Chilaw …the three C’s | Sunday Observer

Chilaw …the three C’s

The second largest town in the Puttalam district is Chilaw. It is one of the few towns in all of Sri Lanka to be known by three names; ‘Halãvata’ in Sinhala, ‘Cilãpam’ in Tamil and of course ‘Chilaw’ in English. Travel Guides introduce Chilaw as the city famous for its three C’s - Coconuts, Crabs and Coreas!

The Coconut Triangle of Sri Lanka encompasses the Kurunegala, Puttalam and Colombo districts and account for about 66% of the total coconut acreage in the country, thus, becoming the most productive coconut farming area across South East Asia!

In addition to cultivating coconuts, the main livelihood of the inhabitants of this area is centered around the fisheries harbour that has access to the Lagoon which is famous for the second ‘C’ - Crabs!

Everyone loves Crab! It’s a delicacy served in restaurants around the world. My wife cooks up a mean ‘Mud Crab Curry’ that pairs perfectly with oven fresh ‘Roast Paan.’ But, the best part of this meal is the fact that we can eat it at home. Separating the morsel of meat from the shell is an art in itself. And unless you happened to be a Connoisseur of Crab you’re probably doing it wrong and making a huge mess! To that I say, it’s better to make a mess at home than out in public at a restaurant! However, if you’re lucky, you’ll come across dried crab meat in Chilaw; where the crab meat is removed from the shell and dried in the sun, similar to how they dry fish.

Another fish related delicacy that is available in Chilaw is ‘Dried Fish Eggs’. If you enjoy tasting different types of dried fish, you will definitely love dried fish eggs that are usually available at dry fish stalls in the market.

Last but not least the Coreas. They are a highly distinguished and respected family with roots in Chilaw who were actively engaged in every important activity in that area as landowners, professionals and political activists.

Chilaw also boasts of a lovely stretch of white sandy beach. Popular among both residents and visitors alike, these beaches are perfect for some RnR!

The Munneswaram Temple

When travelling from Negombo, if you turn right at the roundabout in Chilaw town and proceed along the Chilaw-Wariyapola road for about 2 kilometres you come to the Munneswaram Temple. The temple is by the side of the main road.

The temple complex consists of five temples. The main temple dedicated to God Shiva takes centre stage. Out of the four remaining temples, three of them are dedicated to Gods Ganesha, Ayyanayake and Kali while the fifth is a Buddhist temple.

The temple hosts many festivals. The most prominent events are; Navaratri, which is a nine-day long festival in honour of the presiding Goddess; Sivarathri, an overnight observation in honour of Lord Shiva; and the Munneswaram festival, a four-week long event attended by Hindus and Buddhists.

Many devotees believe that the temple holds miraculous powers. We had a chat with one of the Kapumahaththayas of the temple who said that this is the only place in the world where God Shiva and Goddess Pattini, considered as the father and mother, reside in the same abode. He went on and explained that the foundation and walls of the main Kovil have been constructed with stone slabs placed together without the use of a binding material. The original building has been renovated over the years to bring it to its present state. We visited the Kovil in July and except for a handful of devotees, the entire complex was deserted! But, if you were to visit the Kovil during the festival season, it would be chock a block with devotees vying to make their offerings. The atmosphere takes on a carnival vibe with an array of trade stalls popping up to meet the requirements of the crowds. As always, these traders have everything! From food and drinks to toys, knick-knacks, brassware, pottery, clothes as well as items used for Poojas such as fruits and sweetmeats.

On the penultimate day of the Navaratri festival, an image of the Goddess is placed on a huge chariot and drawn around the temple by the devotees in the form of a procession. On the final day, two large chariots are drawn by devotees to the Deduru Oya to perform the ‘Holy Bath’ or ‘Thirtham’ where the Images of the Gods are dipped in the river. The devotees also wade into the river to be part of the ritual. The procession which follows takes a route through the Chilaw town when heading back to the Kovil. Similar to the traditional Kandyan dancers and musicians at the Kandy Esala Perahara, traditional Nadaswaram and Thavil musicians and dancers take part in this procession.


Situated about 37 kilometres from Chilaw along the Chilaw-Wariyapola road is Panduwasnuwara. It has been identified as the city founded by King Parakramabahu the Great and referred to as Parakramapura, the capital city of Dakkinadesa and later renamed as Panduwasnuwara during the Kurunegala period.

The archeological site, which starts at the main road, covers an area close to 20 hectares and consists of ruins of the Royal Palace surrounded by a solid rampart built with bricks. Outside the fort is a moat. The main building within the Fort is the Palace. Many auxiliary buildings including monasteries, image houses, dagobas and monks' living quarters are seen around the Palace. Intricately carved pillars, guard stones, and other ancient architectural pieces are also found inside the fort. The ruins indicate that the buildings inside the fort were carefully planned. The remains of a toilet with a cesspit proves that even sanitary facilities have been considered during the planning of the fort.

The Panduwasnuwara Raja Maha Viharaya is situated about 500 metres down the road from the Palace. This ancient temple is surrounded by ruins of several monasteries constructed in the Panchayathana Architectural style. Each monastery has its own Stupa, Image House, Bodigara and dwelling houses. You will also see the Tampita Viharaya, a shrine room built on stone pillars at the temple. Near the entrance to the Bodiya are several pillars with inscription dating back to the 9-10thcentury A.D. In front of the Bodiya is a building which has been recently renovated. This is the Relic Chamber said to have housed the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha which King Parakramabahu brought back from India during the 12 century. To the left of the temple is a large oval shaped open area that looks like an amphitheater due to the tiered earthwork around it.

The periphery is lined with large ‘Na’ and ‘Nuga’ trees; their massive prop roots indicate that they too are as old as the ruins. At the center of the open area are the ruins of a building said to be the ‘Ektamge’ in which Princess Unmadachithra was confined by her brothers. We are yet to uncover archaeological evidence to prove this story.

Tips for your Jaunt: the Archeological Museum at Panduwasnuwara is closed to the public on Tuesday. Fried dried Crab meat is awesome!! And so are dried fish eggs. Try to buy some at the Chilaw Market. Dress and behave appropriately when visiting the places of religious significance. It tends to be quite warm in this area, so take necessary sun protection and stay hydrated.