Nishantha D Paranamana's Photos - Madu River
Between Colombo and Galle there exists a beautiful river called Madu Ganga in Balapitiya which offers a glimpse of how it has become a part of the life of the people in the area .
In the outset Madu Ganga is considered as Sri Lanka's second largest wetland consisting of 28 islands including two main islands providing shelter to 215 families.
Over the past generations Madu Ganga has played an important role in providing food and shelter and of course providing easy access to the main land via small wooden boats.
During the pre colonization period Madu ganga was used as one of the main water ways connecting cities and ancient Sinhala Kingdoms.
The main treasure of Madu Ganga is its mangroves that act as a bio-lock to the area in giving protection to the variety of aquatic plants and animal life. They provide a home for different kinds of aquatic plants, crabs, shrimps, fish, various invertebrates and other animal life including crocodiles .
According to villagers the main secret of the Madu Ganga is the tide. On any given day during the low tide the sea water comes inland and mixes with fresh water and in the evening it is the other way around - the magic of nature .
Villagers say that many generations ago, the Madu Ganga flowed by peaceful villages . People had a very basic life style and everything was fulfilled through Madu Ganga by means of agriculture and fishing. Strangely despite the rapid development in the country most people living in and around the Madu Ganga still engage in traditional methods of catching fish such as use of yoth and other small nets. Shrimp farming is popular here. For that they make use of the traditional method of laying separators made out of bamboo. In the night the fishermen light kerosene lamps and place it in a trap box. According to fishermen the shrimp follow the light of the lamp and get trapped in the box. Today shrimp farming has become a good source of income, but is a dying profession in Madu Ganga.
Villagers take their boat through the mangroves
Shrimp farmer David Silva has been engaged in this trade for the past 30 years and sees an end to this after his death.
" I have been engaged in shrimp farming over the past 30 years and there were many people doing this to earn money. But today there are only 10 people like me actually doing this job- others have either passed away or switched to another profession due to the factors threatening the existence of shrimp farming or 'Ja- kotu'" he said.
According to David the influx of motorized boats has gravely affected the growth and continuation of the traditional way of shrimp farming. "These motor boats drive fast damaging our bamboo separators. On the other hand Shrimps lay their eggs in the mangroves and they are disturbed by the fast moving boats." he said.
Taking tourists on boat rides is a growing business in the Madu Ganga. Everyday local and foreign tourists come there to go on boat rides which take a couple of hours. Traveling by boat is a good way for tourists to witness and discover the real beauty of Madu Ganga.
By Deepal V. Perera
Daily Mirror, January 17, 2007
Nishantha D Paranamana's Photos - Madu River
Kothduwa Purana Raja Maha Viharaya
The Kothduwa Purana Raja Maha Viharaya is an esoteric hideway. Nestled in the Madhu Ganga in the Balapitiya electorate, it is the only temple inside a river without a village flanking it. The only access to the venue is through the river and that too by motor boat, which is, more often than not, navigated by a Buddhist priest !!
We drove around five kilometres from a turn off at Ahungalla from the Colombo- Galle Road and went into the interior. The road at that stage was a cul de sac where there was the Madhu Ganga and the temple was at the middle of the river. We were told by a few Dayakas of the temple who were on our side of the river that there will be a motor boat which will arrive from the temple across the river and all we needed to do to alert the temple authorities was to toot the horn and to flash the head lights of the vehicle that we were travelling in.
Ven Beliatte Sangha Nanda Thera and his colleague motoring the boat on the return
Within a few minutes we see a high powered motor boat speeding towards us and who should be navigating it ? No less than a young Samanera monk!!
The young monk-Ven Beliatte Sanghananda brings the boat across the ramp that is on our end of the river and we go cruising along to the temple. The parking space is also similar to the other end. There is a flight of stairs to the ground level of the temple and who is there to greet us, no less than The Chief Prelate of the Kothduwa Raja Maha Vihara and Amarapura Siri Dhamma Wansa Maha Nayaka Ven. Omanthai Pugngnasara Thera who is the fourth Maha Nayaka of this sacred venue.
He is a legend in his own right at the venue as he has lived there for the last four decades from the time he was ordained at the age of 19. His four predecessors had predeceased him
What is most sacred about this venue is that it had been blessed with one of the 32 bo- saplings (Dethis Pala Bodhin Vahanse) which have been brought to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Parakramabahu and planted by Minister Deva Pathiraja. This is including the other Bodhi saplings such as the Weligama Agra Bodhi Vihara and the Kalutara Bodhi Vihara which were simultaneously planted
It was a mere Bodhi tree until Samson Rajapakse Wasala Mudali constructed the temple revolving round the Bodhi in 1971, the Thera told Mirror Life.
The Vihara and the temple by itself pervades a mushy and a tranquil aura. It is an ideal venue to soothe the weary nerves. The ripples of the Maadhu Ganga waters also remain serene to add to the backdrop which is also seen as an ideal abode to empty the volitions of the human minds in his fiercely competitive and stressful world.
There are thousand of devotees who visit the venue and the access is two fold. One access is through Bentota and that is also by boat which is the access for the tourists while the locals use the approach through the Ahungalla entrance which is cheaper and closer in terms of time and money. Though there is no formal charge for the boat service to reach the temple, visitors are expected to pay a nominal amount for the use of the boat and that is money that is used to buy the diesel for the boat which is powered by a Yamaha 8-9 horse power diesel engine
On Poya days, there are around 1000 devotees who visit the venue to observe eight precents and the Maha Nayaka was adamant that they should bring in their own alms. Providing meals for 1000 sil observers is difficult and the priest is also keen that they be shifted to another Bana Sala across the river soon, as the handling of thousand people is no mean task. He also said that no visitor is allowed to stay over as that would lead to the withering away of the sanctity of the river abode. In this context, he says that the five priests who live there cook their own alms and do not get any from the devotees, which he said, would preserve the equilibrium there. `
The place has also uniqueness in terms of civil engineering feats as well. The surrounding brackish and saline waters is also conducive for the existence of the temple and it is through an underground pipeline that drinking and other water is supplied there.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the venue is the absence of toilet facilities, and another motor boat to ferry the large crowds those grace it. “There have been all political leaders who have come to my temple but no one has provided any assistance for me to run this place,” he said.
by Ravi Ladduwahetty
Pictures by Samantha Perera
Daily Mirror, March 21, 2006