Friday, June 20, 2014

Gem Museum, Batugedera, Rathnapura, Sri Lanka.

A representation of a cross section of a 'Gem-pit' on display at the museum.
The famous 'Arabian Nights' has a story of gems most probably relating to Rathnapura of Sri Lanka. It goes as follows.
There is an inaccessible valley in these parts, whose bottom is strewn with gems of every hue and colour. Pieces of fresh meat on which a sticky gum from a tree in these parts (most probably the Jak or 'Kos' tree) is smeared and is thrown down into the valley by the natives. Scores of a large bird called a 'Roc' by the natives (?'Brahminy Kite') swoop down, pick these pieces of meat with the gems adhering to it and carry them to their nests to feed their young. These nests are then raided by the locals and the gems picked out to be sold by them.
Rathnapura is the land famed for gems from time immemorial. Foreign merchants, Arabs, Persians, Indians, and Chinese used to travel up the Kalu Ganga by boat from Kaluthara on the western sea-board of the Island, to Batugedera in Rathnapura. The two targets of these travelers was to climb the holy Adam's Peak also known as Sri Pada and to buy gems which were mined in the area.
Now there is a superb highway from Colombo to Rathnapura roughly a 100Km distance. From Rathnapura which has a thriving market in uncut gems, to Batugedera is about 3 Kilometers on the Badulla highway. The Gem Museum at Batugedera is on the left hand side of the road. It is owned and managed by Mr. Bodhi Amerasinghe who has a degree in Gemmology from Germany, his charming wife Wimala and daughter Palika who also has a degree in Gemmology from Germany. They have a nice museum exhibiting the different varieties of gems. They also have a sales point where jewelry using gems mined locally to suit the tastes of tourists is found. These items of jewelry are produced here and a guarantee card is given with each item of jewelry. This place is well worth a visit.