Once part of the Ancient Digamadulla Kingdom, the first Kingdom of Sri Lanka, Ampara is a hub city of the Eastern Province today. Elevating from a thirty year old war Ampara is one of the favorite beach towns in Sri Lanka today, the host town of an international annual surfing competition, which attracts many ardent surfers and fans from every corner of the world.
The district rich with animal life holds four animal sanctuaries, which is streaming with flocks of elephants, which gather to the banks ancient tanks for bath and frolic. Ampara is home to many an ancient wewa and modern irrigation projects, which feeds acres of paddy land, producing one of the best rice in the country. Scattered amidst these jungles littered with animal life are the remnants of once glorious Digamadulla Kingdom, its palaces, remains of monasteries which were once abode to thousands of Arhants and stupas, which once reached for the skies stand silent amidst forest covers ravaged by treasure hunters.
The half standing stone bridges and stairways suggests that the five rock scattered mountains found amidst the jungle were interconnected creating a 200 acre large monastery comprising caves constructed with the distinct drip ledge and remodeled with cement, bricks and plaster. The monastery which maintained a continuous Sanga tradition until the years of 800 AC were later abandoned due to the shifting of Kingdoms and South Indian Invasions. It was forgotten amidst the rising jungle and left for the elephants to roam for more than thousand years; until the monastery was rediscovered and reestablished for the meditating monks in 1964. The new stupa of the hermitage, which stands on a 500 feet tall hill top, is enshrined with the relics of Lord Buddha and his two main disciples;ArhantSariputta and ArhantMoggallana. The relics were found on site during the excavation of a stupa and are a unique and ultra-reverend combination for many a Buddhists in the country.
Magul Maha Viharaya
It is a place where history was made when the daughter of King Kelanitissa, the ruler of the Kelaniya kingdom married the King of Rohana, King Kavantissa, which unified the southern parts of Sri Lanka in the Second Century BC. Built to celebrate this union which was to change the face of Sri Lankan history forever, Magul MahaViharaya hosts many characteristics not found in many a temple. Situated in Lahugala, amidst an elephant infested forest reserve of LahugalaKithulana, Magul MahaViharaya carries the look of a lost city hidden amidst the towering trees of the jungle. The 200-acre archaeological site scattered with temple complexes and granaries sets it apart from any other temple and had been the home to 12,000 arahants some 2000 years ago. It also had been designed to serve the purpose of a monastery and a fortress where food, weapons and animals were kept in preparation for the Dutugemunu-Elara war fought against an invading Tamil King from South India. The temple complex itself consists of three courtyards, exterior, interior and centre.
Arugam Bay and Pottuvil
Arugam Bay is a page from a surfer's dream book where the shore is white and wide, surf is high and the waters clear and un-spoilt beach line stretching for miles. Arugam Bay is at its best at sunrise when the sky and the beach provide a festival of colours. Fishing boats returning after the night catch, famous jumping fishes heading towards the beach and fisherman waiting with baited lines all join hands to make the perfect picture of a day break. Most of the people in Pottuvil are fisherman and have returned to their vocation with the dawn of peace. Thus, Pottuvil is also the seafood paradise today with delicacies like prawns, cuttlefish and crabs available at every food outlet! The beaches are also ideal for sea baths although the waves could be too strong for an amateur. The surfing season in Arugam Bay starts in April and ends in October. There are four main surf points in Arugam Bay including Arugam Point and Crocodile Rock. Although all of them provide diverse experience of the sea, the sand and surf the ultimate experience is the Peanut Farm or Pottuvil Point.
Situated within the Northern parts of the Ruhuna National Wildlife Park and a short distance from the Eastern beach of panama, Kudumbigala is a monastery of more than 200 cave accommodations. Initially designed to house the meditating arhants of Anuradhapura from the hustle and bustle of the urban life, Kudumbigala reached its glorious peak during the time of King Dutugamunu in the first century BC.The one of a kind cylindrical shape stupa on the top of the mountain can be reached through steps carved on to the mountain. Many other stupas of the same unique shape but of smaller size lies in ruin within the monastery premises and are believed to enshrining the remains of the arhants.
Lahugala Kitulana Forest Reserve
Home to a nearly 200 elephants who feeds on the flourishing grass lands around its main three tanks and numerous watering holes, Lahugala Kitulana Forest Reserve is a 1554 hectare canvas of wildlife and archeology. Formed mainly by a dry zone evergreen forest the reserve provides field after field of water straw grass, a favorite snack of the elephants while the three main reservoirs –Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa provide never ending opportunities of water sports to the elephants. The elephants share the reserve with other animals like endemic toque macaque, common languor, sloth bear, jackal, rusty spotted cat, fishing cat, leopard, wild bear, Indian muntjac deer, spotted deer, sambar, pangolin and black naped hare. The reservoirs and waterholes are also home to large number of local and migratory birds like pelican, purple heron, painted stork, lesser adjutant stork, white bellied sea eagle, grey headed fishing eagle, common kingfisher, stork billed kingfisher and white breasted kingfisher. Endemic birds like comb duck, rare red-faced malkoha and Sri Lankan Spur fowl too can be seen the park. The reptile inhabitants of the park include Black tailed python, flying snakes, Sri Lanka cat snake and Russell’s viper while the amphibians include endemics like Banded bull frog, Atukorale's Dwarf Toad and cricket frog.
Maduru Oya Reservoir
A seemingly endless body of water stretching to 6400 hectares restricted by a dam crest 150 meters tall, Maduru Oya reservoir is a majestic sight with a towering Buddha statue and a dry zone jungle rising in the background. Constructed in 1981 under the accelerated Mahaweli Scheme Maduru Oya has a history of feeding many an irrigation project in the area even in the ancient times. King Mahasen had constructed Mahadaragalla Tank damming the Maduru Oya while the clearance of the jungle around for the construction revealed an ancient sluicegate estimated to have been built before the first century BC and the recorded history of the country.
Standing 23 meters high, Maduru Oya ancient sluice possesses some salient features compared to other sluices found in ancient irrigation including its twin inlet conduits dressed with stone slabs enclosed in corbelled arch shaped brickwork. The source of this sophisticated hydraulic engineering work is not known up to today but is generally believed to be of a civilization predating the arrival of King Vijaya from India. Today Maduru Oya provides precious irrigation water to the area lying along the left bank of the Maduru Oya River, has increased agricultural production, generates employment opportunities, develop the hydropower potential, and had provided resettlements for landless poor estimated at about 35,000 families. The animal population, especially the elephants too benefits from the project with flocks gathering to the reservoir. A whole herd could be spotted scattered about in the distance, grazing quietly with their inherent lazy elegance. Nearly 150 elephants roam the Maduru Oya National Park, the catchment of the Maduru Oya reservoir.
Just 28 km away from Arugam Bay a drive through a patch jungle path leads to the Okanda beach, where surfing and encounters with the wild elephants and leopards come hand in hand. Okanda is a point break for regular surfers. There are about three line-ups in Okanda, the last one is ideal for experienced surfers and the front two is for intermediate surfers. However the rocky cliffs standing just next to the waves could be threat to the amateur. The beaches at Okanda are also ideal for sunbathing and sunset surfing at Okanda is a life time experience.
Senanayaka Samudraya of Inginiyagala
The Senanayaka Samudraya the largest body of water ever created in Sri Lanka is a pleasing sight at sunset. Cradled between Siyabalanduwa and Ampara this giant reservoir is bordered by the rising mountains of Inginiyagala creating a sight that it majestic and breathtaking. A development of the Gal Oya Project, the reservoir that irrigates the dry lands of the east of Sri Lanka, remains a glorious testament to the most ambitious irrigation development project undertaken immediately after of the Independence.
Maduru Oya National Wildlife Park
Established under the Mahaweli development project as a catchment area of the Maduru Oya Reservoir and refuge for the herds of elephants, which were displaced by the irrigation project, Maduru Oya National Wildlife Park is rich in flora, fauna and cultural heritage. The park perimeters include five reservoirs Maduru Oya, Ulhitiya, Ratkinda, NDK reservoir, and Henanigala tank and are also fed by tributaries of Mahaweli and Maduru Oya rivers. The park’s main attractions are the elephants, which there are about 200, who call Maduru Oya home. The other members of the fauna include sloth bear, leopard, water buffalo, toque monkey, common langur, Jackal, fishing cat, wild boar, Indian Muntjac, spotted deer, sambar, porcupine, black napped hare, Indian Pangolian, European otter and Grey slender Loris. The park also boasts of a rich collection of birds including painted stork, white bellied sea eagle, grey pelican, great cormorant, Little cormorant, Sri Lanka jungle fowl, broad billed roller, common tailor bird, shama, black hooded oriole and the endemic red faced malkoha. The parks reservoirs are home to flocks of oriental darters, spot billed pelican, Asian open bill, black headed ibis and Eurasian spoon bills.Back to Featured Articles