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Pettah and its beauty

On Sunday morning I woke up nice and early and decided that after weeks of putting it off I was going to travel to Pettah and discover what a Sunday is like in this famous area of Colombo. The drive up was a pleasant one devoid of the traffic and mayhem that would otherwise be a constant feature here. The roads were empty and the streets had a clean look to them.

On the side of the road the loading carts pulled by the Narthambi’s were parked one behind the other in an orderly fashion. Unfortunately the Narthambi’s were not present on a Sunday and would require a visit early morning on a weekday for me to see them in action. For those who are unsure as to who these people are they are simply the cart pullers. They are responsible for the unloading of the goods and transporting them to the shops. The carts themselves are often a cause of great disorder when they are put to practice. However on this cool sunny Sunday morning the carts resembled a sense of order and discipline.

We did not linger long as I hoped to get to the Wolvendaal Church before Mass ended. Looking around at the roads I could not believe that this was the same place where in less than 24 hours the peace will be replaced with the noise and hustle and bustle of a central market place.

Arriving at the Church I took a few moments to look back down the Wolvendaal Street and take into account the transformation this area had undergone due to it being a Sunday. I then turned to the magnificent Church which has stood for 253 years and is a reminder of the Colonial past of Sri Lanka. The lone tree that stands in the front of the church is a barrier to the main street that runs up to and around the church. It provides a sense of tranquillity almost like an oasis in the desert of madness.

The grounds of the church are not vast but provide a sense of history on its own. As you walk in your eyes are drawn to the ground where a tombstone lies celebrating the arrival of the Dutch Reform Church way back in 1642. I look inside the church and realise that today I will not be able to enter and instead I am left with exploring the grounds.

Unfortunately this tombstone’s inscription has not come out clearly in the picture. It reads:

SACRED to the MEMORY of MAJOR DAVID BLAIR of the Honourable East India Company Service. Aid de Camp to His Excellency the Honourable Fredric North, Governor of Ceylon and Commifsary Central of Grain and Provisions on that Island.

He died on the 13th May 1803 aged 41 years.’

Despite the forts that stand at many of our major coastal towns the tombstone really drove home for me the fact that Sri Lanka was home to foreign powers so many centuries ago. It is further testament that amongst all the development, mess and disorder of Pettah there still stands a reminder of this past.

We moved on from the Wolvendaal Church off to the St Anthony’s church which overlooks the harbour. Unfortunately due to both security and a very grumpy grounds keeper I was unable to take many pictures of the Church. The church has stood for over a 150 years. It was originally a church built for the officers and higher ranking officials during the British colonial rule. To this day it remains a major church catering to the elite classes of Colombo and the surrounding areas.

Pettah has grown a reputation of a noisy, busy marketplace that if can be avoided should be. Travelling here on a Sunday morning has shown me that it is in fact not the case. Hidden away behind the madness is a beauty and a history. What is most intriguing is the way modernisation and history within Pettah live side by side

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Categories: Travel
  1. Chin
    September 23, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Hey I’ve been thinking of heading this way sometime this december when I’m back and get some photos with character… looks good! need to plan some stuff… thanks for the info brah!

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