WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

Ritigala: Hanumanís piece from the Himalayas

(Midweek Mirror 13th November 1996. by Deepal V. Perera.)

MOUNTAINS attract visitors for their dizzy heights and the thrills of climbing or simply for the panoramic view they offer. But Ritigala Kanda which is approached from the Maradankadawala and Habarana Road draws visitors mainly for its historical value. The mountain itself has a long history dating back to 177 BC around the time Buddhism was established here. Ritigala-Kanda, the highest mountain in the North Central Province (2,514ft) and the archaeological findings there give visitors an insight into early Sri Lankan history.

At the foot of the mountain visitors could see the bandha pokuna built by King Pandukabhaya in 307 BC. It is believed that the king was hiding from his uncles, who were trying to kill him. There, he made his palace and carried the battle against his seven uncles. After the great victory the king donated the palace to early Buddhist monks to be used as a monastery.

Today, the ruins of maligawa tell us how the king and monks lived on the mountain. The lichen-scarred and bleached pillars, exquisitely fashioned steps, colonnaded passage ways with stone balustrades proudly relate the history of Ritigala.

Three decades ago, these ruins were in a very bad state covered with many layers of mud until the Department of Archaeology restored some of them. The maligawa, king's toilet, the ayurvedic centre are some of those ancient treasures to be restored.

Next to the maligawa, the king had built an underground tunnel that leads to Anuradhapura. The entrance of the tunnel is still visible.

The mountain has a number of caves with broken granite Buddha statues and ancient inscriptions. The water drainage system and fountains speak volumes of the splendid craftsmanship of Sri Lankan history.

The mountain also holds some legendary stories. Hanuman had jumped across India when he was carrying the joyful message to Rama, that he had discovered where Sita was being held in Sri Lanka by Ravana

Legend also has it that when Lakshman, Ramaís brother, was wounded, Hanuman was sent to the Himalayas to bring a particular medicinal herb for his cure. But on his way it is believed that Hanuman had forgotten the king of plant. He then got hold of a range of herbs with a fragment of soil from the Himalayas and brought it to Sri Lanka. Ritigala is one such fragment brought by Hanuman, according to legend.

Even today Ritigala-Kanda has an oasis of vegetation including rare plants. The first thing one sees on the mountain is the magnificent forest reserve with many different types of herbal and wild trees. Although the surrounding area of Ritigala is dry and humid even the foot of the mountain is cool while the Kanda is surrounded by mist, giving the feeling that you are in the central hills.

During colonial days, many famous English scholars climbed Ritigala. And they all were amazed and surprised by the mountain and its surroundings and the unbelievable vegetation. The first Archaeological Commissioner, H.C.P. Bell, surveyor J.B.M. Ridout and Henry Trimen who wrote the hand book of the Flora of Ceylon are among some of the distinguished English visitors to climb the mountain. One Government Agent R.W. Levers erected a bungalow near the plateau of the mountain.

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka