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Finding our Roots

The history of Ahaspokuna is deeply connected to the history of Sri Lanka itself and it has indeed been an eventful past. Its roots are deeply entrenched in the history of the great Kandyan Kingdom in particular and the colonial invasions of the time, as well as the heroic resistance of the hill capital and its people against foreign invaders.

The highlights of this great history include the up country leaders signing a treaty in 1815 with the invaders and the subsequent breach of contract by the colonial masters, the 1818 Uva revolt by the key hill country leaders etc.

The founder’s great-great-grandfather, Abeykoon, the headman of Munwatta in the Hanguranketha area of Kandy, had to abandon his home and his village due to his rebellious past; leaving everything behind as a result of joining the Uva Wellassa revolt in 1817 against the British colonial rule. He was not alone though; a few other faithful families joined him in the bid for survival.

 

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finding the roots- AhaspokunaOn the verge of succumbing to the relentless agitations of the rebels, the colonial rulers unleashed a
ruthless campaign to murder every man, burn down every home and destroy all the farmlands in the rebel areas. Munwatta , which was just 12.4km away from Walapane, where there were 3 rebel leaders of 18 did not have any mercy from the rulers. The rebels were left with no choice but to retreat to the safety of the uninhabited southern hills. 

After weeks of traversing harsh conditions and searching for a location to settle down in, the rebels found a safe haven with enough natural cover, a healthy supply of water and fertile grounds for cultivation. This sanctuary was called ‘Ahaspokuna’. Though only three families survived the treacherous journey, they had finally found their refuge.

A few years later, once the threat of genocide had subsided, these families moved further south and settled in a more open valley. Since it was the first village they established since their great passage, they named the village ‘Mul Gama’ which literally translates as ‘First Village’.

 

 

The three great houses of the village were named ‘Ihala Walawwa’, ‘Meda Walawwa’, and ‘Pahala Walawwa’. Even though they had founded a new village, they still kept the Ahaspokuna settlement for cultivation purposes. Generations later however, Ahaspokuna was forgotten and was only used occasionally for chena cultivation.

roots1More than 100 years later, Karunarathne Abeykoon, the founder’s father, rediscovered his Pahala Walawwa roots and traced his family history back to this settlement after 12 years of arduous research. He was able to trace all the land that belonged to his family and his relatives in Ahaspokuna. The land settlement published in the gazette of January, 1957 on Ahaspokuna, helped him a great deal and he was further able to trace the historical records of the property utilising the plans obtained from the Surveyor General’s Office.

The present era of development meant that almost everyone who owned other blocks of land in the Ahaspokuna area had migrated to bigger cities and were more than willing to hand their lands over to Karunarathne.

After years of laborious research, tracking family roots, interviewing hundreds of people and gaining legal clearances, Karunarathne and his son Anuruddha Abeykoon Bandara, were finally able to start up their dream project. Along with the help of their reliable team, they were able to establish Sri Lanka’s first-ever private wildlife reserve and walking safari camp in the historic refuge of Ahaspokuna on 16th December 2016 at the auspicious time of 8.52am.

 

image copyrignts © Prasanna Werakkody

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A H A S - P O K U N A   

In the Sinhalese language (spoken in Sri Lanka), “Ahas” means “Sky” and “Pokuna” means “Pond” or “Pool”. Ahaspokuna is so named in reference to the lake here, high up in the hills, that is only fed by rain water. A former settlement that sprung up on its shores was subsequently also named “Ahaspokuna”. Today, the jungle tide has washed over where people once lived and the camp provides a wilderness retreat for those in search of something different.
Ahaspokuna by Eco Team


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