the Indian epic tells us how Rawana, King of Lanka, robbed Rama of
his wife Sita and brought her to Sri Lanka. The people of Sri Lanka
believe that Rawana had his capital in Nuwara-Eliya (“The glade
with the city”). He is believed to have kept Sita captive in
Sita Eliya. (“The glade of Sita”). Today there is a Hindu
temple on the spot (The famous Haggala Botanical Garden is situated
closer by this temple). The story tells that the monkey army of Rama
has come to save Sita. Ravana has punished Hanuman - the leader of
the monkey force, by placing fire on his tail. It is said Hanuman
have burnt the entire Nuwara-Eliya with his tail. Legend has it that
the black soil, which forms a top layer here, consists of the ashes
of the city of Rawana, burnt down by Hanuman.
Kotmale Valley not far from Nuwara-Eliya city had been inhabited
during the Anuradhapura Period and Gamunu, the son of King Kavantissa
who ruled Ruhuna, when King Elara ruled from Anuradhapura, had taken
refuge in Kotmale to escape the wrath of his father. However, little
is heard of this area till the Kandyan period.
The ancient Emperors of the Sri Lanka have not known the economical
value of Nuwara-Eliya. But they were aware that this is the place
that water is produced. So they have kept and protected Nuwara-Eliya
as a treasure. They did not even built Palaces in Nuwara-Eliya to
not to harm the natural beauty of this area. They believed that;
'If the Nature treasure is protected the Water treasure will be
protected. And if the Water treasure is protected the Paddy fields
will be protected.'
In 1815's - the time of Kings and Emperors in Sri Lanka no one
have used Nuwara-Eliya to living purposes. But people have visited
Nuwara-Eliya through the footpath from Ruhuna to collect materials
to produce arms and to search for Gem stones.
It is believed that history of Nuwara-Eliya has begun before 10th
century. An old ‘Stone letters’ which belong to the
10th century have been found at Thalaga oya, and it is now placed
and treasured at the District Secretariat Office of Nuwara-Eliya.
The modern history of Nuwara-Eliya begins in 1818 when a British
Surgeon Dr.John Davy (Brother of Humphery Davy, the inventor of
the Miners’ Safety Lamp) rediscovered this area. It is said
that Dr Davy expressed;
“I was walking in the middle of a forest. I saw beautiful
white shining diamond watered waterfalls falling. I came to the
top of a mountain. The people who came with me said that it is the
highest land of this country"
Dr.John Davy mentioned that this place - Nuwara-Eliya has so many
'Ashoka' trees, Elephants, wild Animals and Gem stones.
Today known as 'Oliphant Estate' is the old 'Elephant Plane', the
place which so many Elephants lived. Even today there are graves
of 02 Elephant killers in those periods at the Gold Ground of Nuwara-Eliya.
One is written as 'Ibenishan Gordon Mendrow, Birth-1814.11.10 and
Death-1841.01.24 - deal in Elephant Plane'. The other one is written
as ' Major William Thomas Rojerson, Dead-1814.06.07'. It is said
that Major William Thomas Rojerson has killed more than 400 Elephants.
The most unbelievable, but very much believed truth is; once in
07 years this grave is attacked by thunder shocks. Even today you
can see the cracked grave closer by the Golf Ground of Nuwara-Eliya.
People believe that it is the curse of God to the Elephant killer!
The story goes like this..., few British men of the troop have
chased an Elephant and they have got lost in the forest. Without
food and other basic needs they thought it will be much harder to
spend the day and night in that forest. But the cool climate and
fresh air of that place kept them very fresh without any pain. They
thought that this is good place to rest after fighting in war and
once they have returned to their place they have informed the Governor
Sir Edward Barned immediately about this place.
Sir Edward Barnes have been the Governor from 1824-1831. He had
constructed roads and shelters in Nuwara-Eliya. He has built his
holiday home at Nuwara-Eliya spending 8000 Pounds. He has named
it as "Barnes Hall". Today this place is known as the
famous Grand Hotel of Nuwara-Eliya with more than 150 rooms. St.Andrews
Hotel, Keena Hotel and Carlton Hotel are some of the other constructions.
The District Secretary Mr. Loku Banda has helped Sir Barnes to build
this holiday homes.
It is Sir Edward Barnes who has made Nuwara-Eliya a place to live
to the people and he is known as "Father of the Pioneer Nuwara-Eliya".
After Barnes, Sir William Hortain has become the Governor from
1831-1837. He was the editor of 'Colombo Journal' newspaper. He
has written so many articles about Nuwara-Eliya in his newspaper.
On this period Mr.Samuel from England has arrived to Nuwara-Eliya.
He has planned to build a house at Magasthota and to have huge vegetable
and animal farm. He went to England and came back in 1848 on 'Pearl
of Hard Week' ship through the sea path. He has bought plants, animals,
other equipment and goods with him. His brothers John and Valantine
have also come with him. He also brought with him some expertise
people in the farming field.
Mr.Samual and others have faced a great difficulty in transporting
the goods and animals to Nuwara-Eliya. They have brought the goods
in cow cart from Colombo. From Ramboda they have labored some people
and bought the goods. At a difficult point of Ramboda the cart and
all the people including the brothers of Mr.Samual fell down from
the hill. Everyone has died on the spot. Only Mr.Samual has left.
He has buried the bodies at that place and came to Nuwara-Eliya.
Anyhow, Mr.Samuel has accomplished his task in Nuwara-Eliya. He
has made an Agricultural village and named it as 'Baker's Farm".
The land cost him only 25 Shillings per acre. Even today there is
a 'stone letter' left in the Bakers farm of Nuwara-Eliya.
Samual Baker also has made a hospital ward at the Base Hospital
of Nuwara-Eliya in memory
of his died brothers. Even today the 'Baker's Ward' is there in
the Base Hospital of Nuwara-Eliya at Hawa-Eliya.
Mr.Baker brewed his own beer and tried to grow grapes, oats barley
and wheat, which normally grows in temperature lands and his experiment,
was a failure. He closed down his farm in 1866 and went back to
England. Sri Lanka’s broadest waterfall, Bakers Falls in the
Horton Plains National Park is named after him.
As a result of Governor William Gregory's announcement, a large
number of foreign merchants have begun to visit Nuwara-Eliya. From
there onwards the population of the city has grown up.
Sir Robert London have become the Governor from 1877-1884. According
to the Sir William Gregory's advice, he has constructed railway
track path from Peradeniya - Nawalapitya and Hatton - Nanu oya.
By 1910 only 2 Sri Lankans owned houses in Nuwara-Eliya, Maha Mudali
Sir Soloman Dias Bandaranaike (Father of S.W.R.D.Bandaranayake -
later Prime Minister of Sri Lanka) and F.C.Loos.
After the end of World War I in 1918 more Sri Lankans bought land
and built houses here. Some of them were Sir Ponnambalam Arunachala
and E.L.F.De Soyza. While Samuel Baker paid about Rs.25/- per acre
Sir Ponnambalam paid Rs.10,000/- for ½ acre !
Some other footprints:
- The British civil servants, high government officials and businessman
who came here during April when it was hot and balmy in the plains
introduced Trout finger lings were introduced to the streams in
Horton Plains and Nuwara-Eliya.
- Governor West Ridgeway suggested that all roofs be painted red
and till recently many followed this practice.
- Many houses were built in the architectural style of the Tudor
houses in England. The Nuwara-Eliya Post Office in one of the
oldest such houses. Some houses had fireplaces.
- 'Thawalanthenna' (Small city at the Nuwara-Eliya - Colombo main
road) is the place that have used by the travelers to rest with
their cow carts in historical days.
- 'Kelegalle' and 'Kalukelle' (villages 1.5 Km away from the Nuwara-Eliya
town) are used as cow sheds to place the cows which were used
for transporting goods from Nuwara-Eliya to other parts of the