Maradana — Colombo 10 — is one of the busiest areas in the city. But this was not the case, perhaps a century or so ago, when Maradana was a quiet suburban area in which a number of theatres, cinemas and schools were located.
Popular schools from all the faiths — the Buddist Ananda College (established in 1886), Catholic St. Joseph’s College (1896) and Zahira College, one of the first Muslim schools built in Sri Lanka (1882), are still located in Maradana, as is the Vidhyodaya Pirivena, the country’s first Buddhist pirivena, built in the late 19th century.
But besides these, there are a number of other landmarks in Maradana that have stood the test of time.
Maradana Railway Station
The Maradana Railway Station is the second largest station in the Colombo district. Built in 1889, the station was initially a small wooden building. The station we see today was built later, and opened to the public on 9 November 1908. The ornate clock tower at the entrance, and the elaborate platforms and walkways have remained intact for more than a century.
The two-storey building was constructed in keeping with the British colonial style of architecture, exemplified by the ticket counter, the cafeteria and the station’s main office. Today, the Maradana station is one of the busiest railway stations in the country, often used by passengers for their daily commute along the Southern and Central Province lines.
The Elphinstone Theatre located at the Maradana crossroads is the second oldest theatre in the country. The theatre was opened in 1917 by an Indian film company — Madan Theatres — and was originally called ‘The Elphinstone Picture Palace’.
The building was renovated a few years later — the foundation stone for the new building was laid in 1925, by then Mayor of Colombo, H. E. Newham, and the building designed by architect H. F. Billimoria was reopened in 1930. That newly renovated Elphinstone Theatre had all the facilities of a modern-day theatre and cinema hall.
The Elphinstone was later bought over by Ceylon Theatres but acquired by the state in 1980, renovated and reopened once again. The Elphinstone Theatre has staged plays, musical shows, screened films and is popular with theatre goers and movie buffs alike. Its colonial-style architecture has remained intact throughout the years, despite the series of renovations and facelifts it has undergone.
The ‘Technical Junction’ we all know in Maradana gets its name from the state-run Technical College that has been located here for the past 128 years.
Established in 1893 as Ceylon Technical College in a renovated warehouse close to the Maradana Railway Station, this was the beginning of technical education in our country. Today there are 39 technical colleges across the country offering various academic and vocational training to students to prepare them for jobs involving applied science and modern technology.
When the college first began operations, it only had a small workshop, one lecture hall, a classroom and a research lab, and only 25 students. The lecturers who initially taught at the college were renowned British experts in the field of engineering. Today the
The Technical College was renamed Ceylon Technical College in 1906, and another building was added to its premises. Today, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, chemistry and other subjects related to engineering and science are taught at the Technical College, and the building remains one of Maradana’s most recognisable landmarks.
Colombo Terminus Station
Colombo's main railway station was not always located in Colombo Fort; it was initially in Maradana, close to Pettah and the Technical College and was known as the ‘Colombo Terminus Station’. On 27 December 1864, Sri Lanka’s first train journey took place from this station, which was built to resemble the train stations in England, with engraved pillars and arches that can be seen even today. In 1906, the station was closed and trains began to operate from the nearby Maradana station instead. The Colombo Terminus Station was later —in 2009 — converted into a railway museum.
Maradana Jummah Masjid
The Maradana Jummah Masjid is located opposite the entrance to the Mardana Railway Station, and is another landmark in Maradana that is hard to miss. Although it is located on the same premises as Zahira College, the mosque was located on the premises long before the school was opened in 1892. Initially a small place of worship, the donation of many generous patrons over the years has helped towards renovating and expanding the buildings.
These are some of the most notable landmarks in Mardana, but there are a few more places that have remained intact for more than a century or so. So the next time you pass through Maradana, perhaps take some time to visit these places and seethe buildings that have survived the test of time.
Cover image via madantheatres.com