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Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia

Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia

[de-hi-wah-luh-mount luh-vin-ee-uh]

Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia Is a newly created city lying immediately south of Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka. It is the result of certain key urban suburbs and communities combined for administrative purposes. The centres include Dehiwala and the beach resort of Mount Lavinia. Population (2001) 209,787. It is also home to Sri Lanka's National Zoological Gardens which remains one of Asia's largest. Dehiwela and Mount Lavinia lie directly south of Colombo along the Galle Road artery which runs along the coast down to the south of the country.

Dehiwala The town of Dehiwela has seen rapid industrialisation and urbanisation in recent years. Located on the border to Colombo, the cheaper land has resulted in a real estate boom with hyper-markets, department stores and apartment complexes dotting its skyline. There are also many housing schemes surrounding the the wild-life inhabited Attidiya Lake further inland - one of these is Lotus Grove which is also reported to be the first enclosed complex of its kind in the country.

The town has also suffered extensive pollution as a result of uncontrolled growth and heavy congestion. Road expansion has been futile and the consideration of over-head roads and Colombo Metro Skytrain line are currently underway to ease the problem.

Mount Lavinia The town is largely a middle class and mostly residential suburb that had until now escaped most of the damaging industrialisation of neighbouring cities and urban centres. Famed for its "Golden Mile" of beaches, it has often been a hot spot for tourism and laid back nightlife.It is one of the most liberal regions in Sri Lanka and also plays host to the island's annual gay pride, including the famed Rainbow Kite Festival.

Mount Lavinia is steeped in history. The city's name is built up around the original residence of Sir Thomas Maitland who was the Governor General of Ceylon from 1805-1811. At a welcoming party held in his honour on his arrival in the island he set his eyes upon Lovina, a local mestizo dancer, whose father was the Headman of the troupe. Sir Thomas was smitten by her smile and charms and soon found himself obsessed by her and took every measure possible to see more of her.

As it was highly unconventional for an unmarried British Officer to be seen associating with a local dancing girl, Sir Thomas and his lover met in secret. Legend says she was smuggled into his mansion through a secret tunnel that led from her father's well into a wine cellar in the house.

In 1811, social convention and duty to his King, led Sir Thomas Maitland to ultimately leave the country for Malta, where he lived and died as a bachelor. The tunnel was eventually sealed up in 1920 and the Gypsy village that surrounded the Governor’s mansion developed into a modern bustling city that took it's name from the beautiful Lovina. But the Governor’s home which he named "Mount Lavinia House" and his monument to his only love has been preserved within the walls and high ceilings of what is today the world famous Mount Lavinia Hotel.

The statue of 'Lady' Lavinia, as the girl later became known, is still found in the middle of a water fountain at the entrance of the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

But, there are other explanations too rooted in geography and the natural surroundings, when it comes to the origin of the name Mount Lavinia. The Sinhalese who lived on the coastal belt had for long named the promontory "Lihiniya Kanda" or "Lihiniyagala" meaning the hill of the sea gull or the rock of the sea gull.

The local name for the town today is Galkissa - Kissa being a somewhat obsolete Sinhala word for rock. Legend takes over once again with the story of a large treasure from a shipwreck being hidden among the rocks here.

Whatever the legends, the town came into official recognition when Governor Maitland used the postal address Mt. Lavinia, Ceylon, in 1805, while writing to the British Secretary of State, Lord Castlereagh.

Suburbs in the LG area

  • Dehiwela
  • Mount Lavinia
  • Kalubowila
  • Kohuwela
  • Ratmalana

The Governor's House

This historical site situated on short cliff on the beach of Mount Lavinia, built around 1805-1811 by the British Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Sir Thomas Maitland and later when the governor's house was moved to the current President's House, Colombo the house was turned into a hotel. During World War II the hotel was used as a military hospital. Some scenes of the film The Bridge on the River Kwai where filmed at the house. In 1947 Mount Lavinia Hotel started operating in this house.

Saint Thomas' College

Mount Lavinia also houses Saint Thomas' College ,one of the most famous schools in Sri Lanka.

Demographics

Ethnicity Population % Of Total
Sinhalese 158,070 75.35
Sri Lankan Tamils 22,737 10.84
Indian Tamils 2,060 0.98
Sri Lankan Moors 20,357 9.70
Other (including Burgher, Malay) 6,563 3.13
Total 209,787 100
Source: Government Census

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