Wednesday, 30 April 2003  
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Homage to 50 years old clock tower

by Florence Wickramage

Paying obeisance to inanimate objects is a rare occurrence in our society. Yet according to Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha by doing Animisalochana pooja showed his gratitude to the Bo-tree which sheltered him before he attained enlightenment.

The 50-year-old Piliyandala clock-tower.

In similar vein following the example of the Buddha, a group of grateful men have planned a series of religious observances to invoke blessings on a clock tower which provided shelter to their vehicles for the past 50 years.

These men belong to the United Drivers' Association and the object of their gratitude is the clock tower at Piliyandala. Drivers who belong to this association parked their vehicles near this clock tower during the past 50 years and in gratitude for its silent service, these men have organised an all-night pirith ceremony and a dana to the Maha Sangha today at the foot of the clock tower.

According to local residents and documentation this clock tower is one of the tallest in the island rising to a height of 78 feet with a 16 foot girth. The clock tower in existence for 50 years, is considered to be of archaeological value thus providing the Piliyandala town with a historical background.

The clock tower came into being through the generosity of a renowned benefactor D. Simon Samarakoon of Wewala who erected it in memory of his parents Cornelis Wijewickrema Samarakoon and his wife.

Tracing its history, the foundation stone for the erection of the clock tower was laid by the then Minister of Local Government C.W.W.Kannangara on September 11th 1952.

The three-tiered clock tower has been built with brick and cement and has a concrete layer on the topmost floor complete with a staircase within to reach it. The construction being completed in seven months, the clock tower was commissioned on April 30th 1953.


Though dressed outside with a coat of new paint, the inside of the tower proclaims a sad story. Doves and other birds have found a resting place within the walls of the tower which shows signs of pollution with remnants of their nests and droppings littering the three tiers and the face of the clock which has no glass covering.

The operating mechanisms of the clock.

Residents of Piliyandala say that even though the official symbol of the Kesbewa Pradeshiya Sabha is this clock tower, scant attention has been paid by those in authority for its maintenance. The Pradeshiya Sabha even has no documents whatsoever relating to this clock tower.

During election campaigns the tower had been defaced with posters while the exposed hands of the clock had been used to hang banners.

Climbing up the dilapidated iron staircase one comes across a 5' x 4' box which houses three operating machines of the clock. These three winding-mechanisms are simultaneously operated with a `key' once a week to power the clock. Each of the four faces of the clock are over 5 feet wide.

The minute hand is two-and-half feet long while the hour-hand is 2 feet in length. A one-foot broad round `batta' hangs from a five-foot long supporting bar. The glassless faces of the clock have been discoloured being exposed to elements of nature such as rain and extreme heat of the day. The clock tower is also equipped with three large chimes, each 3 feet tall and 2 feet broad to announce the hour.

Doves have built their nests in these bells too.

According to Sanath Piyasena, an author, the clock had been inoperative for several months while Nimal Ariyadasa, Chairman of the Kesbewa Pradeshiya Sabha had observed that they have begun maintenance work of the clock tower and its environs with the assistance of the Sevana Lottery on the instructions of Tourism Minister Gamini Lokuge.


Members of the Piliyandala United Drivers' Association and the Piliyandala Young Buddhists Association with the assistance of voluntary helpers are actively engaged in conserving this valuable clock tower.

They have been responsible for initiating action to give the clock tower a new face lift, repair and re-activate the clock which now indicates the correct time and chimes the hour.

And so this much loved clock tower with the blessings of the grateful men who organized the religious ceremonies for its `well-being' will once again continue to serve the purpose for which it was erected as well as provide silent shelter to the many vehicles parked at its foot for many more years to come.

(Information courtesy: Nihal P. Abeysinghe)

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