Beruwela – how it got its name

According to some historians Beruwela derived its name from two Sinhala words which denotes the place where the sails (of the Arab merchant vessels) were lowered. He goes on to quote the Arabic cry of Ber, Ber! to transform an old place name which is explicit of the change of a prominent topographical feature of the district of which Beruwela and Barberyn form only a small area.

There is more support in history as well as the Sinhala language for the idea that Beruwela derived its name from the motivation and enterprise of a King of days gone by. The hinterland of Beruwela had been a vast expanse of marsh or ‘wela’. It was as it is now a catchment for the monsoon rains which come down hard in the district.

The vast expanse of marsh was drained on the orders of the king. The network of canals which took the water away is seen to this day. In fact, the hinterland apart from the high ground is yet an expanse of wetland.

When the marsh was drained (beru), there was no better name for it than the drained marsh – Beruwela.

One wonders if the native Sinhalese were living there after the marsh was drained and Beruwela became a habitable place saw the sails folding on the horizon and called the place ‘Bey ruwela’ in an Arabic accent. It should have been ‘Ba’ to lower.

Or whether those fleeing from the poverty of their lives in the desert (no oil or water then) had the command of the Sinhala language to give the place such a name from far out in the sea.

It is a general rule that our place names are derived from the local topographical features and not from the impressions of sailors from afar.

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