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Default ‘Discover Mannar’ by Amrith Gnanam

Unraveling the magic of Mannar

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 01:00

Ishara Jayawardane

The Book Launch ‘Discover Mannar’ by Amrith Gnanam left absolutely nothing to the imagination. From what the author’s father and Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda said and from the leaflets handed out at the book launch, it was like discovering one of those lost lands. We all know and have heard about Mannar but the way the place was presented at the Book Launch, it was like one of those mythological lands that some say are real. But Mannar definitely is real and it is one of Sri Lanka’s most exciting destinations.

“This book contains everything you need to know about the Gulf of Mannar. It has rich biodiversity and complex eco-systems, created thanks to a unique mixture of forests, inland wetlands, coastal, marine and agricultural lands. The book is a product of extensive research and fervent exploration done over the years,” said Amrith Gnanam.

Gnanam did not dream that the book would turn into such an extensive endeavor.

We do have regular visitors to this isolated spot in the country and Mannar has been making a regular appearances in the local newspapers. Sadly none of the history books give it its due importance. In my opinion this is a missed opportunity. Mannar is rich with history and abundant in nature. I have made sure that what is presented in the book is accurate and reliable and have visited the place several times. I can confidently say that it is very precise. I hope this book will fulfill its purpose which is giving publicity to Mannar. I feel it is interesting and exciting. I thank god for creating such a beautiful place in Sri Lanka. I feel I am very lucky getting the chance to write about Mannar which is an experience that is wondrous,” explained Gnanam

At the Book Launch were told that Mannar, though known to be a birding hotspot, is actually a potpourri of hidden attractions to enchant every type of traveler, whether he/she is a birding enthusiast, archaeology fanatic or an adventure seeker.

“It is lovely that this project has been realized. I am proud to have been consulted on this. The importance of documenting living history including our rich bio-diversity, with the intention of attracting real nature lovers and for future generation to refer, ultimately contributes to conservation. I want to point out a few facts that are not in the book but some that I think would be of interest. The reason Mannar has become a place of historical interest is because it was very much the center of the classical maritime silk route. In addition to that kind of commerce, Mannar also became a destination for rich Cinnamon. Sri Lanka was reasonably known at that time. And we know those commodities made their way into the West. Mannar is also known for its pearl fishing. There as a time when pearl fishery was hugely important. Mannar is also a site for beautiful relics – bits of Chinese pottery and ancient coins, stone inscriptions, bangles and chains – an incredible wealth of history dating back to the time of Christ. This beautiful heritage must be preserved. It is a unique site worth visiting,” said leading naturalist Rohan Pethiyagoda who accepted the first copy of the travel guide.

Raja Gnanam the proud father of Amrith Gnanam in his address pointed out that book is a great discovery of Mannar highlighting the natural beauty of Mannar

“Sri Lanka as an island has so much to offer. So much to discover. So many different species. We have so much to offer that is found nowhere else in the world. Mannar is the largest island in our island. This little island is packed with so many gifts of nature. What we have in Mannar is the stuff of imagination. And the book encapsulates all of this. The landscape of Mannar is simply magnificent with so much exploration to be done and so much more to discover. When you talk about animals it has the wild donkeys, wild horses and ponies. In the seas you have the Dugongs. One thing that cannot be forgotten is that it is an excellent site for bird watching and you can see the raptors. It is not only the raptors but a wide array of birds can be seen there,” said Raja Gnanam.

The travel guide comes very close to a coffee table book complete with a captivating collection of photographs by the author himself and his two collaborators, Ajith Ratnayaka, little-known yet outstanding nature photographer and celebrated naturalist Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne. The three of them each give a unique perspective to walk the traveler through a picturesque idyll all set to charm everyone who is interested to ‘Discover Mannar’.

Ajith Ratnayaka shares a rare set of photos taken during his many visits to this nature lover’s haven, Mannar, covering the full range of forgotten places of historical importance, the natural beauty of the island and a vast variety of migratory and local endemic birds.

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, no stranger to wildlife and photography, and a champion of the cause to make Sri Lanka an all-round wildlife destination describes the hidden potential of Mannar as a tourist hub that is yet to be fully explored.

Signing his book Pictures by Thushara Fernando
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