Notes on the Geography of Sri Lanka: Peradeniya
Peradeniya is known abroad either as a world-class botanical garden or as Sri Lanka's once promising, now faded, national university; it's also a town, however, surrounded by a very distinctive rural landscape. The pictures here begin with the botanical garden but jump to the countryside.
Hard to believe it's Sri Lanka, but it is: it's the great lawn of the Peradeniya Botanical Garden.
Although the garden was established as a hardheaded economic undertaking, it was also designed with an eye for beauty.
Like many botanical gardens of the colonial era, it's full of fully grown trees.
One example: Kauri pines from Queensland.
An empty monument to George Gardner, a medical doctor who botanized in Brazil and in 1843 was, on the recommendation of William Hooker, appointed director at Peradeniya. He served until his death of apoplexy in 1849, at age 37.
For a time there was a Latin inscription on the monument, but it has disappeared. It read: GEORGIUS GARDNER/ SOC. LINN. SOC./ HORUM HORTORUM/ AB ANNO 1843, AD 1849/ CUSTOS/ REI HERBARLAE PERITUS/ VIARUM STRENUUS/ FLORES HERBAS ARBORES/ UTRIUSQUE ORBIS DILIGENTISSIME SERVATUS EST/ QUI UT IN MEMORIAM HABEATUR/ HOC CENOTAPHIUM POSUERENT/ AMICI TAPROBANENSES/ A.D. 1855./ OBIIT IN URBE NUWARA ELIYA./ VI ID. MART, ANNO 1849,/ AETAT 37.
The garden sits in a horseshoe curve of the Mahaweli Ganga; here, just upstream, is the railway bridge across the river.
No acrophobes, please.
Across the river: a "deniya," (yes, as in Peradeniya), which is to say a thin, linear band of paddy.
The bands of paddy appear on maps as concentric ovals a couple of miles long on their greater axes.
This isn't a cultural phenomenon: it's geologic, because we're in the midst of half a dozen ancient (precambrian) basins. The deniyas overlie easily weathered rocks; separating the deniyas from more resistant ridges such as this one, truncated here in a quarry.
Bedrock-floored streams breach the ridges.
A monastery path traces the margin between a ridge and deniya.
The land not in paddy tends to be thickly planted with tree crops--in this case, some coffee.
The path winds down to the deniya.
Nearby, a small shrine.
One of the big changes coming to land-use here is the invasion of houses onto deniyas. Paddy is now so economically marginal, and land values are so high, that the trend seems inevitable.
The conversion breaks the deniyas into bits and pieces of the original ovals.
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