Seethawaka Botanical Garden to be made a tourist hotspot | Sunday Observer

Seethawaka Botanical Garden to be made a tourist hotspot

8 January, 2023

The best botanical garden during Sri Lanka’s colonial years was located right in the heat of Colombo. While this piece of information may be startling, in fact, the Britishers set up ‘Kew Park’ the first botanical garden in the country at Slave Island. Later as Colombo became urbanised, the park was relocated to Peradeniya where it stands to this day.

The main botanical gardens of Sri Lanka today are Peradeniya, Hakgala, Gampaha and Mirijjawila. In 2014, the Seethawaka Botanical Garden became the newest addition as well as the botanical garden that is easiest to reach from Colombo city.

The Government has now taken steps to develop the area surrounding the Seethawaka Botanical Garden as a tourism hotspot under the guidance of Minister Bandula Gunawardena.

Nuwara Eliya

According to the Chairman of the Western Province Department of Tourism Sugath Hewapathirana, the intention is to attract travellers arriving by either air or ship and provide them with the opportunity to get the feels of Nuwara Eliya closer to Colombo in Seethawaka. As his home town of Boralugoda is also located in the area, the project is also being backed by Prime Minister Gunawardena.

Among the aims of the project is also to improve the economy of the area by creating a tourism hotspot closer to Colombo while bringing in much-needed foreign exchange into the country.

The Seethawaka Botanical Park is the only one of its kind in the Colombo district. But the misty mornings at the park more often than not reminds both foreign and local visitors of Nuwara Eliya in the country’s central hills. Among the must-sees in Seethawaka Botanical Garden are Fern Garden, Pushpodana Lake Ponds, the Japanese Garden, Forest Garden, Kumbuk Garden, Medicinal Garden, Rose Garden, and the observation deck is sure to attract tourists.

The botanical garden consisting of lush grasslands, forest, ponds and lakes take visitors nearly three kilometres around it through a well-shaded path.

The Seethawaka Garden has been built surrounding the Labugama and Kalatuwana Reservoirs, the surrounding beauty and the historical site. The remains of the Kingdom of Seethawaka would also undoubtedly be an attraction for visitors.

Seethawaka was a powerful kingdom nearly four centuries ago and was created by Prince Mayadunne following the popular Vijayaba Kollaya (Dethorning of Vijayabahu). A large number of archaeological sites from the Kingdom and some even from the Anuradhapura Kingdom can be found in the area. It is expected these sites will also be developed through the program to attract visitors.

These include the Seethawaka Fort, bordered by the Seethawaka River, Gatahethi Oya and several hillocks. The Dutch built a fort on the site of the castle of Seethawaka Rajasinghe after he was dethroned. The remains of this castle have also been unearthed through site excavations.

The Maniyangala Raja Maha Vihara, the centre for Buddhism during the Seethawaka Kingdom is located four kilometres away from the fort. Among other such sites are the Barandi Kovil where Seethawaka Rajasinghe is said to have embraced Hinduism, the old race course in Gurugalla and the tomb of Seethawaka Rajasinghe.

Kelani Valley Railway

The easiest and fastest mode of transport to reach the park is the Kelani Valley Railway. The construction of this railway line running through Seethawaka commenced on March 22, 1900. While it was built in three stages with the last stage reaching Opanayaka in May 1919, the plan to extend it to reach the Southern Province never came to fruition. Instead, it was shortened to Avissawella, which is the last stop on the line today.

The cave, where Seetha of the Rama - Seetha story was said to have been hidden away is also located in Seethawaka.

Visitors will also be able to witness the hidden beauty of Kumari Ella, Ranmuthu Ella, Wawe Kale Forest, Rajasinghe castle, Asmadala, Angampora training grounds and Wak Oya.

A new train ‘Seethawaka Odyssey’ running during weekends to witness the sites in Seethawaka is to be introduced as per the vision of Minister Gunawardena. A new SLTB bus service taking visitors from the Waga Railway Station to the park is also in the pipe works.

According to Hewapathirana, all plans have been formulated according to environmental protection methods. The project will also introduce packages consisting of ticket prices, food and transport that can be bought online.

No public monies are being spent on the project and is being implemented through Private Companies. A recycling project will also be launched to ensure the protection of the environment. The Seethawaka region will undoubtedly become a successful tourist hotspot that will bring in much-needed foreign exchange going forward.