City List

Ratnapura

Ratnapura Sri LankaRatnapura (which translates to "City of Gems" in Sinhala and Tamil) is the name of the provincial capital of Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka and the Ratnapura District in which the town is situated.
Distance From Colombo : 102 km
Some say the modern name is derived from the Portuguese name Rapadura for 'jaggery', the palm candy produced traditionally in this region, but the more common explanation in Sri Lanka is that it comes from the Sinhala "ratna" meaning gems and "pura" meaning city.

Ratnapura is also spelled as Rathnapura. Located some 101 km south east of Colombo, it is the centre of a long-established industry of precious stone mining including rubies, sapphires, and other gems. Apart from gem mining, the town is known for rice and fruit cultivations. Large plantations of tea and rubber surround the town. Tea grown in this region is called low-country tea. There is a well-established tourism industry in Ratnapura.

Sinharaja rain forest, Uda Walawe National Park, Kitulgala, and Sri pada are especially popular among tourists. In 1901, the town of Ratnapura had a population of 4,084, and in 2001, it had increased to 46,309. The population of the Ratnapura district was 1,008,164 in 2001, and this consisted of 86.42% Buddhists and 9.88% Hindus, with the rest of the population being Christians and Muslims.

Gem trade: The town depends on the gem trade. Gem pits are a common site in the surrounding area. Most of the large-scale gem businessmen of Sri Lanka operate from Ratnapura. There are considerable numbers of foreign gem traders in town too. Among the foreign traders, Thai (Thailand) traders are in the majority. Every day, large number of traders from suburbs and other towns gather in the town centre to sell or buy gemstones.

Large-scale merchants collect gemstones from locals and sell them in the international market. Some traders go out of the city to buy gems. This includes neighbouring towns like Kalawana, Bogawantalawa, and Ela-era. After the discovery of world-class alluvial sapphire deposits in the valley of Ilakaka in Madagascar, many Ratnapura merchants travel out of the country to Madagascar to buy gems.

Agriculture: The town's agricultural industry is also well developed. Large plantations of tea and rubber surround the town. Although rice fields also used to be a common sight around the town, rice cultivation presently faces an uncertain future in Ratnapura because many farmers are giving up their rice cultivation and switching to gem mining which is a more productive way of earning money. If many farmers give up on agriculture, it would be harder for farmers to harvest enough food for them and to trade in the markets. Many delicious fruits like mango and papaya) and vegetables are grown as market products.

Ratnapura is located in the A4 Highway which connects capital Colombo to Kalmunai in the Eastern Province. Another Highway A8 connects the town with Panadura in the western coast of Sri Lanka. During the British occupation of the Island, narrow gauge train track was laid in 1912 connecting Colombo - Avissawella - Ratnapura - Opanayake however line Avissawella onwards removed in 1976. Thus reducing the mode of transportation to road. In 2006, construction started on a new broad gauge railway line to Awissawella only.

Ratnapura is located in the south-western part of Sri Lanka, the so-called wet zone. The town receives rainfall mainly from south-western monsoons from May to September. During the remaining months of the year, there is also considerable precipitaion due to convective rains. The average annual precipitation is about 4,000 to 5,000 mm. The average temperature varies from 24 to 35 C, and there are high humidity levels.The city is above 21m from sea level.

Floods: The town of Ratnapura is situated in the flooding plain of the river Kalu. The town experiences regular floods usually in the month of May. There is no large dam across the Kalu, so this leaves the city at the mercy of nature's forces every year. Several proposals have been made to reduce the flood risk in the town, but none has reached the feasibility stage. In May 2003, the town experienced the largest flood since the independence of Sri Lanka from Britain in 1947.

There are many places of worship in and around the city. Buddhist places of worship are more in number, which is to be expected since Buddhists constitute the great majority in the area. Nevertheless, there are plenty of places of worship in the town related to other religions. The following are some important examples:
  • Maha Saman Devala (Buddhist)
  • Delgamu Viharaya (Buddhist)
  • Pothgul Viharaya (Buddhist)
  • SS Peter and Paul's Cathedral (Catholic Church)
  • St. Luke's Church(Church of England)
  • Siva Temple (Hindu)
  • Jumma Mosque (Islam)
  • Diva Guhava (Buddhist)
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