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Athu Ela Arch Bridge

Athu Ela Bridge
Athu Ela Bridge (Sinhala: අතු ඇල පාලම) is a stone arch bridge located on the Gall-Deniyaya-Madampe road (A017) between Morawaka and Pitabeddara towns in Matara District, Sri Lanka. It has been built over the Athu Ela stream, a tributary of the Nilwala Ganga River. The bridge is claimed to be one of the biggest and oldest stone arch bridges on the national highways of the country.

The bridge was built during the British Period of Ceylon (1815-1948). It is said that a local contractor named Haramanis Basunnehe was given the contract in about 1871 and his initial construction assisted by Indian labourers was too small in height hence it was damaged by elephants walking along the stream below. The height was then revised to make enough space for elephants and the completed bridge was declared open in about 1873. The purpose of building the bridge was to transport the tea exports of colonial landowners who had their tea estates nearby.

Situated at a big bend, the bridge consists of three arches built of dressed stones. The stream that runs below the bridge was used by elephants in the past and therefore, locals started to call the stream Athu Ela which means the Elephant's Channel. The bridge is 50 m in length, 5.8 m in width and the carriageway width is 4.8 m. Although the bridge was originally built for carts, today it carries the weight of thousands of vehicles running across it.

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#) extends its gratitude to Lalith Kekulthotuwage for providing the necessary photographs required for this article. All the photos are published here with the permission of the author.

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This page was last updated on 28 October 2023

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