Kandy, the Hill Capital of Sri Lanka, a busy and compact city situated in the midst of the hills in the Kandy plateau is a booming tourist destination. Kandy is home to many historically and culturally significant locations, but today, we look at some of the lesser known, easily overlooked architecturally significant constructions that dot the greater Kandy area.
The City of Kandy is surrounded by hills. It also happens to be encircled by the Mahaveli River on three sides. Thus, if you’re on one of the main roads that lead to Kandy, you must cross the Mahaweli River at Peradeniya, Katugasthota or Tennekumbura. Don’t believe me? Take a look at an old motor map, or Google maps! The Peradeniya, Katugasthota and Tennekumbura bridges are quite popular, but did you know that there are three Suspension bridges that span the Mahaveli River as well?
Wikipedia defines a suspension bridge as a type of bridge in which the deck, or the load-bearing portion, is hung below suspension cables on vertical suspenders. This type of bridge has cables suspended between towers, plus vertical suspender cables that carry the weight of the deck below, upon which traffic crosses. This arrangement allows the deck to be level or to arc upward for additional clearance.
Now, think about it? Can you remember where you’ve seen a suspension bridge in Kandy? If you’re thinking about the bridge that you come across at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya, you are correct!
Suspension bridges served as a utility in the days gone by, but today, they are mostly for fun! There is a certain thrill in crossing a suspension bridge,as it bounces and sways from side to side with each step you take. As you keep moving towards the center of the bridge, the amplitude of the bouncing increases, you hear the screeching of the steel cables while the wooden planks squeak beneath your feet. For many, walking across this type of bridge can be quite nerve wrecking. But, if you’re not afraid of heights, and you are young at heart, it could be lots of fun. But remember, no matter how much fun it is, you need to keep your wits about you, and take necessary safety precautions when crossing a suspension bridge.
The suspension bridge which connects the Royal Botanic Gardens with Gannoruwa across the mighty Mahaweli River is easily the most popular suspension bridge in Kandy. It consists of two pairs of 9.5 meter high steel pillars that hold the steel cables of the 127 meter long bridge. The bridge was built in 1931 during the British regime. The Bridge is well maintained and is a special attraction to those visiting the Botanic Gardens. For quite some time, the only way to reach this bridge was to enter the Gardens via the main entrance at Peradeniya, and make your way through the garden towards the bridge. But now, you can purchase a ticket to visit the Botanic Gardens at the ticket counter at Gannoruwa and enter the Gardens via the bridge. If you happen to be travelling from Colombo, drive down Gannoruwa Road towards Gattambe junction, the bridge is to the right near the turn off to Muruthalawa.
The suspension Bridge at Dodanwela is my personal favorite. My wife and I used to visit the bridge back when we were dating. On a Saturday afternoon, the two of us would take the Dodanwela bus from the bus stop adjacent to the Kandy Clock Tower. We would walk onto the middle of bridge and enjoy the sceneries while we whispered sweet nothings in each other’s ear. Until quite recently, the Dodanwela Bridge was used by many pedestrians to cross from Dodanwela to Halloluwa. On January 7th 2017, in an attempt to reduce traffic congestion in the Kandy city, the government declared open a new, much bigger bridge right next to the suspension bridge. The suspension bridge is still used by pedestrians, but the scenic beauty is obstructed by the massive new bridge. To get to the Dodanwela Bridge, drive down Gannoruwa road towards Gattambe, take the turn to the left just before the new bridge and proceed along Halloluwa road towards Katugasthota. The bridge is to the right just as you pass the turn off to Yatihalagala.
The third suspension bridge is found at Lewella. Here too, the suspension bridge is supplemented by a much large bridge that facilitates both motor traffic as well as pedestrians. Thus, the suspension bridge has been rendered obsolete. The rusty old bridge, found along Sirimalwatta Road is now unusable in its dilapidated state. Locals of the area have requested the authorities to relocate and restore the bridge. If it is done, it will not only serve its utility function, but it would also provide fun loving people an opportunity to enjoy the thrill of walking across a suspension bridge.