Embogama, Sri Lanka
There is no aspiration in Ulpotha to be anything other than what it is – a lovely, playful but honouring folly. The founders and villagers welcome you to enjoy Ulpotha in this spirit.
Though Ulpotha has come to be known as an eco friendly, vegetarian Yoga retreat that offers Ayurveda, the founders would like to emphasise that it was not established to be anything in particular. The Yoga, Ayurveda and eco sensibilities are not central to its ethos – Ulpotha is there to be enjoyed as one wishes, and taken for what it is: an enchanting place that sprinkles its magic dust on those who pass through.
The History and Legend
Ulpotha has a living history over 5,000 years old and is rooted in the oldest continuously inhabited region on the island. According to legend, travelling mendicants from the foothills of the Himalayas came in search of the sacred site associated with the Lord Kataragama, an incarnation of the god-child Murugan and the son of Shiva. They believed that Ulpotha was this sacred place, as its seven hills matched the description contained in ancient spiritual lore. After the head priest had a vision in which he was shown how to perform a special devotional ritual, or pooja, they built a temple dedicated to their tantric god at what is now the entrance to the village.
The mountain directly above Ulpotha was also where Prince Saliya, the son of the island’s most storied king, Dutugemunu, established his romantic court over two thousand years ago after he rejected royal life. He married an outcaste woman by the name of Asokamala, who is described in the ‘Ramayana’, the country’s millennia-old mythological and historical epic, as a woman of peerless and legendary beauty. Prince Saliya, the only heir ever to have willingly forfeited his right to the throne, is said to have escaped the ancient royal city of Anuradhapura with his gypsy bride through a secret tunnel hidden in a local cave.
What is now referred to as Ulpotha was the ancestral land belonging to regional chieftains under whose patronage were twenty-nine villages.
A small manor house, originally built a few hundred years ago, has been renovated and is now the centre of life in Ulpotha. Local lore has it that the house was sited where two elephant paths crossed; the spot was deemed an auspicious one as it was marked by a grove of untouched jak saplings, usually an elephant delicacy.
It was the sacred duty of the chieftain to maintain the village temple to Lord Kataragama and to be the centre of the tradition of divine patronage and service, where the rules applied were that of serving the fertility gods and maintaining the rituals and traditions of indigenous Wanni (Dry Zone) culture.
Ulpotha’s foundations are thus laid on the timeless grounds of nature, history, tradition and myth. The surrounding hills continue to harbour cave-dwelling ascetics and practising shamans and the land remains infused with the still potent therapeutic spirits of the gods, kings, priests and romance of its storied past.
A New Beginning
Though much has been said and written about the need to preserve our natural environment and add spiritual quality to our modern lifestyles – the former in great seriousness and the latter with some wishfulness – all too often these words remain firmly separated from the reality of what is deemed practical.
When serendipity brought Ulpotha, which had been abandoned and uninhabited for decades, into the lives of three friends, it inspired them to idealism. Trees were planted, the lands were organically cultivated, traditional wattle and daub homes were built and Ulpotha was brought gently back to a magical life. What made the process an idealistic one was that it was embarked upon and driven by non-financially based motives. Rather than doing something because it made financial sense, it was done for the love and beauty and serenity of it.
The focus at Ulpotha has been on restoration – through practice – of traditional agricultural lifestyle, bio-diverse organic farming and reforestation. There is no long term goal as such of the founders of Ulpotha but, if there is one, it is simply to practise an unhurried and relaxed lifestyle that is in harmony with nature and their neighbours.
Opening Ulpotha to visitors allows it to be shared by those who would otherwise not be able to experience it and creates a means of generating some of the financial resources needed to sustain it.
Thank you for being a part of it.
7.907945, 80.365928, Sri Lanka
Sylvie +44 20 8 1233 603
Priyanthi (Pri) +94 77 3017536