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Celebrating the 'Queen' of the peak Wilderness

by P. D. A. S. Gunasekera

Bopath Ella, the 'Queen' of the peak wilderness, waits at the entrance of Sabaragamuwa, to accord a warm welcome to the visitors and tourists, clad in a 'cascade of silvery-spray' bringing warmath as well as cool comfort to those who seek them, round the year.

On rainy days in the continuously wet weather the visitors could see on their way to Bopath-Ella, at Medagama, a little distance from the road, falling from a height of about 80 feet, a budding waterfall, little known to the 'uninitiated', a beautiful spectacle of a seasonal fall (only during rainy season) promising to be a companion to the Bopath-Ella.

Bopath-Ella with her origin in the peak wilderness, at a small watershed, gathering momentum, enlarging herself with the waters of the numerous springs and streams, as she coursed down over hill and dale, huge rocks and boulders, until she turned 'sight-perfect' to please the hundreds of thousands of 'fans' the world over, as a premier waterfall of distinction, in Sabaragamuwa.

Situated in close proximity to the tropics, close to Colombo, the hub of international communication, Bopath-Ella is the nearest waterfall to the international community, visiting Sri Lanka, offering a 'show-case tourist package' any time, any day round the year, within a travelling distance of an hour and a half by car and forty-five minutes by air.

Bopath-Ella is said to have, derived its name from its shape of a 'Bo-leaf' with the verdure of the wilderness, on either side supported by huge rock boulders hundreds of feet high, framing the Ella as it falls 99 feet to the pool below, filled with a sea of white bubbling foam.

In the back-drop of the Ella, in the wilderness of the virgin forest of valuable timber, Milla, Hora, Na, Nuga, interwoven with varied creepers, Puswel, cane and Bardura, lie concealed innumerable places of worship, including Divaguhawa, mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures, as the resting places of thousands of 'Arahat Bikkhus', at the time, Lord Buddha left the imprint of his sacred foot, on Mount Samanala.

Of all the waterfalls in Sri Lanka this is the only one closely connected with traditional stories running into centuries past.

The traditional stories surrounding the Ella have invested it almost with a religious fervour. This is also the only one, situated in close proximity to the peak and its immediate surroundings, believed to have been a bathing spot of the Royal Household of Sitawaka during the royal visits to the Maha Saman Devale, Ratnapura.

The story has it that once the royal bearers of the golden casket containing sacred costumes of the God Saman to the Maha Saman Devale at Ratnapura, had placed it at the foot of a Na-tree, to clean themselves at the Bopath Ella.

On resuming the journey after the bath they found the casket missing and searching high and low, at last got a glimpse of it, at the bottom of the pool. All attempts at recovering it failed as it appeared and disappeared with the slightest motion of the water.

Finally, they found the casket safely lodged at the top of the Na-tree with its reflection shining at the bottom of the pool. From that day the village in which Bopath-Ella was situated had come to be named 'Devi-Pahala', the place where God Saman appeared (vide - Sadhadaraniya Bopath Ella).

Bopath-Ella a perennial source of clean clear water blessed, with the sacred contact of the feet of the 'Arahat', under the protection of God Saman as the tradition went, perhaps, had been used, by the descendants of the 'Balangoda Man' who had lived in the vicinity, at Batadomba Lena 29,000 to 30,000 years ago according to the archaeological evidence, on record.

Many attempts have been made since Bopath-Ella came into the limelight, in recent years, by private business tycoons at home and abroad for the use of the Ella for developing hydro-electric power with no success.

Bopath Ella and its surroundings will soon become the 'natures' show-piece' when the development projects underway, launched by the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council, are completed enhancing the facilities, the protection and the pleasing prospects of the waterfall, 'the cynosure' of Sabaragamuwa.

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