Bambalapitiya, Colombo 4, Sri Lanka
Introduction Bambalapitiya is a district in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The district, numbered Colombo 00400, spans about one and a half kilometres of the Galle Road in Colombo.
State/Province Colombo/Western Province
Region/Metropolitan area Colombo
Nation Sri Lanka
Year founded Early 19th century
Population (est. or census 2007) circa 200,000


The west of the city of Bambalapitiya is ringed by the Indian Ocean while to the east Havelock town borders it. In the early 19th century it is believed Bambalapitiya was a jungle infested with snakes. Kadju Pulang and Cashew trees were common here. Outlaws would seek hiding in the dense jungle, and hijack bullock carts carrying produce between Galle and Colombo.

Vast tracts of Bambalapitiya were owned by the Senanayake family, relicts of Sri Lanka’s first post independence Prime Minister, The Hon D.S.Senanayake.

Herbert Bartholomeusz J.P and retired Engineer PWD bought 10 acres of land for Rs 6.00 per acre in 1896. Today, land in Bamba is worth Millions of Rupees per perch and the value keeps rising in geometric progression over the years (one acre = 160 perches = 0.4 ha).

The town consisted of a very large Burgher and Muslim population in the forties/fifties and has now become a very cosmopolitan locality comprising all communities. The influx of business houses and offices in the town has taken away the true nostalgic spirit of ‘home’.

The town of Bamba begins, in the North, a little before the intersection of Bullers Road (now known as Bauddhaloka Mawatha) and Galle Road. Here, stands the massive FOAMTREADS advertising banner (now converted to ELASTO) with its shiny flickering pieces of aluminum clicking away in the sunshine and the lights of the night in its own swishy washy way, a landmark that was unmistakable to all and sundry.

On the seaside, facing Galle Road and facing the entrance to Bullers Road, stands the coveted IC Drug Stores patronized by the residents from time immemorial, serving its customers with all their pharmaceutical needs in all its glory and splendor. This was no ordinary down-the-street pharmacy as it had its aura of professionalism, respect, and honor by way of its design and interior and also its white coated salespersons, who looked more like the members of a hospital staff than workers in a drug store.

The town extends, all the way along Galle Road, to end at the Wellawatte Canal which separates it from the next town of Wellawatte on the South. To the East it is bordered by Havelock Road, which begins at the roundabout located at Thunmulla (three cornered junction) where Reid Avenue begins and extends all the way down southwards to the Wellawatte Spinning & Weaving Mills located at the bridge that crosses the same Canal which winds its way across a large extent of Colombo. The Textile Mill, once a bustling industry, managed by Sohli Captain, employed hundreds of male and female workers, is now closed and dysfunctional. It was a featured landmark in the town where its residents enjoyed the sound of the sirens that were blown each morning, afternoon and evening to mark the work times for its employees. A massive housing complex project with international participation is currently being planned on its site in order to cater to the insatiable demand for residency within the big city of Colombo.

Galle Road begins at Galle Face, somewhere at the roundabout, in front of the old Parliament building at the entrance to the Fort, and stretches its tired asphalt tracks all the way to the town of Galle, almost 100 Km down south hugging the coastline like a leech clinging on to human flesh, all the way through. It used to take two lanes of traffic, one southwards and the other northwards, driving anyone standing in the middle to cross the street into a frenzy of madness and jitters until he or she got safely across to the other side.

Since of late the section of Galle Road within the District of Colombo has been divided in the middle by an island, thereby, preventing those crazy over-takers from displaying their antics on the middle of the highway. This has now provided two lanes on each side which still is insufficient to cater to the voluminous traffic that plies on it day in and day out.

At Bamba, similar to many of the other towns along Galle Road in Colombo, parallel streets, commonly referred to as lanes interspaced by a few blocks of land and residential houses, ran down to the beach from the Galle Road. Here they met the southern railway tracks and beyond it a myriad spread of coconut trees that ringed the white sands of the beautiful beach that curved all the way south..

On the sea front, right at the end of Station Road, located at the northern end of Bamba, is the Bamba Railway Station, constructed in identical fashion to the several other stations that ringed the southern tracks from Colombo Fort all the way down to Matara in the Ruhunu. Two sets of parallel tracks took the perspiring rail commuters to the big bustling bazaar city of Fort, The Pettah and back home to roost on a daily basis. The famous ‘Ruhunu Kumari’ makes her journey on these tracks on a daily basis taking thousands of commuters back and forth from the south. The southern coastline railway was, and still is, a way of life for many office workers and commuters in the south.

On the land side, similar parallel lanes lead off from the Galle Road, criss-crossing the newly constructed Duplication Road and some running all the way to meet Havelock Road while others end up in dead ends or curving across to meet the network of inland roadways at some point along the way. From a bird's eye view the roads would have looked more like the upper skeleton of a human body with the spine representing Galle Road and the ribs representing the parallel lanes on either side.

Galle Road is the main link between Colombo and the South and is always heavily loaded with trucks, petrol tanks, cars, buses, motor bikes, scooters, bicycles, carts, three-wheeler taxis and in the old days the manually driven rickshaws. On some festive and religious occasions one can also see elephants joining in a parade (perahera) or traditional festive arts, carts driven by white cows, decked in all their finery, trudging from temple to temple, celebrating a ritualistic occasion.

Rush hour on Galle Road, during the busy office opening and closing times, and, in modern times even during the afternoons, when the many schools close to the main road close for the day, can be menacingly mind boggling. For many of us who were born, raised and made enough mischief within the homes and streets of this quiet little town of ours, Bamba will always remain a cherished memory in our hearts and minds.

The wrath of the Galle Road traffic during the morning and evening rush hours reminds one of the rage of an angry river bursting its banks and gushing forth, angrily, into the sea. Traffic slows down to a crawl and horns and abuse blow out in chorus intermingling with the roar of automobile engines, the blaring of sirens and the emission of carbon monoxide fumes that turns the town into a melting pot of chaotic pollution. Three-wheeler taxis work their way in-between the snarling vehicles causing enough mayhem to an already chaotic tangled web of men, machines, and noise. Traffic policemen and police women, nattily dressed in their khaki uniforms, frantically wave their arms and legs in unison to try and bring some order and sanity to such a mad mess of a normal working day.

In recent times even the halcyon atmosphere of the by lanes has become a hive of activity with many commercial businesses sprouting up where once many sprawling and magnificent heavenly homes of old stood in tranquility and silence. The newly opened Marine Drive along the beachfront has invited more hustle and bustle to the salubrious environment of the beach front, which provided a haven for old and young to spend an evening of relaxation and solitude. Tourist Guest Houses, posh Restaurants, high-rise condominium apartment blocks, Telephone communication Services & Internet Cafés have all emerged from what was a sleepy old town of middle class men and women just a few decades ago into a bazaar town choking to capacity and screaming for survival.

The sprawling foliage of old is slowly disappearing with the clearing, blocking, and decentralizing of the huge mansions that once stood there, in the name of development, overcrowding and the demand for more housing and business premises in a fast developing city that is bursting its seams.

The Boys of Bamba

George Siegerts took part in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, and is credited for whistling the theme music of the film the Colonel Bogey March. Several of the Bambalawatte Boys, mainly from the Burgher community, featured in the film as Extras and were paid as much as Rs 100 a day, which was a tidy sum in those times. Turab jafferjee, Ian Kelly, Stanford Chapman, and Allister Bartholomeusz were stuntmen hired for the many river scene takes in the Kitulgala river. In fact, the famous film producer and director David Lean apologized to the aforementioned stuntmen, for perceived racial discrimination during filming at Kitulgalla. This made headline News by the Journalist Gamini Seniviratne of the Times of Ceylon, now a Journalist based in UK.

Another Big band of that era was the The Harold Seniviratne Combo, a dance band of great repute for standards and oldies. The band comprised Harold on Sax, his brother Tissa on drums, Chandra Seniviratne, Ralph Maas, Ronald Bartholomeusz, and Raife Jansz. A great band that was in very popular demand at many galas. The Seniviratne Bros. lived down Lorenz Road. Bunny Ashbourne, and Anita Arndt of singing fame.

The Burgher Community and Bamba

The Burgher community, who made a significant contribution to Ceylon, in the areas of Law, The Judiciary, Medicine, Administration - the Ceylon Civil Service, lived mainly in the belt of Bamba and the adjacent Havelock Town area in Colombo 5. It is a known fact that the Colombo Municipal Council and the then Mayor of Colombo encouraged Burghers to settle in this middle class belt, where there were great schools – SPC, HFC, SPM, Lindsay, St Claires School, and later on Vishaka, & Muslim Ladies College.

The Colts. Havelocks and BRC cricket clubs were the breeding ground of champion athletes, cricketers and rugby Union Players. The Burghers lived in harmony and quite easily integrated with the Muslims, Bohrahs, and Sindhi communities. Mary’s Road Colombo was indeed a good example of the successful blend of multi culturalism. In this street lived seven Burgher families, five Ceylon Moors, four Tamils, one Sindhi and six Sinhalese, who lived in closeness, friendship and amity. Children referred to the elders as Uncles and Aunts. It was truly an example of respect, tolerance and unity of a kind unseen and unheard today, sadly - That was the way of the true Ceylonese of that era.

Champions - representing the aforementioned Clubs - The fabulous Aldons Brothers of Havelocks Fame, Ernie Kelart, Bob Bartels & Russell Bartels of Cricket/Rugby/Hock4ey fame. The Schokmans, Michael, David and Patrick of rugby./cricket/boxing fame. Frederick and Duncan Kreltzhiem, the De Kretser’s, who represented Ceylon in Hockey/Cricket. Larry Foenander and many more who represented the BRC/Havelocks/Colts – Ceylon Champions - Sara Trophy/ The Andriez Shield. Female athletes Myrna Kelaart. June de Kretser, Carmen Joachim, Irene Williams, Irene de Silva and many more were of Bamba origin

Distinguished Lawyers – The Anthonisz Brothers, Wickremanayakes, Loos, Drieberg. Puisne Court Justices – St Clair Swan, FHB Koch, EFN Gratien, The doyen of Sports Journalisim SP Foenander lived down De Kretser Place. Australian Prime Minister Menzies. whilst on a visit to Ceylon, called on SPF, such was his fame. His daughters Ruth & Carmen Herft were concert pianists who featured on Radio Ceylon classical music programs.

Duck Duetrom was a hot tempered and cantankerous old man. He received the nickname “Duck” after having been seen walking with a duck under his arm, a prize from a local church raffle.

Jumping J was the nickname give to a slightly mentally deranged and middle aged Burgher lady who hopped rather than walk. She was noted for her foul language.

Cap Silva the noted “Homo” used to hang around De Kretser Lane. He attempted to intimidate and molest young boys. However, on a complaint being made by a youngster, well known to the local toughs who used to hang out outside a local club, Cap's activities were quickly put to an end.

Sports & Games

Every single lane and street at Bamba boasted a sports club. Names that come to mind are, The Freetown Boys of Mary’s Road, The Dead End Kids of Clifford Place. The Golden Orioles, Kotelawala Gardens, Devos Lane Boys. Inter lane Cricket, Soccer, Athletics, and even Boxing was fiercely contested but sportsmanship ruled the day. Champion Athletes like Guy & John Motha, Cricketer/Athlete Ian Hepponsrtall of St St Josephs College, Haigh Karunartne. the Chandraratne brothers, V John St Peters/ SL Cricket, Tyrell Gauder (STC Cricket), Jayantha Fernando, SPC Rugby /Cricket, Hamza Saleem (Zahira ) wrestling, Mackeen & Faleel Sheriffden Cricket, Fredrick, Malcolm & Michael Kretlshiem (Royal), Trevor Anghie Royal – Boxing /Rugby and his brother Maurice, “Botam James” De Slva SPC/Ceylon Champ High Jump are some of the many boys born and bred in Bamba - the town like no other.

Many thanks to Allister Bartholomeusz, formerly of Mary's Road, now resident in Australia, for his erstwhile support and contributions towards collecting material for the above story.


Area: circa 2Km X 2Km

Location on Wikimapia at:

Notable inhabitantsEdit

Places of WorshipEdit

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Census resourcesEdit

Colombo 00400/Bambalapitiya

Sri Lanka Census Data: -

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
202K 203K 207K 211K 217K 233K 240K # # # # # # # #

Genealogy resourcesEdit

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