Author : Kantha Senanayake

Fancy a walk? Visit Ironwood Forest near Dambulla.

Posted by Kantha Senanayake on February 26 th, 2008 in Culture & Heritage, Wildlife

If you are keen visiting somewhere off the beaten track and you like wildlife and walking, considering visiting the Namal Uyana (Ironwood Forest) in the Cultural Triangle. Visited by many locals everyday, Namal Uyana is seldom visited by foreigners. These 1005 hectares of Ironwood forest is famous for many reasons than just the large number of Ironwood trees. With more than 72 identified medicinal healing plants, 18 species of birds and one of the 14 rare species of lizards, this high biodiversity area is regularly visited by elephants, leopard and other big game during night times.

Jathika Namal Uyana is a range of seven hills. Among those hills lies the Pink Quartz ridge shimmering and sparking in the sunlight. Besides being reported as the largest Rose Quartz mountain range in South East Asia, it also has an illustrious history. It is said that Rose Quartz from this deposit was used in the decoration of the many motifs and inlays which are even now to be found in the Taj Mahal. Even though this is not a very high mountain, trekking up to this peak will give you breath taking views of the surrounding dry zone area.

This place was initially used King Devanampiyatissa to build a monastery to the Buddhist Monks in the 3 century BC, remains of which could still be found. At the beginning of the 8th Century, a section of the forest became what probably was the world’s oldest recorded human sanctuary. Anyone fleeing their enemies or on the run from even the king was entitled to sanctuary in this forest, which was under the sole jurisdiction of Buddhist monks. It has been said in the chronicles and some inscriptions that each person finding refuge here, had to plant a Na (Ironwood) tree and take care of it, thus, making this place a vast mane made Ironwood forest.

Furthermore, Namal Uyana is the home of one of the world’s largest beds of fossilized plants. The accidental find of a massive fossil bed by a Para Archaeologist led to a team of government officials visiting the site and doing further research on this rare finding.  The plant fossil area is believed to cover over 300 acres. Initial beliefs are that the fossils could date as far back as 20 million years or more.

The Forest Reserve is a short drive from Dambulla, the entrance to this forest is from a small village called Ulpotha. When driving along the Anuradhapura Road from Dambulla you have to turn from Madatugama Junction and proceed 6km to Andiagala Road to find Ulpotha.

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