Great Escapes – Summer 2018

Posted - 01 Jun, 2018


As the 17 acres of paddy field transform from lush green in to golden brown, Ulagalla immerses its guests in traditions dating back thousands of years. Witness first-hand the offerings made to the gods in thanks for a bountiful harvest and the lighting of the traditional oil lamp. Feel the rhythmic beat of the ‘raban’ drums and await the traditional boiling of milk for prosperity. The Harvesting Ceremony also known as the ‘Wap Magula’ ties together the village surrounding Ulagalla to its guests as the village elder leads all those gathered in prayer and other spiritual observances that convey the village’s gratitude for a successful harvest.
The harvesting is done by means of sickles, once cut, the harvest will be collected and carried to the ‘Kamatha’ (threshing field) where the grains will be separated. The uniqueness of this festival does not lie only in the rich history and methods used alone; But through the unity of the village, Ulagalla and its team as well as all guests in attendance. Ulagalla invites its guests to don the traditional sarong and join in on the experience and live the lives of a traditional farmer for a day.
From a seed in the ground to a plate of rice, the entire process creates a lens through which Ulagalla’s guests can gain a fair measure of the most important part of the ancient Anuradhapura village experience.


The Koneswaram Temple, is a Hindu temple just short drive away from Jungle Beach by Uga Escapes. The temple lies on a high rocky promontory surrounded on three sides by the sea. It bears a history of over three millennia with its records indicating its roots in 1580 BC. This, still beautiful, historical monument is what remains of what once was a sprawling temple city equal to the ancient city of Madurai, India.
Koneswaram was destroyed by the Portuguese on the 14th of April 1622, during the Tamil New Year Day festival massacring many devotees who had been attending the religious ceremonies. Soldiers camouflaged as priests entered the temple and ransacked it of over two millennia worth of treasures in the form of golden statuettes, other gold items, gems and expensive silks. As one of the richest temples at the time, the loot was counted to be one of the biggest in the history of Asia. Meanwhile, the panicked priests (the real ones) took as many of the remaining idols and statues, which has been part of a procession, and buried them into the ground around the temple grounds to avoid their destruction. The temple was destroyed and most of it was pushed into the sea. The remaining stones were used to build Fort Frederick two years later resulting in a complete destruction of an unrecoverable relic.
In 1950, when a well was being dug 500 yards from the site, the temple’s original gold and copper alloy bronze statues from the 10th century were found. Just a few years later in 1956, the famous Arthur C Clarke and fellow diver Mike Wilson uncovered underwater masonry, architectural and idol images of the original temple when diving by the cliff of the temple. The divers Wilson and Clark retrieved the legendary Swayambhu lingam from the ocean floor, a large natural stone obelisk that, according to legend, was one of 69 naturally occurring lingams from time immemorial originally found on Mount Kailash of Tibet and housed in Koneswaram by King Raavan – his most sacred power object from mythological times. This lingam was reinstalled at the Koneswaram site.
Publishing their findings in 1957, Clarke expresses admiration for Swami rock’s three thousand year veneration by Hindus. Today the battered stone work at the foot of Swami Rock is probably the most photographed underwater ruins in the world.

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