Our country, often referred to as a pearl in the Indian Ocean is about sixty five thousand six hundred and ten square kilometres in extent and is blessed with varying favourable climatic conditions found in different parts of the world. It is indeed through sheer luck that we have been fortunate enough to make this island our beloved motherland.
The world famous Rangiri Dambulla located at the very centre of this resplendent island is a place of significant historical importance. A vast expanse of natural virgin forest with a high bio-diversity lies just 15 kilometres from the Dambulla Town. It is about two thousand five hundred acres in extent and a real national treasure.
The forest lies just a few kilometres away from the Madatugama junction along the main A9 route running from Dambulla to Jaffna. One has only to travel through Jathika Namal Uyana Road towards Aandiyagala and on reaching Pubbogama to travel only 2 kilometers to reach the Jathika Namal Uyana.
This historic site is located in-between two picturesque hamlets called Ulpathgama and Ranawa in the Police Division of Galkiriyagama in the Palagala Divisional Secretariat Division of the District of Anuradhapura. Having been only recently discovered it was quite unknown until about two decades ago. However, nobody other than shady characters such as illicit timbre merchants, easy treasure hunters and cruel game hunters would have caught even a glimpse of this natural beauty.
Along this trail you would gain access to the National Namal Uyana, the natural park of Sri Lanka that literally saw the light of day through the ‘Revolution on the Mora Tree’ and glorified by the biggest rose quartz deposit in South East Asia. The Namal Park is located in a climatic zone displaying the features of both the dry zone weather during certain periods of time and wet zone weather in the other months of the year. Anybody visiting this site in any month of the year would feel comfortable and would be attracted to its immense beauty. It is simply unbelievable that one is soothed to such an extent by this wonderful creation of Mother Nature.
"The history of Buddhism tells us that Lord Buddha’s disciples Mangala, Sumana, Ruvatha and, Sobhita had attained Buddhahood at the feet of Na trees. As such the Na tree had been considered sacred throughout Buddhist history, and anyone entering the Namal Uyana would realise how this concept is justified, event today. The captivating fragrance emanating from the Na forest would soothe even a person with a stone heart"
Jathika Namal Uyana, is the largest ironwood forest in Sri Lanka. Asia’s largest rose quartz mountain is situated within the ‘Jathika Namal Uyana’. The Ironwood Tree (Mesua Ferara) is an extremely rare tree that is endemic to Sri Lanka. It is the national tree of the country. The replanted forest is over 260 acres in extent. Namal Uyana had been a sanctuary for Buddhist monks during the period of King Devanamplyatissa in the 3rd Century B.C. Later, during the time of King Dappula IV (941-945 A.D.) it had been used as a human sanctuary and/or prison camp where the punishment was to plant ironwood trees. Archaeological findings show that during certain periods of history, Namal Uyana had also been used as a centre of meditation by Buddhist monks. Ruins of an ancient Dagoba, huge stone pillars, a Buddha statue and a moonstone confirm its past uniqueness as a place of religious worship and meditation. This unique natural treasure was brought to the attention of the world about 22 years ago, by an environmentalist Buddhist monk named Venerable Wanawasi Rahula Thero.
The biodiversity of the ironwood forest is unique in that it also has more than 100 species of tropical plants of which 82 are herbal plants. About 20 bird species and a number of mammals including elephants, leopards, monkeys and deer also dwell in the park and the jungles bordering it. The Rose Quartz mountain range at Jathika Namal Uyana is the largest of its kind In Asia.
The row of 7 rose quartz mountains is situated at an elevation varying between 180 and 300 metres above sea level. According to archaeological researchers this pink quartz mountain has a history of more than 500 million years. According to legend, Emperor Shah Jehan had used pink quartz from this mountain for his masterpiece, the Taj Mahal in India. If that is the case, then there should not be any doubt about the quality of the Rose quartz found in this massive deposit. It is an invaluable national treasure.
It is quite strange to note that it is difficult to find a trace of gneiss rock within the area of the rose quartz deposit, 600 acres in extent. The entire site of the Jathika Namal Uyana is two thousand five hundred acres in extent and it contains historical evidence in the form of ruins of ancient Buddhist structures and monuments.
It is hereby intended to discuss some of the historical facts revealed so far in relation to the Jathika Namal Uyana. Ranawa is the village in the eastern border of this national park. The historical site where the Vijithapura Battle between king Dutugamunu and the Tamil King Elara took place is just about 15 kilometres away. It was one of the most decisive battles fought in ancient Sri Lanka because king Dutugamunu was finally able to unite this country under one administration only after victory gained in this battle. It is said that people from Ranawa had produced weapons needed for the army and that in fact the people from Ranawa had even participated in the battle as soldiers of King Dutugamunu. The famous Aandiyagala Pillar Inscription believed to have been erected by King Dappula V is located just in front of the historical Devurada Randada Vihara.
The Aandiyagala Pillar inscription states that even a person guilty of treason is free to stay within the enclosed premises and even the king is powerless to arrest such a person within the boundaries of the site. Furthermore, it has been identified that the forest comprising Namal Uyana surrounded by the villages of Morothegama, Ulpothagama, Naramgasvewa, Ranawa and Dambuluhalmillewa had been the first and the only sanctuary in the world open for wildlife as well as human beings. This historical fact alone is sufficient evidence to prove the historical importance of the Namal Uyana.
Not satisfied with the information gathered from various sources about the marvels associated with this historic site, I ventured recently to explore the serene beauty of the site. Right throughout from the main access gate of the site the Namal Uyana displays the beauty of the magnificent Na Trees, the national tree of Sri Lanka found abundantly on every side of the park.
The history of Buddhism tells us that Lord Buddha’s disciples Mangala, Sumana, Ruvatha and, Sobhita had attained Buddhahood at the feet of Na trees. As such the Na tree had been considered sacred throughout Buddhist history, and anyone entering the Namal Uyana would realise how this concept is justified, event today. The captivating fragrance emanating from the Na forest would soothe even a person with a stone heart.
The National Namal Uyana is by far the largest ‘Na’ forest in the island, extending for over 250 acres. The buds of Na leaves that enhance the beauty of the Na forest could easily be compared to lips of young women. In view of these unique features the Government has declared the Jathika Namal Uyana, a National Heritage site on April 26, 2005, under the Department of Wild Life Conservation.
When you travel a few more metres under the canopy of the Na forest you come across a large Mora Tree that is especially significant in the context of the Jathika Namal Uyana. It was this ‘Mora Tree’ that had given shelter to the founder of the National Namal Uyana, Ven Wanawasi Rahula Thera, who was not only the person responsible for introducing this national heritage to the environmentalists of Sri Lanka but also the person who continues to look after this treasure as his own life. This historic tree has secured the life of Ven Rahula Thera from the possible attacks from wild elephants, other cruel animals and poisonous snakes found in large numbers all over the place.
This is clear evidence to the fact that Mother Nature always renders assistance to the existence of human beings even though human activities bring about destruction to Mother Nature. One can gauge how much Buddhism loved the environment when one ponders about the following extract from the Buddhist literature, ie. Rukkho Chaya Makanam Karothi — meaning ‘the tree renders shade to everybody irrespective of being a friend or foe’. It is frightening to imagine that a person takes shelter in a hut put up on the branches of a tree in thick jungle where evidently no other person is living, within the limits of that thick jungle. A Buddhist priest resorting to such hardships in the welfare of mankind is all the more amazing as well as significant.
In this regard Ven Wananavasi Rahula Thera pointed out to me that one who protects the environment is in turn protected by the environment in the same way as one who practices Dhamma is protected by Dhamma — “Dhammo Have Rakkhati Dhammachari.” . Indeed Ven Rahula Thera keeps immense faith with the environment and is friendly and loyal with it.
The historical monuments found and excavated in the site of the Jathika Namal Uyana bear testimony to the long and colorful history of the site, extending from the era of one of the earliest Kings of Sri Lanka, King Devanampiyatissa up to the time of King Dappula V in the 10th Century A D . This has continued to be a Buddhist religious site as proved by the ruins found here.
"One who protects the environment is in turn protected by the environment in the same way as one who practices Dhamma is protected by Dhamma — “Dhammo Have Rakkhati Dhammachari.”"
The sacrifices made by Ven Wanavasi Rahula Thera for the protection and preservation of this sacred and picturesque heritage site are immense indeed. Anybody visiting the place today would realise such sacrifices made and the extent of hard work done for the preservation of this site. It is on the one hand an environmental university where students as well as researchers could study the biodiversity of the site and especially the marvels connected with the rose quartz mountain range.
There are ample opportunities here for the development of the tourist trade as well. Even today thousands and thousands of tourists both local and foreign flock to have a glimpse of this wonderful creation of Mother Nature. We must all be thankful to Ven Rahula Thera for laying the foundation and also maintaining such a money spinner for the country’s economy.
When one considers all these facts it is very obvious that Ven Wanavasi Rahula Thera is a unique personality and a true son of Mother Lanka. He always does the correct thing rather than opting to please others through various means. It was through a dream he saw one day that Ven. Rahula Thera got the idea of venturing into this Na forest and developing it as one of the greatest heritage sites of Sri Lanka. In this regard Ven Rahula Thera is very grateful for the services rendered by all including the media for the support rendered all along.