Wednesday, April 22, 2009



On Monday the international media went to town about a team of archaeologists who had bumped into a rocky hilltop which is believed to be the burial place of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.
The group, which has worked around the site in northern Egypt for three years, is quite certain that it would soon be able to unearth the last resting place of these legendary lovers.

If they find the two tombs it is certainly going to be the greatest discovery after Howard Carter found the tomb of Tutankhamun, the boy king, in 1922.

While Egyptians and enthusiasts around the world are anxiously waiting for the unearthing of the tomb of the much celebrated duo that died some 2000 years ago, those in Sri Lanka who can boast of a history that perhaps goes beyond the days of Egyptian civilization appear to have forgotten many landmarks of the days of pristine glory.

With the latest evidence from Pahiyangala, Dambulla, Batadombalena, Embilipitiya and many other sites pointing towards the existence of a civilization here that goes beyond 100,000 years - some 50,000 years past carbon dating – it goes without saying that ours is one of the oldest places of human habitation.

However for whatever reasons some of the key sites which epitomizes the degree of development of the civilization especially those before the pre-Vijaya era have long been forgotten.

One such place is Gavaravila, considered to be the Sri Lanka’s first man made tank. Lying on a less travelled road in Ranamure in Matale it certainly is not a place that has regular visitors. It does not even have a single Google reference. However the breathtakingly beautiful medium size tank hidden in a small valley on the Matale side of Knuckles certainly is something all Sri Lankans should be proud of. This pre-Vijaya placid lake, with its thousands of blooming little lotuses, speaks of an irrigation system that existed in Sri Lanka at a time when only a few spots in the world maps had civilizations. Completed with sluice gates and other features of tanks that were built in the post – Vijaya period, one can hardly find any major difference between those and Gavaravila.

An hour’s trek through old villages past Gavaravila is Yudhaganapitiya, the place according to many where the Rama-Ravana battle had taken place. The proponents of the existence of a Dandumonaraya, the mythical aircraft used by Ravana to abduct Rama’s wife, Sita argue that given the rudimentary nature of the Wright brother’s first aircraft made in 1903, it was no surprise that Sri Lanka with its advanced technology making such an aircraft even some thousand years ago. The Wright brothers were clueless about the Bernoulli principle – which refers to the relationship between wind velocity and pressure – when they made their aircraft. It was a creation of empirical testing – pragmatism. Many sites including the incredibly windy Yudhaganapitiya and a few places in Mahiyangana are considered to be ones from where Ravana’s Dandumonaraya took off wings.

Valmiki’s Sanskrit epic Ramayana may appear a figment of imagination for some. However there’s still no harm in delving deeply into the history of one’s motherland and being proud of it, irrespective of race and religion.

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