Hidden Wonders On Chaitya Road
By Raisa Wickrematunge - Photos by Gazala Anver
Chaitya road, that stretch adjacent to the Ceylon Continental Hotel, was shut to the public for years, considered a high security zone.
There is still a police post, and you will still be questioned if you venture down that road in a vehicle. The good news is that it’s now possible to walk down this road. To your left is a wide expanse of sea. You’ll also pass the harbour, bordered by high walls. One of the main landmarks on this road, though, is the Galle Buck lighthouse.
This is often called the ‘new’ lighthouse; the original was built in the mid-19th century, and stood on the corner of Chatham Street.
However, the light from the structure was blocked by tall buildings, and so the old lighthouse was turned into a clock tower.
The ‘new’ chequered lighthouse stands in stark relief as you walk down the road. A plaque on the structure reveals that it was built in 1954.
It was called the ‘Gal Bokka’ lighthouse, but the British anglicised the name to the current ‘Galle Buck.’
It’s possible to climb the steps to the base of the lighthouse, which give more sweeping sea views, with the harbour to the right.
A navy officer stationed at the lighthouse said that the structure was built by a German. Walking around, you’ll notice what looks like a constructed open air shallow pond. This, the officer said, was meant to be a bathing spot. Unfortunately it’s not yet possible to get onto the beach and explore this area further, though.
Walking further down Chaitya road, you’ll notice the Sea Angler’s Club, where many eager fishermen gathered, once upon a time. Beyond that, you can’t fail to notice the Sambuddhatva Jayanthi Chaitya- constructed on tall, curved ‘stilts.’ Around sunset, it looks rather like a strange sort of spider overlooking the sea. Walking up to it you will notice a brown gate. It is possible to take a lift up to the top of the dagoba, but you’ll have to remove your shoes. This isn’t possible at any hour, the gates are usually closed around 5:30 or 6 p.m. Once you’re on the top, stop on the thin metal ‘bridge’ to admire the view; the Galle Buck lighthouse can be seen, plus a lot of construction at the Port development project, and of course, more sweeping sea views. It is possible to walk into the dagoba, which has scenes from Buddha’s life painted around the walls. Floating overhead are what look like four bodhisattva statues. The commemorative plaque reveals that the structure was built to celebrate the 2500th death anniversary of the Buddha.
A lot of navy officers are stationed on Chaitya road; you’ll see them strolling about. They are by and large, friendly, but the heavy police or navy presence can sometimes make you uneasy. It’s a shame that this road was closed off to the public for so long, but now that it is open, make sure you take a stroll that way in the early evening.
Top Left: A statue inside the Sri Sambuddhatva Chaitya
Middle Left: The new Galle Buck lighthouse
Centre: A view of the port development project
Top right: The chaitya on stilts
Middle Right: A look inside the chaitya
Below: A bathing spot built behind the Galle Buck lighthouse