Batticaloa is a district capital in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, situated 110 km south of Trincomalee, which is the provincial capital. Batticaloa is situated on a peninsula and an island at the mouth of Sri Lanka’s largest and most dendritic lagoon. At the open ocean, there are long sandy beaches in the suburb of Batticaloa at the opposite side of the lagoon’s opening, namely on the isthums of Kallady. The main cultural attractions of Batticaloa are the Dutch Fort and several Hindu shrines, the temple festivals of which are spectacular. Batticaloa is not yet a mass tourism destination. Guesthouses are available, particularly at the beach of Kallady, but most travellers visiting the coastline of Batticaloa District stay in Pasikudah, which is located 30 km further north. The shallow region of the Batticaloa Lagoon is a perfect place for cycling tours.
There are two war memorials at the Elephant Pass, which is the most important link between Jaffna Peninsula and mainland Sri Lanka. The northern one on the peninsula celebrates the unity of the island. The memorial at the southern end of the causeway is dedicated to Sri Lanka’s most famous war hero of recent decades, who lost his lifewhen he successfully stopped an attack of an armoured bulldozer by approaching it and tossing grenades into it. Gamini Kularatne is also known as Hasalaka Gamini after his, named after his home village. His death contributed significantly to prevent the Sri Lanka army garrison from being overrun during this massive attack of about 5000 secessionist guerilla fighters, which was launched on the night of 10 July 1991, to overrun the garrison of about 600 army troops. The fight known as the First Battle of Elephant Pass continued for 18 days and cost about 2000 lives, being one of the most ferocious combats of Sri Lanka’s civil war. Finally, an army force of 10,000 soldiers conducted an amphibious landing to reinforce the defenders, decisively helping to repel the attackers successfully. The war memorial honoroung Gamini Kularatne was set up after the end of the war.
One of Sri Lanka’s most famous Buddhist statues is the rock-cut recumbent Buddha of the Gal Vihara in Polonnaruwa. Not many tourists know, that there are two more reclining Buddhas from the same period, one in Thantirimale to the northwest of Anuradhapura, another one near Bakamuna, 27 km southeast of the famous Kandalama Heritence Hotel. The latter is the smallest and not well-preserved. It has never been as elaborate as the reclining Buddha of the Gal Vihara. But all three Buddhas share one characteristic that’s remarkable. In contrast to later reclining Buddhas which are usually sleeping Buddhas, all three rock-cut Buddhas from the 12th or 13th century depict the passing-away of the Buddha. This is the moment of his final Nirvana, the Pali term is Parinibbana. This emphasis on both the highest state any being can reach and the death of the Buddha as a purely human instead of a supernatural being is a symbol of Theravada Buddhism, which became predominant due to the reforms of the Buddhist Sangha in the Polonnaruwa period. Earlier monumental Buddha sculptures in Sri Lanka, those of the Anuradhapura period, had been Mahayanist, they depicted a superhuman Buddha.
Find more about the rarely visited archaeological site of Bakamuna here...
Beligala, situated 16 km west of Pinnawela Orphanage by road, is not an attractive place to visit, but it’s of some historical significance as it was here where the national palladium, the Sacred Tooth Relic, was kept in hiding, when the Indian invader Kalinga Magha devastated the Polonnaruw Kingdom. The local Sinhalese principality possessing the Tooth Relic soon became the new major dynasty of Sinhalese Kings, in the so-called Dambadeniya period. The Tooth Relic was finally shifted to Dampabdeniya by them.
The Bo-tree of the Beligala Rajamaha Viharaya is quite impressive, woth a stop, when you are travelling along this vilaage anyway. The main attraction is the moonstone. It’s of a quite unique shape, indicating a transition between the moonstone styles of Polonnaruwa and Kandy. The centre of the moonstone is significantly elevated like in the Kandy period, but the outline is still hemispherical like that of Polonnaruwa moonstones and unlike triangular Kandyan moonstones.
Find Beligala Bo-Tree image and location here...
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka,