Saturday Magazine
Centuries ago Dodanduwa was actually an island

by Godwin Witane
We learnt in school that an island is a land mass surrounded by water. So is our resplendent island of Lanka, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

Nature’s gift to Dodanduwa is its widespread vast, tranquill and placid lake invading the fringe of a multiple of villages. When the level of the water rises during excess rain in the hinterland the water enters the sea at Modera with swift speed as a result of the removal of the sand bank between the sea and the lake by people who live in the bordering villages affected by the rising water level that floods their fields and vegetable gardens. This performance is called "Moya Kepeema". To the North of the arm of this lake that flows to the sea at Modera, there is another arm of the lake about one mile away that has stopped short of two hundred yards of the sea.

Once upon a time this trunk of water too had flowed into the sea at this point called Kumarakanda, but now obliterated by silt and the work of people who had filled the mouth of this waterway in order to construct a road leading to Galle in the South. History records that centuries ago, when a contingent of soldiers from Ruhuna travelling by boat in the sea to Kalutara to wage war against an enemy had entered this waterway to camp at a closeby village where there was a "Tota" or landing bay.

Thereafter this village had been named as the Tota where the army gasped. The Sinhalese version named as "Senn-aa-tota" which after decades had been turned into Hennatota. It is therefore evident that when this waterway flowed into the sea at Kumarakanda there formed the island of Dodanduwa completely surrounded by water.

This island had consisted of the four villages, Kumarakanda, Dodandugoda, Morakola and Modera Patuwata. The island being famous for oranges was named Dodanduwa. However, the preset village of Dodanduwa stretches from the former 63rd mile post on the Colombo-Galle road upto the 65th mile post encompassing hundreds of small villages. It had been the habit of the Sinhalese and even other races to arrive at naming places on phenomena, observation and in relation to events that had taken place there.

Thus Gonapinuwela, Gona-peenu-ela, the name derived when an elk, probably chased by hunters and dogs jumped into a stream, swam and made its escape, the stream that the elk swam. When some deep sea fishermen caught in a violent storm that wrecked their sails and rudder were drifting aimlessly in the open sea suddenly sighted land they all in one voice shouted "Aan-balan-goda" there behold land! This place where they landed was thereafter named Ambalangoda.

The village of Nalluruwa, close to the town of Panadura was so named probably by itinerant Tamil pilgrims from Jaffna, who during olden days trekked on foot along Galle Road to Kataragama on pilgrimage. The villagers who lived in this village with religious feeling would have given shelter and food most lavishly to the relief and appreciation of these hardened people that they advised other pilgrims too to avail of this hospitality and called this village "Nalla Uru" in their language which meant Good Village. As time went by it became Nalluruwa in Sinhala pronounciation.

Dodanduwa has gained publicity due to its geography and environment. The enchanting lake and the beautiful broad beach studded with gigantic boulder rocks jutting out into the open sea afford rare sights of colourful fauna of the seas. In the lap of verdant Dodanduwa lake, where there are several islands, some planted and others covered by jungle, including the famous Island Hermitage, the abode of monks and Parappaduwathe Monastery of the Nuns. The tourist has ample opportunity to please his tastes for boat-riding, fishing, swimming and water sport.

The sight of the Central Hill Country prominently displaying the silhouette of the Holy Mountain Sri Pada, all too far for detail illustrate the vivid topography of this renown island of Lanka. The sight of the flocks of sea gulls flying to and froshowing off their wingspans and projecting their inquiry eyes and beaks in search of food to gulp down are a common sight.

Anyone intended in fishing could do so in secluded silence from natural rocky platforms jutting into the lake appearing above the water or in level with it. The fragrance of the wilderness, the all encompassing Mangrove bushes that thrive right along the fringe of the lake render the appearance of a forest. The people of Dodanduwa were carpenters and clever ship—builders of yore who sailed the Indian ocean for trade and oven ventured into the far Eastern countries carrying both cargo and passengers.

However, with the advent of the Lorry for land transport and the steamship for sea cargo their vocation dwindled and the people who had the sea at their disposal resorted to fishing as a living in which a good percentage still indulge in. Dodanduwa has also been the home of erudite scholars like the late Pundit Dodanduwe Dharmasena and the illustrious Monk Sri Dodanduwe Piyaratana Maha Thero who was a close friend of the Buddhist Revivalist Colonel Henry Olcott.

During the British occupation of Ceylon it is of historical importance to Dodanduwa that foreign Evangalists established a Mission at Dodanduwa headed by an English Lady one Miss Purser. She worked with good intentions hanging over the bona fides of the local population.

A church was built and an industrial school was established where poor children of Buddhist parents were given education and free lodging but were inducted to accept Christianity as a religion. Some of them, when grown up maintained Christian families but after their death most of their progeny reverted back to their ancestral faith Buddhism. Dodanduwa is worth a visit as a friendly village with its diverse attractions.