Ritigala is an extraordinary and fascinating cultural and eco-tourist site. It is home to seventy rock caves that were believed to have been inhabited from the 1st century BC. It is a mountain range of four peaks that houses an old Buddhist monastery. This site was also a sanctuary for the local kings when they were at war against the Indian Dravidians who had invaded the country. Rock inscriptions found at Ritigala states that it was a monastic retreat for monks in the past. King Sena I had even built a monastery for these monks and the remains of this monastery can be seen today. After it was abandoned by the hermit monks, Ritigala eventually became a jungle and was rediscovered some decades later.
The Ritigala mountain range is a Strict Natural Reserve managed by the Department of Wildlife of Sri Lanka along with the Forest Department of Sri Lanka. It covers 3776 acres and is one of the most diverse hotspots in Sri Lanka. Ritigala Kanda is the highest peak out of the four peaks. The topographical significance of Ritigala mountain range is the sheerness of the range as of the wooden slopes and the wet climate on the summit. The mix of vapour and cloud which covers the peaks during the South West monsoon months of May to September gives higher density of condensation thereby resulting in a lot of moisture on the mountains when the plains underneath are steeped in drought.
Trekking – Trekking through the Ritigala mountain range will take you on a journey steeped in history, legend and mythology, surely providing you an experience of serenity and wondrous nature at its best. The undisturbed wilderness and purity of the surrounding environment will rejuvenate your body and soul thus giving you life again. Upon ascent you will pass through beautiful sceneries, lush forests, natural streams and some mind blowing ruins of the monastery. The monastery is sited on the eastern side of the range and there is an artificial reservoir which was a marvel of engineering which was built by King Pandukabhaya during the early 4th century BC. It was used by visitors as a ritual bathing purpose before entering the monastery. After passing through the edge of the reservoir, you will cross the bed of a stream that feed the reservoir and the steps lead to a lovely crafted stone path which is a testament to beautiful craftsmanship of workers during ancient times. This stone path navigates through the forest with overhanging branches of trees that provide shelter against the scorching sun and takes you through many stone platforms with remains of ancient structures and other monasteries that had diminished over time and through many courtyards and more streams leading to the highest point you are allowed. It is an experience one cannot miss.
Ritigala is also rich in endangered bird species, including black eagle, grey hornbill, Sri Lanka spurfowl, Malabar pied hornbill and spot-winged thrush.
Legend & Mythology – There are many legends surrounding Ritigala. One legend very familiar among the locals is how Hanuman, the warrior monkey-god came to Sri Lanka from India in search of Lord Rama’s wife Sita who was abducted by Ravana, the king of demons. It is said that Hanuman then took a great leap across the Indian Ocean using the Ritigala rock as a launching pad to convey the information he had found about the abduction. Later, a monkey army led by Hanuman crossed the Indian ocean and entered Sri Lanka where they waged war against Ravana and defeated him to take Sita back to her beloved husband Rama. emains of ancient Buddhist monasteries which will undoubtedly leave you with great memories to take back home. It is also believed in another legend that Hanuman was sent to the Himalayas to bring back some herbs to save Rama’s brother who was wounded in battle. Therefore, he brought a whole fragment of Himalayas tied up in his tail which fell off while he was over Sri Lanka and one of those fallen fragments were Ritigala.