Beruwala, Sri Lanka
The starting point for a major beach resort area on the south coast, Beruwala (also spelled Beruwela) is believed to be the first Moorish settlement on the island, established by Arab traders around the 8th century AD. A large population of Sri Lanka Moors, many of them gem traders, still live in this area, particularly in the “China Fort” district. The oldest mosque in Sri Lanka – the Kachchimalai Mosque – is built on a rocky headland overlooking this town.
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There are some small islands out at sea that are worth investigating, and a reef-protected slice of sea that makes swimming safe virtually all year round. Deep-sea fishing is possible here, as well as windsurfing.
Points of Interest in and around Beruwala
Add some color and inspiration to your day by visiting the Beruwala Harbor early one morning. You can lazily gaze away at the fishermen in their traditional fishing hats, pulling in the days catch and finding their way home to a nice warm meal. But what’s so special about this particular harbor? It is an ancient port for seamen sailing in from the west of the Indian Ocean. It is also believed that this harbor marks the zone where the first Arab-Muslim settlers landed in Sri Lanka in the 8th century. Time your alarm clocks!
Kande Vihare Temple, Aluthgama
As the name implies, the Kanda Vihare temple is located on a hill. It is also known as the Aluthgama Kande Vihara or the Bentota Kande Vihara because its location in relation to both towns. Kande Vihara was established in 1734 as a location of comfort and relief from pressures of daily life. The “Kshethrarama Pirivena” was founded by Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera in 1904. It is still a vital center for Buddhist education in the country. Relax and absorb an eclectic evening around glowing lamps of the Kande Vihara.
Gangatilaka Vihara (Kalutara Bodhiya)
Gangatilaka Vihara also known as Kalutara Bodhiya, is a massive dagaba that greets you at the Northern entrance of Kalutara city. Located at the banks of the Kalu Ganga, the dagaba looms over as you cross the Kalutara bridge. The extraordinary feature of this great and noble Vihara is its hollow interior. It is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world.
The Gangatilaka Vihara was built in the Kalutara District in the 1960’s, it has undergone many changes since then. Althought the Dagaba is relatively new, the bodhi tree at the pahala maluwa (lower terrace) has been venerated by the locals since 1042 A.D. – during the reign of prince Wickrama Pandya. Some consider that the Bodhi tree at Kalutara has a much longer history. Its believed to have grown from a sapling of the original Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura which was planted around 288 AD. Kalutara is one of the 32 places mentioned in the Bōdhi Vansa documenting the history of the Bodhi Tree, under which Buddha attained enlightenment.
Many devotees worship and acknowledge the site by placing food and flowers in front of the statues and images of the deities and gods and light coconut-oil lamps and tie prayers to the Bodhi tree. They also pour water through channels that reach the roots of the sacred tree to give it nourishment and to bless its existence. Its a custom for many drivers who pass the Bodhi to offer alms and pray for a safe journey.