A cemetery review might sound somewhat morbid but we weren’t assessing the merits of the Jawatte general cemetery as an eternal resting space. Rather we were looking at it as a green space. One of the few expansive, public stretches of grass and trees in a city blessed with just a single park.
From this perspective it’s really one of the best open spaces in the city; a genuinely magical little oasis. Down an unassuming stretch of Torrington Avenue past the Jawatte mosque and a giant bo-tree are the gates to this secret garden. Overcome any superstitions about graveyards you might harbor and step in. You’ll find yourself on a stretch of lawn and open grass with an extremely well tended and manicured section, for local and commonwealth soldiers killed during the second world war, on your left. The remainder of the graves occupy the central hill which is full of mature trees and dotted with elaborate and attractive headstones.
It’s much smaller than the Borella cemetery and far more peaceful. Reach the peak of the central mound and wander down towards the furthest edge of the graveyard. This section is a little over grown but it’s home to some spectacular crumbling old tombs and grave markers. Sheltered by the rise of the hill you’ll most likely be completely alone. Just you, the birds, squirrels and perhaps a slinking iguana- total privacy, in a public space in the heart of Colombo. A fairly unique experience .
You can sit on some crumbling steps alone with with the graves, a book and a cigarette in hand contemplating mortality, wait no this isn’t a movie. Actually the Jawatte Kanatte is a far more positive space than that. I found myself tempted to bust out a picnic hamper or maybe initiate a game of cricket but thought that might be disrespectful (is it?).
Really there’s nothing quite like it- a walled off and beautiful, secluded secret garden in the middle of Colombo. Worth a visit and not just for a funeral.