History of Nugegoda- A different perspective to a recent TV presentation


by Jagath C. Savanadasa

A recent TV presentation on Nugegoda did not convey a true perspective of the history of this ancient town. Fortunately it was a brief and fleeting presentation and did not do much harm to this town which has a rich legacy.

Without pointing out to each and every error, let me for the benefit of those who watched the programme give some salient historical facts on Nugegoda.

Nugegoda, centuries ago was a part of the kingdom of Kotte where Buddhism and culture flourished. The name Nugegoda was originally known as Nugen Egodaha. According to history during the period of the kingdom of Kotte, Nugegoda was a combination of a dense forest of Nuga trees and a swamp. The king at the time decreed that prisoners be taken across to a Nuga tree close to today’s intersection between Poorvarama Road and Rupasinghe Mavatha and beheaded. The king only said "Nugen Egodahata aran Pala" but the King’s men understood that it implied the death sentence which was duly carried out. The Nuga tree under which the executions were conducted was later cut down to make way for the road development plans of the Kotte Urban Council. Strangely enough, all those who were involved in the destruction of the tree died mysteriously. The villagers in the distant times held the belief that the Nuga tree was an abode of spirits, and any harm caused to it by anyone would be cursed.

The area that was originally called Nugen-Egodaha, eventually evolved to be Nugegoda.

During the time of the Kings of Kotte the forest teemed with elephants. It had several waterways which were infested with crocodiles and in the rainy season Nugegoda was completely flooded. The few humans who inhabited the place used padda boats to move about.

When the three European naval powers occupied Sri Lanka in turn the country was subject to a transformation. Its impact was both beneficial and detrimental. During the time of the Portuguese, there is evidence of the destruction of Buddhist temples and places of religious worship. At that time Nugegoda was a walled garrison town.

The Dutch who followed were masters of physical connectivity which is considered an essential component of economic development. They constructed a number of canals in and around Colombo and one such prominent canal was the Nawala canal that was extremely valuable for the transportation of humans and goods.

The Dutch left an indelible imprint on education and religion too. They established a number of schools in Nugegoda and its environs.

In the 17th century when the Dutch ruled, print technology was introduced to this country and it was the Dutch who printed the Sinhala letters for the first time.

With the advent of the British, Nugegoda was subject to further changes, some of which were very beneficial.

The Kelani Valley railway line was first conceived in 1890 .This followed the publication of a map that included Maradana and extended up to Nugegoda. A British Engineer named Warring pioneered the Kelani Valley railway line during the tenure of the Governor of Ceylon Robert Brownrigg. The first station on this line was Borella built in 1892. The second, was planned to be built in Mirihana , but was later relocated in Nugegoda in 1904.The next stations were Nawinna and Pannipitiya respectively. The K.V line extended to Avissawella and finally to Karawanella. However the trains later journeyed only up to Avissawella ,perhaps due to some technical issues connected to the rail track.

The High Level Road commenced construction around 1934. It was earlier known as Aluth Para which replaced the original name Rathu Para- a gravel road. This feature brought about a major change to the socio-economic development of Nugegoda, and the surrounding areas driving this country towards a modern era of growth.

The British also ushered a new system of education in Nugegoda which was preceded by the spread of Christianity..

Several educational institutions were begun by the Christian missionaries in Nugegoda .The first school established by the church with assistance from the leading Christians in the area was St. John’s College located within the premises of the church of S.S Mary and John in 1915,later relocated in a bigger ground. Subsequently St. John’s girls school came up. Among other leading schools Anula Vidyalaya, a Buddhist Girls school was established in 1941 followed by St. Joseph’s Convent.

All these institutions have played an important role in producing men and women of disti nction who have over the years been the backbone of the rise of Nugegoda.

The present day Nugegoda is also the home of many recognized International schools.

Nugegoda had been a mix of ethnic groups, one such besides the Sinhalese was the Burgher community.

Towards the late 1970’s when the administrative capital was shifted to Kotte, Nugegoda too was subject to a significant economic and social uplift.


-A distinguished old Johnian and historian – Fredrick Medis who was also the Vice President of the Royal Asiatic Society, readily provided information which helped in the compilation of this article.

-Nugegoda – Glimpses of the past – by Mervyn Herath/ Jagath Savanadasa. Sarasavi Publications Ltd.2009

St. John’s College -Nugegoda -100 years of Excellence – by Jagath Savanadasa - Neptune Publications Ltd.

Email- jaysavana123@gmail.com.

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