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Old Milestones on Sri Lankan Roads

1st Milestone Galle Road
Figure 1: 1st Milestone, Galle Road (Photo credit: Google Street View)


Several old milestones erected during the British colonial period are found preserved in several places around Sri Lanka. The British who established themselves in Sri Lanka replacing the Dutch in 1796 succeeded in annexing the the whole island to the British Empire in 1815 and ruled it until 1948. During this period, they constructed a network of highways and railroads mainly to facilitate administrative functions as well as to transport economic goods. The first set of highways they built connected Colombo to some key cities in the country at the time such as Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Negombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee etc.

As part of the road network, mileposts were installed to denote the distance and area in a particular spot. Some of these milestones erected during the British period still remain scattered on roads around the country.

Colombo: 1st milestone

The first milestone of the Colombo-Galle Road is presently located in front of the Taj Samudra Hotel (6°55'20.5"N 79°50'46.0"E).

This milestone is believed to have been installed on Galle Road before the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) as it contains the word "King's House" (Manathunga, 2016). At the time, it is said that the road's distance had been measured from the King's House (present President's House) which is located adjacent to the Gordon Gardens (Manathunga, 2016). The milestone which had been dismantled and thrown by the wayside later is said to have been installed at the present location in 1978 (Manathunga, 2016). The English inscription on the milestone can be read as follows;

Side I: 1 Mile from the King's House
Side II: This road made A.D. 1814

Mount Lavinia: 7th milestone

7th milestone

The seventh milestone of Colombo-Galle Road is located in front of the S. Thomas' College in Mount Lavinia (6°50'15.8"N 79°51'59.2"E).

This is one of the original milestones erected along Galle Road to mark distance during the time of Robert Brownrigg (1812-1820), the 3rd Governor of British Ceylon (Manathunga, 2016). The English inscription on the milestone can be read as follows;

Side I: VII Miles 1817

Kandy: 72nd milestone

The seventy-second milestone of Colombo-Kandy Road is located near Nuwara Wewa between the Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Queen's Hotel (7°17'34.8"N 80°38'19.8"E).

This is probably the last milestone erected along the Colombo-Kandy Road of which construction started in around 1820s under the orders of the British Governor of Ceylon. The English inscription on the milestone can be read as follows;

Side I: 72 Miles from Colombo
Side II: Round Lake 2 Miles 46 Feet, 1680 Feet Above Mean Sea Level

Matara: 99th milestone

Matara milestone

The ninety-ninth milestone of the Colombo-Kataragama road is presently located on the bank of Kunu Ela stream near Co-Operative Hospital in Matara town (5°56'48.6"N 80°32'23.0"E). The stone is engraved with "99 Matura ". Matura is an old form used to identify the present Matara area.

Devinuwara: 103rd milestone

Devinuwara milestone

The one-hundred-third milestone of the Colombo-Kataragama is located near the famous Devinuwara Devalaya in Matara (5°55'44.2"N 80°35'06.6"E). This is considered the tallest milestone ever found in Sri Lanka.

The stone column which is octagon in shape with four-sided medial panels is 7 ft. in height (Ranaweera, 2015). It is thought to have been brought from the ruins of the nearby Devinuwara shrine after it was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century (Ranaweera, 2015). The column is topped with the word Devinuwara in Sinhala letters and the figure of a Kuru Etha elephant, an animal unique to the southern region in the past (Ranaweera, 2015). In the middle of the column is marked with "103 Dondra". Dondra is the anglicized form of the native name "Devinuwara".

References

1) Manathunga, S. B., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-39-9. pp.44-45,94.
2) Ranaweera, D. D., 2015. Matara Urumaya (in Sinhala). ISBN: 978-955-30-6285-7. S. Godage & Bros. pp.102-104.


This page was last updated on 26 November 2023

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