Beside being called the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” by many, this tiny island has been called by many other names including “Serendib” meaning ‘Paradise’. The geographical layout itself speaks why the island may have been called ‘Paradise’. With golden beaches right round, the country has a wet zone to the west. A dry zone exists to the north and south and the mountains of the mid country give you the cool climes. Although the forest that has been covering most of the island has been considerably thinned down by man at present, the country is still proud of a number of National Parks which has a high Bio-diversity. These are a ‘must see’ for any visitor to the island with leopards, elephants and deer roaming freely in the parks.
The country has a recorded history of over 2500 years and stories of events passed down generations speak for over 3000 years. The mighty king Ravana, who is the only king spoken of prior to the recorded history began, was said to have some provinces in India too under his rule. Referred to as the golden age of Sri Lanka the good king was supposed to have built hospitals not only for humans but even for animals. “RAMAYANAYA” a book by the great Indian poet Valmiki is based on the war waged by King Rama of India against King Ravana of Sri Lanka. It is interesting to note that as per the story King Rama’s brother prince Lakshman had come to Sri Lanka to learn the art of war from the mighty king Ravana.
The most famous battle in the history against the Indian invasions was the war between King Elara from India and King Dutugemunu of Sri Lanka in year somewhere between 161-137 BC One may visit the ancient cities of ‘Anuradhapura’ and ‘Polonnaruwa’ and witness the glory of the past of a great nation. The island remained an independent sovereign nation until the western nations armed with guns of the new world commenced the invasion of the east in their quest for spices, wealth and land
In 1505 a ship commandeered by Lorenzo De Almeida, a Portuguese, battered by a storm accidentally happened upon the island. It is stated that when Lorenzo reported that he has found ‘Serendib’ that they had a special celebration in Portugal. Thus commenced the struggle for over 100 years by the Portuguese to colonize Sri Lanka. During this dark period for Sri Lanka the Portuguese advances into the island were time and again stopped with dire consequences to the invading armies. They could only hold some areas along the sea coast. Such was the invincibility of Sri Lankans. Finally in year 1656 with Portuguese power dwindling world over due to the rising of the Dutch naval powers, they were forced out of Sri Lanka.
However the Dutch immediately took the place of the Portuguese and the people of the island were confronted with a new enemy. Thus the struggle to retain the sovereignty of the island continued for around a further 125 years with the Dutch until the British came along somewhere around 1782.
When the British too failed time and again to defeat the King’s armies and take proper hold of the island, they turned to other strategies to unsettle the power of the last kingdom which was in the city named ‘Senkadagalapura’ ( present ‘Kandy’ ). In the year 1815 on March 02 the British with the support of some treacherous locals who held high office in the king’s council managed to take charge of the whole island by treaty.
A splendid document is the said famous ‘Kandyan Treaty’. It promised the governing of the country to be as per the traditions that prevailed. However history proves that the promise was merely restricted only to the document. As mentioned earlier the prohibition of practicing our martial art was one of the first things that appear to have happened immediately after the British started to rule the country. Thus for the next 133 years i.e. till 1948 when the island was granted independence by the British Empire, a systematic campaign has been carried out to eradicate the great traditional martial art which was the national pride of the Sri Lankans. However even after independence the expected revival of the art cannot be observed as the prohibition imposed by the British was continued by the new rulers. Finally in the year 2002 only steps were taken by the Government to recognize ‘Angam Kalawa’ as part of our heritage.
Historical Evidences For Angam Kalawa
There are many more folk stories about this in various TEACHING CLANS around the island.
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