Bothale Walauwa

Don Spater Senanayake’s Residence

Bothale is a small village in the Hapitigame Korale of the Negombo district in the Western Province of Sri Lanka. It’s where the Senanayake family established their roots, dating back to the Anuradhapura Era in AD 253-266.

According to local folklore, the King sent a delegation from Mahiyangana with a sapling of the sacred Bo Tree to be planted at the shrine at Attanagalle. On their way to their destination, the delegation retired for the night, placing the sapling upon a suitable location. The next morning, the sapling had taken root, earning the area the name “Bothale”, derived from “Bodhi-tale”, meaning “The place where the Bo sapling took root”.

The Senanayake family members can be traced back to Chief Brahmana, Kulawansa Senanayake, who accepted the responsibility to protect the Bo Tree. He constructed the Bothale Sri Gotabhaya Raja Maha Viharaya, from which the sacred Bo tree still stands to this day.

The village was of significant importance during the sixteenth century. Strategically located between the Kandyan Kingdom and the maritime districts, it was the main outpost for the Portuguese during battle. It remained a stronghold for both parties simultaneously, famed for its potential to cause great loss to the enemy.

The Senanayake family’s ancestral home, “Bothale Walauwa” was built in 1865 by Mudaliyar Don Spater Senanayake on a 35 acre land and can still be seen today.

Don Spater Senanayake was a successful entrepreneur having developed a successful business in graphite mining, owning several mines. He was awarded the honorary title of Mudaliyar by Governor Sir Joseph West Ridgeway for his philanthropy. The house became to be known as the Bothale Walauwa. By tradition a Mudaliyar’s home was known as a Walauwa and received due respect among the inhabitants of the locality or village.

He expanded his business into plantations and investments in the arrack renting franchise in an around Bothale and opening offices in Colombo.

Spater Senanayake owned another house in Colombo. Shamrock, situated at No.594, Galle Road, Colpetty, is yet another heritage awaiting to suffer the unfortunate fate in days to come. It was built as a stately home fitted even at about the same time as the above with every conceivable amenity.

It was a house that had its own tennis court and patronised by the late Sir Francis Soysa and his family which included Stanley (later a finance minister), Bunty who was a QC par excellence and Lucian who represented the country in cricket; he was also a renowned commentator. The land extended from Galle Road to the railway line. 

Following the death of Don Spater Senanayake in 1907, his tomb was erected in the grounds of Bothale Walauwa.

Bothale Walauwa passed on to Mudaliyar’s son Don Stephen “D.S.” Senanayake, who with his brothers became active in local politics, entered the Legislative Council of Ceylon and thereafter the State Council of Ceylon. Becoming a prominent State Council Minister and national leader; D. S. Senanayake was leading the infinitive to gain Ceylon’s independence from Britain and right to self-rule in 1948, becoming the first Prime Minister of Ceylon.

During his long political career, Senanayake used Bothale as his country seat having been elected to parliament from the Mirigama electorate.

Following Senanayake’s death while in office, the house was passed on to his family. The Senanayake family still holds ownership of the house and the estate while the house has been descaled an archaeological protected monument by the Sri Lankan government on 3 September 1999.

Credit – Wikipedia, Daily Mirror, Senanayake Family, Sithu Rathnayake

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