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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.

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Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 1

Hard to believe it's Sri Lanka, but it is: it's the great lawn of the Peradeniya Botanical Garden.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 2

Although the garden was established as a hardheaded economic undertaking, it was also designed with an eye for beauty.


Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 3

Like many botanical gardens of the colonial era, it's full of fully grown trees.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 4

An example: Australian Kauri pines, from Queensland.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 5

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.


Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 6

The garden sits in a horseshoe curve of the Mahaweli Ganga; here, just upstream, is the railway bridge across the river.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 7

Track-walking monks.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 8

No acrophobes, please.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 9

From below.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 10

Across the river: a "deniya," (yes, as in Peradeniya), which is to say a thin, linear band of paddy.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 11

The bands of paddy appear on maps as concentric ovals a couple of miles long on their greater axes. 

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 12

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.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 13

Bedrock-floored streams breach the ridges.


Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 14

A monastery path traces the margin between a ridge and deniya.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 15

The land not in paddy tends to be thickly planted with tree crops--in this case, some coffee.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 16

The path winds down to the deniya.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 17

Nearby, a small shrine.

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 18

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 inevitabl

Sri Lanka: Peradeniya picture 19

The conversion breaks the deniyas into bits and pieces of the original ovals.

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