Dazzling Lovina

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Lovina Aponsuwa, a beautiful Mestizo dancer with dazzling hazel brown eyes and long flowing jet black tresses inspired one of the most mysterious love stories of the 19th century and in turn the name of the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Perched on a bluff overlooking the blue Indian Ocean, the Victorian era mansion built in 1806 by the first British Governor of Ceylon, Sir Thomas Maitland, became the setting of a secret romance unfolding between him and Lovina. Thomas instantly fell in love with the Sinhalese/Portuguese beauty when she led her dancing troupe entertaining the colonial English society at his mansion in Colombo. In order to be near to Lovina, the madly in love, the gallant British Governor built a beautiful mansion a stone’s throw from her humble hut in Galkissa, a sun-kissed fishing hamlet a few miles south of Colombo. The budding relationship between the low caste dancer and the British nobleman was off-limits, risky, and could not be shared in the open. In order to protect their secrecy Thomas built a 300 meter long tunnel from his mansion to a well behind Lovina’s simple hut. Nearly every night for seven years Lovina flitted through the dark tunnel to her lover’s mansion staying with him till the break of dawn. But in 1811 their idyll ended. Their secret love affair became known and Sir Thomas was shipped off to Malta, unable to take Lovina with him. There are two versions as to how the story ends. One legend has broken hearted Lovina committing suicide by flinging herself off a cliff into the ocean in the vicinity of her lover’s place. But other records discovered many years later indicate that she surfaced in Galle with money, bought a house and lived out the rest of her days in this lazy fishing village on the southern tip of this Emerald Isle. As for Sir Thomas, unable to forget Lovina and bear the sorrow of his loss, like her, he also died unmarried. As I sit on the balcony of our Mount Lavinia hotel watching the sea gulls swoop low over the waves lapping the shore in this tropical paradise I can picture this beautiful romance and am touched by the sadness of its ending in such a lovely place. How tragic.

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