that our flourishing and valuable wetland Kirala Kelle is well taken care of.
It is your duty to conserve Kirala Kelle...
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