From ancient times Ratnapura is known as the city of gems. The name comes from Sinhala and ‘ram’ means `gems’ while `pura’ means ‘city’. There is no other reason to call this city ‘the city of gems’ other than that most of Sri Lanka’s world-renowned precious stones such as blue sapphires, rubies, are found in the Ratnapura area.
Located about 100 km south east of Colombo on the Colombo-Badulla A99 Road and above 21m from sea level,
Ratnapura is the capital of the Ratnapura District which is one of the two districts of the Sabaragamuwa Province. Gem mining has been the long-established major industry in the region and today most of its people depend on this glittering industry. Sri Lanka’s major gem traders operate from Ratnapura where a large number of local and foreign gem traders gather to sell and buy precious stones. Niviti-gala, Eheliyagoda, Kahawatte, Opanayaka, Rakwana, Pelmadulla and Kuruvita are the suburban gem mining and trading townships of Ratnapura.
All these areas have produced the world’s most precious and rarest gemstones making Sri Lanka ‘rathna deepa’ the island of gems renowned world over. Blue Giant of Orient (466 cts), Logan Blue Sapphire (42 3cts), Blue Belle of Asia (400 cts), Rossar Reeves Star Ruby (138.7 cts), Star of Lanka (393 cts) and the Ray of Treasure (105 cts Cat’s Eye) are some of the planet’s priceless gemstones found in the Ratnapura area. Agriculture is yet another major industry in the area and tea and rubber plantations surround the town. In addition paddy cultivations can be seen while fruits and vegetables are also grown as market products.
Towards the booming tourism in Sri Lanka, Ratnapura plays a significant role accounting for a number of religious, cultural, natural and other attractions among which the mountain Sri Pada, Pothgul Viharaya, Diva Guhava, Maha Saman Devale, Bopath Ella, Katugas Ella, Kirindi Ella, the Gem Museum, the National Museum (Ehelepola Walauva), Dhanaja Gem Museum and Pompa-kelle Forest Park are most attracted by locals as well as foreigners. Also Ratnapura is in close proximity to the world famous Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve, Uda Walawe National Park and Kitulgaia. Attracted and frequented by millions of devout Buddhist pilgrims, the Sri Pada around which the famous Peak Wilderness Sanctuary lies gives a remarkable prominence to Ratnapura in addition to gems.
Ratnapura stands as the city of gems in Sri Lanka fostering the thousands of years old Sri Lanka’s lustrous gem industry.