RATNAPURA
 
 
Ratnapura is the name of the provincial capital of Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka and the Ratnapura District in which the town is situated. Some say the modern name is derived from the Portuguese name Rapadura for Jaggery, the palm candy produced traditionally in this region, but the more common explanation in Sri Lanka is that it comes from the Sinhala "Ratna" meaning gems and "pura" meaning city.[2] Ratnapura is also spelled as Ratnapura. Located some 101 km south east of Colombo, it is the centre of a long-established industry of precious stone mining including rubies, sapphires, and other gems. Apart from gem mining, the town is known for rice and fruit cultivations. Large plantations of tea and rubber surround the town. Tea grown in this region is called low-country tea. There is a well-established tourism industry in Ratnapura. Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Udawalawe National Park, Kitulgala, and Adam's Peak are especially popular among tourists. In 1901, the town of Ratnapura had a population of 4,084, and in 2001, it had increased to 46,309. The population of the Ratnapura district was 1,008,164 in 2001, and this consisted of 86.42% Buddhists and 9.88% Hindus, with the rest of the population being Christians and Muslims.

Political
The town is ruled by a municipal council headed by a mayor. The council is elected by popular vote and has 15 seats. There were 29159 registered voters in the 2006 local authorities’ elections. Health Ratnapura provincial hospital is the largest hospital in the Sabaragamuwa province Which is equipped with two surgical units two medical units ,an orthopaedic unit, two gynaecology and obstetrics units two paediatrics units an ENT unit, An neurology unit, A rheumatology unit, a dermatology unit, Psychiatric unit and a cardiology unit. It also a post graduate training centres.

Gem Trade
The people of the town depend on the gem trade. Gem pits are a common site in the surrounding area. Most of the large-scale gem businessmen of Sri Lanka operate from Ratnapura. There are considerable numbers of foreign gem traders in town too. Among the foreign traders, Thai (Thailand) traders are in the majority. Every day, large number of traders from suburbs and other towns gather in the town centre to sell or buy gemstones. Large-scale merchants collect gemstones from locals and sell them in the international market. Some traders go out of the city to buy gems. This includes neighbouring towns like Kalawana, Bogawantalawa, and Ela-era. After the discovery of world-class alluvial sapphire deposits in the valley of Ilakaka in Madagascar, many Ratnapura merchants travel out of the country to Madagascar to buy gems.

Agriculture
The town's agricultural industry is also well developed. Large plantations of tea and rubber surround the town. Although rice fields also used to be a common sight around the town, rice cultivation presently faces an uncertain future in Ratnapura because many farmers are giving up their rice cultivation and switching to gem mining which is a more productive way of earning money. If many farmers give up on agriculture, it would be harder for farmers to harvest enough food for them and to trade in the markets. Many delicious fruits like mango and papaya) and vegetables are grown as market products.

Transport
Ratnapura is located in the A4 Highway which connects capital Colombo to Kalmunai in the Eastern Province. Another Highway A8 connects the town with Panadura in the western coast of Sri Lanka. During the British occupation of the Island, narrow gauge train track was laid in 1912 connecting Colombo - Avissawella - Ratnapura - Opanayaka however line Avissawella onwards removed in 1976.  

Maha Saman Devalaya
  This is a shrine dedicated to the god Saman. The god Saman is (a Buddhist deity) considered to be the guardian of Ratnapura.

When the Portuguese captured Ratnapura, the ancient shrine that stood at this location was destroyed and a Portuguese church was constructed on top of it. When the Kandyan kingdom recaptured Ratnapura, the Portuguese church was destroyed and the shrine was rebuilt. Although there is no direct evidence to support the existence of the old shrine, indirect evidence supports the existence of a shrine that looked like a Hindu temple at the current location before Portuguese times. Currently this shrine is a very important place of worship for Buddhists.

Sri Pada
Ratnapura is situated at the foot of the 2243 metre high Adam's Peak. All four major religions claim Adam's Peak as a holy mountain. Buddhists call the mountain Sri Pada (the sacred footprint), or Samanalakanda (Butterfly Mountain) and believe the Lord Buddha has visited the mountain and set his sacred footprint. This place is known for its miracles. All people who go to worship should talk gently and behave gently. Ratnapura is also the starting point for the 'Classic' Hard route up Adam's Peak, via Gileemale and Carney estate. The Pilgrimage season starts on Poya (full moon) day in December and runs until the start of the South-West Monsoon in April. It has been a pilgrimage centre for over 1000 years. King Parakramabahu and King Nissankamalla of Polonnaruwa provided Ambalama or 'resting places' for weary pilgrims along the mountain route. The other more popular route is through Dalhousie (pronounced 'Del-house') close to Dikoya.

Peter-Paul Church
The history of Catholics in Ratnapura begins with Portuguese rule in Ratnapura. Very few Catholics lived in the town in the 17th century. Many of them are the descendants of Portuguese and locals that they married. There is evidence to suggest that the Portuguese built a church on top of a destroyed Buddhist temple. That Portuguese church was destroyed when the Kandyan kingdom recaptured Ratnapura from the Portuguese.  

The current church was built in a different location along the Main Street of Ratnapura (inside the town). The Church building being used now is said to be inspired by Joseph Vaz during the 17th century when he visited Ratnapura as a part of his apostolic mission to Sabaragamuwa. After Sabaragamuwa became a diocese on 2 November 1995. Peter-Paul's Church was raised to the status of the Cathedral of the diocese.

Diva Guhawa
A cave temple, believes to be that the place Buddha had rest while visiting Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) with his 500 priests, as in Mahawamsa one of the nine places Buddha had visited during his third visit to the Sri Lanka. Spectacular view of Samanala Kanda (mountain of Sri Pada) and size of the cave (able to shelter over 500 people at once) lead widely acceptance as Diva Guhawa. About 5 km Kuruwita town (10 km towards to Colombo from Ratnapura) on Eratna road, one of the ancient roads to Sri Pada, directs to Diva Guhawa.

Bobath Ella
  Situated at Kuruwita; few miles away from Colombo Ratnapura high level road and very easy access by vehicle. Both waterfalls attract visitors from all over the country to Ratnapura. You are permitted to bathe in this waterfall, but warning for flash flood may appear in a matter of minutes. Despite its danger the beauty of this place is a gem to Ratnapura. You have to turn to left at Higgassena close to Kuruwita from the main Colombo - Ratnapura road go about 2 KM. The fall is like a boo leaf that gives it name.
 
Katugas Ella
A popular water fall among locals,situated at Mahawalawatta, 3 km away from Ratnapura town. Kirindi Ella The seventh highest waterfall in Sri Lanka located 4 km away from Ratnapura - Pelmadulla Main road from Pelmadulla town.

Rajanawa
Situated next to Ratnapura Kalawana main road in Marapana village, this beautiful scenery been captured in few famous Sinhala films.

Gem Mines
There are many gem mines around the area, especially in paddy fields on lower ground, which are deep around 10m to 50m. Portable hand operating tools use for mining process such as shovel, picks, pans (specially made from bamboo) and cradles. Once soil lifts out from the mine, with the use of water, the dirt and mud wash out using pans and thus if there any gemstone, which heavier than normal stones, remains at the bottom of the pan as mud wash away.  
 
In the time of the Last king of Sri Lanka "Sri Vickrama Rajasingha", Ehelepola Nilame was sent to Sabaragamuwa (Ratnapura) as "Dissawe" or local governor of Sabaragamuwa. He built a small reservoir and water canal to support local rice farms. The works of this hero are still visible around the Ratnapura area and local people benefiting from his works even today. His house which is situated in the middle of Ratnapura city is now being used as the Local museum building.  
 
  The portrayal of Ehelepola as a hero is quite controversial. Once he conspired with British and betrayed the Kandy king. The King ordered the execution of his family unless Ehelepola surrendered to the king (according to the prevailing laws). His younger son became a child hero by bravely facing death, while his elder brother was hiding behind his mother.
 
Source: - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
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