Sri Lanka to promote Ramayana Trail in India

Ramayana EpicValmiki’s epic poetic work composed in Sanskrit around the 3rd century B.C. is followed through Sri Lanka by Hindu devotees unfolding many of nature’s treasures.

To the Hindu devotee it is a pilgrimage of awe and inspiration; to the uninitiated it is a trail through Sri Lanka visiting some of the most beautiful natural sites – quaint temples, majestic monuments, each confirming a unique aspect of Sri Lanka’s ties to Valmiki’s epic evoking a devotion beyond faith.

Sri Lankan folklore and religious scholars have identified more than 30 places on the island which are associated with Valmiki’s Ramayana Epic. And it is not surprising that the locals in these places have a strong sense of history and lore, and a strong sense of possession, being proud of their association with the Hindu epic.

This is so even though 90 percent of the people in the Ramayana-related areas are Sinhalese Buddhists. However it must be noted that throughout Sinhalese Buddhism, Hindu deities play important roles; such as in the Kataragama traditions.

According to the Ramayana, Ravana brought Sita to Sri Lanka by a vehicle called ‘Pushpaka Vimanam’ by the Hindus and ‘Dandu Monara Yanthraya’ by the Sinhalese. According to mythology, this vehicle landed at Werangatota, about 10 km from Mahiyangana, east of the hill station of Nuwara Eliya, in central Sri Lanka.

Sita was supposedly taken to Goorulupota, now known as Sitakotuwa, where Ravana’s wife, Mandodari, lived. Seetakotuwa is about 10 km from Mahiyangana on the road to Kandy.

Sita was housed in a cave at Sita Eliya, on the Colombo-Nuwara Eliya road. There is a temple built for her there. She is believed to have bathed in the mountain stream flowing beside the temple and is a favourite place for pilgrims.

North of Nuwara Eliya, in the Matale district, is Yudhaganapitiya, where the Rama-Ravana battle took place. According to a Sinhalese legend, Dunuwila is the place from where Rama shot the ‘Bramshira’ arrow that killed Ravana. The Sri Lankan king was chalking out his battle plans in a place called Lakgala when the killer arrow struck him.

Lakgala is a rock from the top of which Ravana could see towards the north of Sri Lanka clearly. It served as a watchtower following the expectation that Rama would invade the island to rescue his consort.

Ravana’s body was placed on the rock at Yahangala for his subjects to pay their last respects. Since Ravana was a Brahmin, it was considered a sin to kill him, even in battle. To wash off the sin, Rama performed puja at the Munneswaram temple in Chilaw, 80 km north of Colombo. At Manaweri, north of Chilaw, there is an ancient temple gifted by Rama.

Rama and Sita

According to another legend from the southern part of Sri Lanka, Sita was actually detained in the mountainous forest area of Rumassala near Galle. When she fell ill, {en:Hanuman} set off to bring back medicinal plants from the Dronagiri mountain in the Himalayan chain to cure her. Since he could not find the plants, he brought the whole mountain and dropped it at Unawatuna, which is a beautiful beach resort near the present Galle harbour. Unawatuna means ‘here it fell’. Indeed, the area is known for its abundance of medicinal plants.

At Ramboda, in the central highlands, known for its massive waterfalls, a temple for Hanuman has sprung up as the belief is that he had visited Sita who was incarcerated there.

Legend has it that the Koneswaram temple, in the eastern district of Trincomalee, was gifted by Lord Shiva to Ravana, as he was an ardent devotee. The site called, ‘The Temple of a Thousand Stone Pillars’ in ancient times, is said to be a “temple of unusual size and splendour, renowned through the whole of India”, the temple was pushed over the cliff in to the sea by the Portuguese in 1624.

At the famous Buddha Vihara in Kelaniya, near Colombo, there is a representation of Rama handing over captured Sri Lanka to Ravana’s brother, Vibheeshana, who sided with him in his conflict with Ravana.

Thirty such sites of pilgrimage remain scattered throughout the country and are heavily integrated into the beliefs of the local populace through legend and lore. These well preserved Hindu holy sites are of great inspiration to the devotee and are now becoming annual pilgrimage destinations for many.

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