Ritigala – a serene song of mythology, spirituality, ancient ruins and divine woodlands

Just off Habarana on Anuradhapura road lie the Ritigala ruins and the nature reserve, where ruinous traces of an idyllic spiritual past and the curiously cool climes of the mountain top beckon visitors to linger awhile.

The ascending path

Road to Ritigala – Picture by Marcin_ator on Flickr

Your ascent begins in the scrub forest called Galapitigala where a legendary duel between two ‘giant’ warriors is said to have taken place. Sona the one who lost the duel is said to haunt the area to this day. Certain areas of the scrub land may be a little hard to traverse as the thorn bushes conspire to keep humans away. But if you persevere, you will enter a narrow track leading towards a beautiful woodland strewn with boulders. The peaceful stillness within the forest will envelop you and remain with you like a steady companion throughout your climb to the summit. The stone foot path twists and turns through a profusion of trees that provide a green canopy of balmy kindness by thwarting the hopes of fierce sunshine intent on gifting sentient beings with a little too much of warmth. Move onwards in peace to unravel the gifts of Ritigala.

 

Ruins and such

The ancient walkway, Ritigala forest monastery – Picture by Ghostface Buddha on Flickr

Long ago, Ritigala provided a safe monastic home for ascetic Monks who led contemplative lives within its quiet environs. The bathing pool used by the hermit Monks still bears witness to the engineering expertise of a previous civilization with its striking proportions and the well-defined stone steps in the inner pond.  Take a moment to appreciate the exquisite craftsmanship of the stone path laden with square-cut stones of proportionate patterns. However frugal the lives of the contemplative Monks may have been, the monastic facility itself bears the hallmarks of careful design and thoughtful amenities. You will find remains of herbal bathtubs cut in stone along with meditative pathways where most probably a hospital complex stood. The ruinous remains of what was known as a double platform connected by a bridge will intrigue you as the exact purpose of this structure still remains a mystery. One of the raised platforms is rectangular in shape while the other one is a square construction with a suggestion of a roof and walls in between to separate few rooms. On the slopes of the hill you can still see a series of natural caves which according to historians functioned as meditation chambers.

Legend

Unidentified ruins belonging to Ritigala monastery
Unidentified ruins belonging to Ritigala monastery by Ghostface Buddha on Flickr

Legend has it that, Ritigala was the fateful battleground where Prince Pandukabhaya assassinated all his uncles but one as predicted even before his birth to ascend the throne and turn Anuradhpura in to the first grandiose and thriving capital of ancient Sri Lanka. Ritigala also lays claim to another epic story better known as the Ramayanaya. According to legend, the monkey King Hanuman of Ramayanaya tale had accidentaly dropped pieces of the Himalayan Mountain that he was carrying to take lifesaving herbs to rescue ‘Lakshman’ from fatal wounds in several locations of ancient Ceylon. One of the pieces that fell took root on top of Ritigala and turned the whole area in to a magical green haven distinctly different from the rest of the arid land in the area.

The Summit

The point where the kings sentry stood guard.
The point where the kings sentry stood guard. Also the highest point of Ritigala – Picture by Aufidius on Flickr

The picturesque mini plateau atop the Ritigala hill is a strange but a welcome phenomenon with its green vegetation, fragrant herbs, and diminutive trees adorned with moss. This beautiful summit is suffused with cool air as if it were part of a wet climate in stark contrast to the rest of the Ritigala area. The logical explanation is that as the summit is immersed in mist during a good part of the year, the soil retains moisture and affects change in the climate. However, after a tranquil and a fascinating walk, surrounded by the serene vibe in the area, it is easy to pretend for just a dreamy moment that the fanciful legends are true.

Note that you need prior permission to visit the nature reserve

 

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