Hanwella area in the Western Province have evidence dating back to 3 - 4000 years before the present (B. P.) as an area where the pre-historic man had lived. Asmadala, Korathota, Samanabedda and Varana is some of the places where Archaeologists have found this evidence close to Hanwella in the Western Province.
During the historical period from about the 3rd C B.C. after the arrival of Buddhism to the country, several places in the Western Province close to Hanwella were occupied by meditating Bhikkhus in caves at sites such as Korathota, Pilikuttuwa, Maligatenna, Varana and other places as attested by the 3rd – 1st C. B. C. inscriptions in the caves used by them. The caves at Lenawara Raja Maha Viharaya are complete with ancient drip-ledges in caves but no inscriptions for dating the Temple are found at the site.
From very early times to later periods when foreign powers such as the Portuguese, Dutch and British arrived in Sri Lanka, Hanwella was one of the main travel routes used for crossing the river to precede to Kandy. The old ford (Thotupola) used to cross the river may be the one still used which is next to the Rest House at Hanwella.
In 1521 when King Mayadunne (1521 – 1581 A. D.) started the Sitawaka Kingdom at Avissawella he fortified Hanwella to guard against the Kotte Kingdom and the Portuguese Invaders who were occupying the Fort of Colombo.
At the end of the Sitawaka Kingdom in 1594 A. D., the Portuguese captured Sitawaka and started a Fortress at Hanwella in 1597 A.D., using the European architecture for a Fortress.
The Dutch who landed in Sri Lanka in 1602 A. D captured Hanwella Fortress from the Portuguese and they constructed a larger and more beautiful fortress using “Kabok” (latte rite) and completed the Fortress in 1684 A.D.
After 1786 Hanwella Fortress came under the British rule and several battles with the Armies of the Kings of Kandy took place around the Hanwella Fortress.
In the reports of Percival in 1800 it is mentioned that a Rest House had been constructed in the Hanwella Fortress.
On 17th December 1875 King Edward the VII, Prince of Wales, has planted a Jack Tree (Artocarpus Hetaropilus) which is still growing at the Rest House premises. There are two stone seats around the Jack Tree, used by the Royalty who attended the ceremony of planting the Jack Tree. This Jack Tree is growing even today.
Description of some important sites
Hanwella has been used from early Anuradhapura period as a Ford for crossing Kelani River and later a Fort has been constructed at the site for the security of the ford.
After the death of King Vijayabahu VI (1518 – 1521 A. D.) the Kotte Kingdom was divided into three Kingdoms and King Mayadunne, the Youngest of the royal family started the Kingdom at Sitawa in 1521 and ruled till 1594 A. D. He started a Fortress at Hanwella.
Later after the end of the Sitawaka Kingdom in 1594 A. D., the Portuguese took control of the Hanwella Fort and later the Dutch took control from them and constructed a larger Fort according to a plan. The British captured it from the Dutch.
The remains of the Fort could be seen at the Rest House site, with a large Jack Tree (Artocarpus Hetaropilus) planted by King Edward VII, to commemorate his visit to Ceylon in December 1875 and two seats constructed for the Royal Family are to be seen near the Jack Tree.
These ruins of the Fort could be seen today in the Rest House premises.
The Commander Lewke’s Statue
The Sinhala Army had a Fortress at Kaluaggala – Giraimbula and the Kottalla Marsh & Paddy land was the place where a major battle with the Portuguese took place.
Lewke was the Commander of the Sinhala Army, who fought bravely, but lost the battle and Lewke too died in the battlefield.
A memory stone with the carving of the Commander has been erected in front of the Paddy fields, with a verse in Sinhala at the junction where the Low Level road and the High Level roads meets.
At Kahatapitiya, Akarawita
2 ½ Km. from Kaluaggala the remains of a Portuguese Fort and a Church are found. This Church is still used but the Fort is in ruins.
Asmadala Gala & Lenawara Temple
Asmadala gala is a cave where the Archaeologist has discovered the evidence of pre-historic man living in the cave, before the arrival of Buddhism. This is very close to Lenawara Temple.
Similar remains are found at Giridara and Samanabedda on the other side of the Kelani River.
Lenawara Temple is in a large cave with drip-ledges cut to stop the seepage of water to the cave.
No inscriptional evidence is found so far at the site, but it looks like and ancient site where meditating Bhikkhus would have lived at least as far back as the 3rd or 2nd Century Before Christ as this is the period that Buddhist Bhikkhus were living and meditating in the caves at Pilikuttuwa, Warana , Attanagalla, Korathota and Embulgamuwa all very close to Hanwella Pradeesiya Sabha area.
The paintings and Buddha Statue are of a recent period. There are other caves, several small deep ponds on top of the rock and a site said to be used for trapping Elephants (Elephant Kraal). This site may be of interest to Buddhists as well as for Tourists.
This is a small Devalaya on the Colombo – Avissawella main road where most of Motorists passing here stop to offer a coin and pray for a safe journey.
Ran Deviya is a provincial God, who is in charge of the River and Waterways and those who work in the river – Boatmen, Sand Collectors, has special respect for this God.
Kumari Wala or Kumari Ella
This is a cascading water fall by the side of a road, of which the upper part is good for bathing. This waterfall is 5 ½ Kms. from Tummodeara.
The road has to be widened and a vehicle park, changing rooms, toilet facilities has to be provided for visitors.
This is good water fall and the upper part is very good for bathing, though the lower part is more beautiful as a waterfall.
The distance is 12 Kms. From Kaluaggala and from Tummodeara Junction it is about 1 km.
The approach has to be done up, a vehicle park, changing rooms, toilet facilities has to be provided for visitors.
Hanwella Rest House
This is in a nice location overlooking the Kelani River and facilities are adequate for a visitor coming here for a short visit. Operated by the Ceylon Hotels corporation.
Ambalama Hotel, Hanwella
This is on the High Level road, approved by the Sri Lanka Tourist Board
Like the Tea Factory Hotel at Nuwara Eliya, this is an ole Tile Factory converted to a hotel.