Established in 1866, the hauntingly beautiful Kanatte General Cemetery is the main burial ground and crematorium for Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka.
Located in the suburban city of Borella, those buried at the cemetery include soldiers killed in both World War I and World War II. The 48-acre cemetery features sections for the many faiths of Colombo’s diverse international population. Hindus, Buddhists, Shintos, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and non-denominational Christians all have their own burial sections. There are four crematoriums, and elaborate temples and mausoleums dot the lush landscape.
Over the years, there have been numerous reports of paranormal activity at the cemetery. Caretakers have reported seeing ghostly meetings (called “resveem”) at a crossroads where four pathways meet. According to one worker, a group of “rationalists” once attempted to spend the night in the graveyard. They only lasted for a short while, before they were hit with stones thrown from ghostly hands. And there is the tale of a nattily dressed man in a white suit, who lures workers to a mortuary and then disappears into a wall, causing workers to faint and fall.
The cemetery’s most famous Western resident is British-born Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who moved to Sri Lanka in 1956, when it was still called Ceylon. An inventor, scuba diver, ecologist, teacher, futurist, and author of science-fiction masterpieces such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, he was also active in Sri Lankan affairs. He served as Chancellor of Moratuwa University, the country’s “most sought after technological college,” from 1979-2002. Clarke was famous for his accurate predictions of numerous technological advances in the 20th century, including the mass production of desktop computers and the rise of online banking and online shopping. He also hosted television shows, including Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World and Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers. He died in 2008.
Today, the lovely Kanatte General Cemetery is a wonderful place to visit. But beware, you may run into fellow travelers, both living and dead.
Know Before You Go
Arthur C. Clarke’s grave is between lanes 7 and 8 on the left-hand side (if you are approaching from the main entrance). It can be hard to find so you may have to ask around for help. The closest landmark is a flat white pavilion.