Tissawewa Resthouse — the heritage house where Time stands still

rest.jpg (12034 bytes)by Wilfred Lasz
Tissawewa Resthouse, which is located within the sacred city of Anuradhapura, was built over a hundred years ago, in the heyday of British Colonial rule, and was then known as the "Grand Hotel".

Mr. Chaminda Fernando, Manager, Tissawewa Resthouse, was effusive about its old world charm and told The Sunday Island that the management was at great pains to maintain and preserve such ambience of the place at any cost. Set in a huge park with a variety of tropical hardwoods and the perennial chirping of birdsong and chatter of monkeys, the setting confirmed what Mr. Fernando had underlined.

In fact, it is situated within the precincts of the ancient royal pleasure gardens. The verdant surroundings induce a sense of relaxation while evoking the grandeur that was Anuradhapura.

A word about Anuradhapura would not be out of place. It had been the seat of the Sinhala kingdom from about the Third Century BC, but fell into disuse around the 11th Century owing to the frequent invasions from south India. The capital then shifted to Polonnaruwa and later on to south Sri Lanka.

The region, also known as Nuwara Kalaviya, was for long overrun by the jungle and only rediscovered in the late 19th Century by men such as H. C. P. Bell. The British colonial masters knew they were on to a great find. They began excavations and soon found the ruins of a great civilization.

There were ruins of great buildings and monasteries, a network of irrigation canals, massive reservoirs and royal pleasure gardens. Today Anuradhapura falls within the Cultural Triangle comprising Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Dambulla.

Tissawewa Resthouse is conveniently situated as a focal point for visitors wishing to recapture the glory days of Anuradhapura, while enjoying the modern amenities as it is also the administrative capital of the North Central Province.

Anuradhapura was not merely the seat of ancient Sinhala kings, but is also pungent with the historical Buddhist heritage — it contains the Sri Maha Bodhi (sprung from a sapling of the venerated pipul tree in Bodh Gaya under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment), the Thuparamaya (where the collar bone relic of the Buddha is enshrined) and the centre in which Sri Lanka was converted to Buddhism.

Thus the mix of ancient Sinhala-Buddhism and the pervasive consumerism of the modern world works in tandem to make Tissawewa Resthouse an ideal place for eco-tourism. It is a heritage property with British colonial furnishings — archaic easy chairs, four-poster beds, rice chests, swirling vintage overhead fans and even an antique gramophone — swished by waiters in traditional uniforms. All these features conspire to transit one backwards in space and time to a more leisurely era.

The grand resthouse has twenty five rooms, each different from the other, opening out to verandahs and exotic gardens of verdure and on to the lovely Mirisavetiya Dagoba. The perfect place for stressed people to unwind themselves.

One could ask for local or western meals, freshly cooked or enjoy a fresh lime and soda or simply relax to the surrounding jungle symphony.
(Pix by Maureen Perera)