This is a space where time stands still; where history is relived and old tales remain intact. This is the space where the rich legends of Sri Lanka and the superior architecture that left the world baffled remain etched in the very foundations of its existence.
Cinnamon Lodge Habarana is where history, culture and nature intertwine within unexplored spaces and unimaginable places. The now bustling village of Habarana, in the North Central Province, derives its name from the Sinhalese word Abarana, the collective name for jewellery and accessories, in a legend inscribed in the Mahawamsa and seen in a stone inscription on a rocky outcrop close by.
When King Valagamba was fleeing the uprising in his capital of Anuradhapura, his panicked Queen hid her regal jewellery and ornaments in this place, disguised herself as a peasant woman and was aided by the monks in the adjacent monastery in the rock temple to be smuggled to safety.
But there’s more to this Five Star resort’s marriage to Sri Lanka’s history. The 35 acre site borders an eighth century reservoir linked to an extraordinary network of waterways. It’s also dominated by two rocky outcrops, with the more imposing of the two, which directly faces west, being the 3,500 feet Ritigala Mountain, home to the famed sixth century monastery.
“It was these archaeological and historical features that defined the site,” explains Chartered Architect Ismeth Raheem, who together with Chartered Architect Pheroze Choksy were handpicked by the then Chairman of John Keells Mark Bostok to take the project forward.
On a strategy mooted by Bostok, this unbeatable architectural combination was inspired by the concept of the Ritigala Monastery, which saw them create the revolutionary architecture for this 153 suite resort.
“Tourism in Sri Lanka in 1978 was in its fledgling years and as is practiced even today, John Keells’ platform of pragmatic innovation came to the fore,” stated Deputy Chairman of John Keells Holdings Ajit Gunewardene.
“There was just one resort to serve tourists visiting the cultural triangle then and those who required five star comforts had no option. The idea was therefore to be close enough to steep yourself in the rich history of Sri Lanka and when you get back for some R&R at the resort, to have a continuance of the legends and stories that were a part of this wonderful island nation.”
Cinnamon Lodge Habarana has successfully lured tourists into its wide open spaces with its complimenting subtle luxury detailing for over three decades, while having undergone numerous upgrades and refurbishments throughout that time. Cinnamon Lodge Habarana used the beautiful architecture of the Ritigala monastery as its inspiration, redefining the concept of luxury within.
“The three major features influencing the design of Cinnamon Lodge Habarana were based on the unique architectural features of the ancient monastery,” explained Raheem.
“The resort was conceived around a large body of water forming an artificial lake constructed by damming the course leading to the reservoir, which naturally instigated the salubrious environs for the Lodge’s public spaces like the restaurants, bars and upper floor lounge. The swimming pool was constructed alongside the lake for an added panoramic vista.”
Another unique feature is that all public areas are devoid of doors and windows and instead rely on large spaces that enable guests to enjoy the beautiful landscape any time of day or night. “The panoramic view of the lake and swimming pool with its overhanging canopies of trees provides a feel of living in an open garden.”
The second unique facet is the setting of the chalets on a raised moulded decorative podium, similar to the structures in Ritigala.
Explains Choksy: “This raised podium had religious significance in Ritigala, although at the Lodge, it is of prosaic and practical use, effectively keeping away snakes, scorpions or any other crawling insect or reptile due to its smooth vertical surface.”
The chalets, which house individual living, dining and bedroom spaces detailed with balconies and verandahs, though based on an ancient design, are the epitome of luxury with its air conditioned interiors housing every conceivable luxury.
The third archaeological dimension borrowed from Ritigala are the granite paved pathways, which in Ritigala led to the individual living cells of the monks and here at Lodge link the chalets to the network of public spaces, using the natural materials of brick, stone, wood and terracotta.
And then there’s the amazing landscaping, verdant, green and lush with its overhanging canopies of over 1,700 trees which were literally root-balled and translocated from hundreds of miles away, to keep to the theme of the Ritigala milieu.
The rich flora and hundreds of butterfly, bird and insect species together with indigenous monkeys and elephant, thrive in the jungle-like atmosphere which houses numerous valuable species of trees including ebony, satin wood, teak, suriya mara and other dry zone trees.
As Executive Vice President Jayantissa Kehelpannala affirmed, “Cinnamon Lodge Habarana is the only five star resort located within the cultural triangle and has artfully blended history and culture into its five star luxury and R&R spaces to give our guests an experience of a lifetime. The advantages we have is that the resort has used Sri Lanka’s ancient architectural features which were considered some of the best in the world at that time and incorporated that into the concept of the resort, which fittingly sits within the cultural triangle.
“Into this, we have added the five star hospitality and luxury that we have become renowned for and the mix therefore, is certainly unique and unparalleled. With all these unbeatable features and abundance of space that very few resorts in the country can boast of, Cinnamon Lodge Habarana is really a resort where you create your own space.”