Colpetty… Kollupitya… Colombo 3, many names for the same place. Covering a large swathe of land from the Galle Face Green south to the Bambalapitya junction and inland as far as Colombo University at its westernmost point, this is one the city’s most significant districts.
At first look, Colpetty seems no different from the rest of the expanding city, with several new apartment buildings on the rise. But looking further, a returnee would still see some familiar faces under a dab or two of fresh paint. The Colpetty Market, however, has eluded all attempts at adornment. Its long low shape, stretching down Dharmapala Mawatha, an intractable landmark in all its dilapidated glory.
A large piece of land along the road to Galle was given by the Dutch to a fugitive Kandyan nobleman who led an unsuccessful uprising against King Rajasingha II. The land appropriated from by the Dutch and given to this exiled aristocrat from Kandy was called Kollanpitiya or the plundered land by the local people.
For the next two centuries, it served mainly as a coconut plantation and toddy brewery. But after the colonial administration created the Galle Face Green out of a strip of rocky seafront, mansions began to spring up between the green and Beira lake. Anglicized to Colpetty it became a sought after neighborhood not second to the lush Cinnamon Gardens in terms of status and postcode prestige. Even today just walk down Thurstan Road and peer over modernity’s 10ft high walls to look back into a time when houses were vast, servants were plentiful, morning dress was essential and gin and tonic was a substitute for water.
Colpetty, still has a certain charm to it. Now it is a mini town of sorts, with a cinema, shopping complex, municipal supermarket, ice cream parlor, a plethora of restaurants, some choice schools, finance houses, and a variety of small businesses, hobnobbing with high-rise developments that are slowly but surely changing its skyline. It has multiple thriving shops, malls, international brands, and great nightlife.
The Galle Road, Colombo’s main coastal artery, is a prime example of this modernization, with residences and small shops almost entirely replaced by office blocks and commercial complexes. Kollupitiya, or Colpetty, as it is still referred to in its Anglicised form, is one of the Colombo zones cut through by this road, just south of the Galle Face Green.
Anyone who’s meaning to “visit” Colombo undoubtedly ends up in Colpetty, or at least makes a pit stop. With sunsets, high rise buildings and shopping complexes, this neighborhood is bustling with a crowd all day long. Which is why there’s no shortage of eateries here. From very high-end restaurants to hole-in-the-wall kinda buth kadeys Colpetty has it all.
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