Take Two Cities & a Living Pharmacy
Close to the estate are two cities – Kurunegala, and Yapahuwa, one bursting with life, the other abandoned centuries ago. And between them, the country’s finest medicinal garden.
The day’s outing starts in nearby Kurunegala. Surrounded by coconut and rubber plantations and eight large rocks, Kurunegala is increasingly the hub city for the island. It connects the east and west coasts; Jaffna to the centre; and, as the last bit of truly flat land before the ascent to Kandy begins, is the entry point to the hills.
Over thousands of years of history, it has been big and small, a capital and a told-what-to-do town. It is currently in a most expansive mood, growing rapidly in all directions, and home to many useful shops and services.
If the day’s outing coincides with the irregular fruit and vegetable market held there, then you are in for an extra treat.
One of its best shops is Seylan, the large and original shop of the country’s only Fairtrade handloom maker. Here are clothes, toys, clothes, and homeware well worth combing through – and all of them made in the nearby factory or in the homes of Sri Lankans in the area – an impressive feat of social enterprise.
The journey then moves onto Yapahuwa, the capital city founded by King Bhuvanekabahu I to rule over the lost kingdom of Dambadeniya.
Dambadeniya had been founded by his grandfather, Vijayabahu, who, dodging Indian invasions, established a new dynasty and turned his attention to poetry.
In his successor, Parakramabahu II’s reign, two of Sinhalese’s literary classics were created: "Kavisilumina" and "Visuddi Marga Sannasa". Not to be out-versed, King Parakramabahu II turned his own hand to poetry in between unifying the three kingdoms that made up Sri Lanka. His book, Kausilumina, is still regarded as a distinctive piece of literature.
But in the next generation things took a decidedly wretched turn.
Parakramabahu II’s son, noted more for his modesty than his achievements, lasted only two years before being murdered by his ministers, whilst his next son, Bhuvanekabahu I, moved the capital to Yapahuwa in the hope of evading the every encroaching Tamil armies.
The new king built Yapahuwa atop a massive rock – ninety meters high. Short lived through this capital was, its many spectacular remains are still to be seen at this most romantic of cites. Yet the move proved insufficient to keep the Kingdom going. The sacred relics of Buddha were stolen by the Pandians, and the Kingdom fell, to be followed by such unrivalled chaos that historians have drawn a discrete veil over the entire period, marking it as “The Interregnum.”
The journey back to the estate takes your via the Ganewatta Medicinal Plant Gardens, a 22 acres botanical garden devoted to tropical plants that are used for medicinal purposes. Here, amongst the many plants and shrubs, trees and herbs, may be that long sought cure you have been seeking.