Garden of Eden

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Ibn Battuta’s visit to ‘Garden of Eden’, Sri Lanka.

Upon his visit to Sri Lanka, the most famous medieval Islamic voyager ibn Battuta described the Island wonder as “size for size, the most beautiful isle in the world”. there he rekindled his spiritual side, and made a trek up to the heights of Adam’s Peak, where he met Christians and Hindus, for the place was revered in all three faiths. Along the way, he noted the abundance of rubies and sapphires, monkeys and “flying leeches.”

Leaving his native city Tangier in 1325, at the age of twenty-one, he traveled to East Africa, Byzantium, Iraq, Southern Russia, India, Ceylon, and China for 29 years, covering 120 thousand kilometers, getting as far north as the Volga, as far East as China and as far South as Tanzania. Ibn Battuta reached Ceylon during the first week of September 1344 near Puttalam (Batthalah). he found many Arabic influences through his co-religionists, the Sri Lankan moors, a portion of seafaring Arabs of Yemen setteled in this wonderful island paradise some-time between 8th-12th centuries.

Ibn Battuta described Chilaw (Bender Selawat, which is also my home town) as the first little town after leaving Batthalah (puttalam). Ibn Battuta has also recorded that pearl fishing was in progress at Chilaw and gifted with some fine pearls by the locals. The pearls were one of the main revenue earners for the king’s coffers.

Ibn Battuta went on a pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak from Puttalam. The local rulers sent yogis, Brahmins and other men to accompany him and fifteen men to carry things. Ibn Battuta travelled via Chilaw and reached Kurunagala (Konakar), which he described as the seat of power of the principal sovereign of the Island. ‘Konakar’ may be the Arabised version of ‘Kurunakal,’ the Tamil version of Kurunagala. The Ruler is refered to as ‘Konar’ by Ibn Battuta. This Konar probably is Alagakkonar, who belonged to a powerful South Indian family.
800px-PtolemyWorldMapIbn Battuta reached Adam’s Peak traveling via the hilly part of the country and discovered that gems are found in abundance in this part of the island. From Adam’s Peak he took a southern route to Dondra (Dinewar), From there he went to Galle (Qali), thence to Colombo ( Calenbu) and from there back to Puttalam. From here he sailed to the Tamil Nadu coast.

A few years after Ibn Battuta’s return to Tangiers, the Sultan of Morocco commissioned a young writer, Ibn Juzayy, who had enjoyed Ibn Battuta’s tales, to record the traveler’s memoirs. The result was the book ‘A Gift To Those Who Contemplate The Wonders of Cities and The Marvels of Traveling,’ or ‘Travels’ (Rihalah) for short. His account of that journey provides vivid details of his visit to Sri Lanka, on the Sultanates of Delhi and the Maldives, and on the Islamic conquest of the last Madurai Pandian Kingdom.

— Mohammed Jehan Khan

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