Situated at an elevation of 950 m above sea level, Nine Arches Bridge at Gotuwala near Demodara in the Uva highlands has become a popular hiking destination for holiday makers who stay in the nearby hill resort of Ella. Another English nickname of and viaduct ist ‚bridge in the sky‘. The Sinhalese name however translates to ‚Nine Skies Bridge‘, referring to the visual effect that one can see the sky nine times through the arches when standing below the bridge. Ten trains cross Nine Arches Bridge daily. Cafes with vantage points can be visited on either side of the bridge.
With a height of 24.5 m and a total length of 91.4 m, this viaduct built during the British Colonial period and commsioned in 1921 is still the largest railway bridge in Sri Lanka. This massive bridge is built entirely of solid rocks, stone, bricks and cement. There is not used any steel for ist construction. One popular story explains this by claiming that when construction work was already started, World War I broke-out and that steel assigned for the viaduct was required for other projects. The construction work came to a halt. Hence the locals decided to build the viaduct in a different way without a single element of steel.
P.K. Appuhami, born in 1870, had been popular drummer and dancer. When he lost a competition during a devil dance ceremony, he returned home in his traditional devil costume. The British construction workers at the brisge seeing him got frightened, but later on hired him as a labourer, who in the course of time turned out to be a talented engineer. Apuhami asked the British to hand over the difficult task of anchoring the bridge piers at the bottom of the boggy bottom. After being rejected for this task, Apuhami finally was entrusted with this engineering work. Starting in 1923, Apuhami mangaed to completed this work within a year. But the cost of the construction had turned out to be so low that the British railway enginieers doubted the structural integrity of the construction. Appuhami then lied down under one of the arches when the first train crossed the newly erected viaduct, as a prrof of trust in his engineering work.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka