Govinda Hela

Govinda Hela

Govinda Hela is also known as Westminster Abbey, which lies near Siyambalanduwa in the Monaragala district in the Uva province of Sri Lanka. The summit elevation of the Govinda Hela is 558 m (1,831 ft).

BY Palitha Weerawansa
PUBLISHED ON March 8, 2021 | LAST MODIFIED ON May 18, 2021

Govinda Hela stands 558 m (1,831 ft) tall, surrounding rivers, lakes, bunds, and elephant-infested jungles. It was once the unreachable fortress of King Buwanakabahu of the 6th century AC. He was the ruler of Eastern Digamadulla when the tyrant Invading King Kalinga Maga ruled the ancient Rajarata, the kingdom of Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa. Govinda is an abbreviation for Govinda Hela Govinda's mount is an ancient fortress of King Buwanakabahu that towers over the Jayanthi Tank, daring adventurers to scale its peak.

Folklore

According to Sri Lankan folklore, “Angampora” is a martial art form that dates back over 30,000 years. It is a physical and spiritual training of the body and mind in the art of defense combat, which was nearly lost forever during the British colonization of the island.

Govinda Hela

The Colonial British renamed the rediscovered mountain Westminster Abbey, a poor comparison and tribute to nature's magnificent creation.

Govinda is an abbreviation for Govinda Hela, a protected forest reserve, is home to the most ebony trees in a single location. Amidst hundreds of rocks, sentinels, both aging and young ebony trees, with mature specimens dark black, stand sentinel at every nook, corner, and turn.

The forest is dominated by rocks of all sizes – small, large, and giant, some of which form deep caverns. The image of the wilderness is completed by trees with vines snaking around their trunks and thick scrub. The winding paths and stepping stones are frequently treacherous due to a carpet of dry leaves rather than moisture. The forest reserve is home to numerous bird species as well as large families of wild boars, which can surprise unwary visitors. The 2 km ascent is not for the faint of heart, and without a proper guide, the chances of becoming lost in the jungles surrounding Govinda Hela are high.

The trek becomes dangerous after crossing two bridges and traveling nearly half a kilometer, with many steep rocks and high slopes. The journey was more difficult nearly a decade ago when climbers had to negotiate uneven rocks and a rope ladder to reach the summit. Thankfully, the conditions have improved, with newly constructed cemented steps and aluminum ladders installed over the rock faces.

The view from the top, as well as the cool breeze, make up for the attempts, exhaustion, and aching limbs from the daredevil climb. The ruins on top include the remains of a palace and a monastery, but the main attraction is the 'Hulan Kapolla,' space between two rocks through which a gushing wind blows, with the loud but unmistakable sound of a strong blast. Climbers congregate to test the strength of the wind and enjoy the refreshing breeze.

Govinda Hela
Govinda Hela

The climax of the climb however is the view from the top, which extends beyond the boundaries of the Gal Oya basin and encompasses reservoirs, mountains, and streams, putting man's creations in the shade of nature's grand creation.

Route to Govinda Hela

The trek begins at the Sri Buvanekabahu Viharaya in Siyambalanduwa, about 300 km from Colombo in the Moneragala district, and the incumbent priest of the temple is a gracious host, assisting the climbers' dire needs in times of trouble.