Udawatta Kele Sanctuary

Temple of the Tooth Relic Kandy
Udawattakele Forest Reserve (also known as Udawattakele SanctuaryUdawattakele Royal Forest Park) is a historic forest located behind the premises of the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka. During the Kandyan Period, the Udawattakele forest was considered a part of the Kandy Royal Palace and the ruling kings and their royal families used this forest as a pleasure garden. Presently, it is one of the Sanctuaries in Sri Lanka protected under the authority of the Forest Department (Weerakoon, 2015).

During the reign of King Gajabahu I (114-136 A.D.), there were no human settlements in Kandy and the area was covered by thick forest. The king ordered his nephew Siriwardana Seneviratna to change a part of the existing land use in Kandy and to build a village there. More than 1000 years later, King Panditha Parakramabahu (1302-1326 A.D.) who reigned in Kurunegala took measures to settle people in the area. During the mid-14th century, King Wikramabahu III who ruled from 1357 to 1374, established his kingdom in Kandy and named it "Senkadagala" in remembrance of the Brahmin named "Senkanda" who lived in a rock cave in Udawattakele forest during the reign of King Gajabahu I at Anuradhapura.

The Kingdom of Kandy (1469-1815 A.D.) was the last independent monarchy of Sri Lanka. King Senasammata Vikramabahu (1469-1511 A.D.), the first king of the Kandy Kingdom, built his palace within this forest and named it Uda-wasala-watta. After that, the forest was exclusively utilized by the members of the royal family for aesthetic purposes. As a result of that, the rulers declared the forest area a restricted zone for the general public. During the royal era, the forest was the main source of firewood for the palace.

Later on, the condition of the forest became deteriorate due to the felling down of Kitul trees and other edible foliage for the elephants of the Kandy Perahera pageant. It was further intensified during the 19th and early 20th centuries when a large amount of timber was extracted to supply firewood for the adjoining British Governor's residence (Nyanatusita & Dissanayake, 2013).

In 1856, the then government declared the Udawattakele as a forest reserve and in 1938, it was declared again as a sanctuary (Nyanatusita & Dissanayake, 2013; Weerakoon, 2015). In 1940, several valuable trees such as Jack and Mahogani were planted on this site by the Department of Forest (Weerakoon, 2015).

Udawatta Kele belongs to the mid-country wet zone and is situated about 635 m above the mean sea level (Abeysekara et al., 2018; Weerakoon, 2015). Located behind the sacred Temple of Tooth premises, the forest stretches over an area of about 113 hectares [(279.229 acres) Abeysekara et al., 2018]. The forest receives an annual mean rainfall of more than 2000 mm (Abeysekara et al., 2018).

A large number of endemic flora [(about 460 plant species including 135 tree species, 11 liana species) Wedathanthri & Hitinayake, 1999] and fauna species are found in the forest reserve. Three vegetation strata namely the canopy (dominant), sub-canopy and underground layers are identified in the forest reserve.

The Udawattakele forest is surrounded by a highly urbanized area. Therefore, the forest is considered very important in controlling the pollution of Kandy city. It also acts as the catchment area for the supply of water to Kandy city. 

Important locations within the forest
The Maithree Lena, Udawattakele
The Senkanda cave
A rock cave that is said to be used by an ascetic named Senkanda is found in the Udawattakele forest. According to "Asigiri Upatha", this Brahmin was practising asceticism in a cave in Maya rata during the reign of King Gajabahu I of Anuradhapura (Karunaratna, 1986). Besides the Senkanda cave, two rock caves (named Chitta Visuddhi Lena and Maithree Lena) used by Buddhist monks are also found in the forest.

The Senkanda cave has been designated as an archaeological protected monument by the government gazette notification no.23 on 1 October 1972.

Lady Horton street
This is the first street constructed within the forest. It was built in 1834 by Horton, the then Governor of Ceylon (1831-1837), in memory of his beloved wife (Karunaratna, 1986). 

Kodimale Kanda mountain
This is the highest point (1800 feet from the mean sea level) situated within the forest. This spot is believed to be used to hoist the national flag and religious flags during ancient times. A giant endemic liana called "Pus Wela" (Entada pusaetha) which is said to be about 200-300 years old can be seen near Kodimale Kanda.

Garrison Cemetery
The Garrison Cemetery
The dead bodies of the British nationals who died in Sri Lanka have been buried in this cemetery. 
The Marble seat
A flat marble rock that had been used as a resting place was in the forest (Karunaratna, 1986), but today is at the Sri Dalada Sylvan as an altar for offering flowers.

The pond
The pond which is found in the forest, during the royal era, was used by the queen and other members of the royal family (Karunaratna, 1986). The earliest reference to the pond is found with regard to an expenditure incurred in August 1824 (Karunaratna, 1986). It is presently encircled by a narrow lane known as Lover's Walk.

Ironwood forest
A patch of forest consisting of Na-trees (ironwood: Mesua ferrea) is found within the Udawattakele forest. These trees are believed to be planted in 1926.

See also

1) This image (Dalada Maligawa Sri Lanka B) has been released into the public domain by its creator, Wouterhagens.
2) Maitri Lena by Nyanatusita is licensed under CC BY SA 3.0

1) Abeysekara, A.M.S.K., Yatigammana, S.K. and Premakantha, K.T., 2018. Biomass and Carbon Stock Estimation of Udawattakele Forest Reserve in Kandy District of Sri Lanka. Journal of Tropical Forestry and Environment, 8(2). pp.13-28.
2) Karunaratna N., 1986. Udavattakälē: The Forbidden Forest of the Kings of Kandy, Colombo: Department of National Archives. pp.1,91,97,103.
3)  Nyanatusita, B. and Dissanayake, R., 2013. Udawattakele: A Sanctuary Destroyed From Within. Loris, Journal of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka, 26(5), pp.39-40.
4) Wedathanthri, H.P. and Hitinayake, H.M.G.S.B., 1999. Invasive behaviour of Myroxylon balsamum at Udawattakele forest reserve. In Proceedings of International Forestry and Environment Symposium. p.14.
5) Weerakoon, W.M.B.M.B., 2015. Avifaunal diversity of Udawattakele, an urban forest reserve in the Kandy District. Sciscitator 2015 / Volume 2. pp. 19-21.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 14 January 2023

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