For over thousands of years, the Ramayana, epic of Asia, has had an unshakeable hold on the beliefs of vast multitudes of Asia’s teeming millions. As diverse span of humanity as Kashmiri pandits and Cambodian fishermen, it is the universal heritage of all humanity.
Emerging from the mists of the forested banks of India’s northernmost rivers, the crown jewel of a rich oral tradition, the song of Valmiki has become a pillar of principles, a symbol of the victory of good over evil, and a metaphor for the battle between the forces of light and darkness within every human soul.
The legend of Rama, Prince of Ayodhya, where the darkly handsome prince in exile, unswervingly confronts and overcomes fearsome odds in the form of the mightiest demon-king of his time and the heartbreaking injustices of court intrigues, with equanimity and generosity in thought and action, has also left behind a rich legacy of sites and temples in the country where the most significant events of this epic took place – Lankapura – Sri Lanka.
SRI LANKA’S RICH RAMAYANA HERITAGE
Sri Lanka is the proud custodian of more than 50 Ramayana sites from the place of Seetha Devi’s captivity to the battlefields where vast armies clashed, to the groves of exotic herbs dropped by the monkey god Hanuman, to the ultimate theatre of war where Lord Rama slew Ravana, the ten-headed demon-king.
People living in the areas where great events took place, remember to this day the connection of their soil to the great epic. An oath taken at the spot where Seetha Devi undertook ‘Agni Pariksha’ is still considered valid in village courts or grama sabhas. The colour of the soil of the ancient battlefield is still red today, and is still surrounded by lighter coloured earth. One of the airports of Ravana, torched by Hanuman when he came looking for Seetha Devi, still has a scorched-earth look. A patch of darker soil surrounded by brown earth. Exotic alpine Himalayan species are found suddenly amidst tropical Sri Lankan vegetation, the legacy of Hanuman’s heroic voyage carrying a mountain with life-restoring herbs.
Incredibly, the names of places have come down to modern times unchanged. Though great social, cultural and religious changes have taken place in Sri Lanka since.
On the following pages, you will see Sri Lankan glimpses of this legacy and a glorious age whose events define and guide us to this day.
Location: Gurulupotha – Hasalaka
Legend: These jungles are the place where the city of Lankapura once stood. The city had a beautiful palace for queen Mandothari surrounded by waterfalls, streams and varieties of flora and fauna. Seetha Devi was kept in this palace until she was moved to Ashoka Vatika. Seetha Kotuwa means Seetha’s fort and got its name because of Seetha Devi’s stay here.
Distance from Colombo 190 km
The Chariot Path and Seetha Tear pond
Location: The jungle on the top of Ramboda Hills, on the Kandy – Gampola – Nuwara Eliya Road.
Legend: The barren land here is believed to be the route along which Ravana took Seetha Devi from his capital city Lankapura to Ashoka Vatika, to show her the beauty of his kingdom which was a paradise on earth. To date no vegetation grows on this passage except grass.
Distance from Colombo 160 km
Seetha Amman Temple
Location: Seetha Eliya on Nuwara-Eliya – Welimada Road
Legend: A temple for Lord Rama, Seetha Devi, Luxshmana and Hanuman built on the sides of the stream where Seetha Devi bathed.
Distance from Colombo 195 km
Location: This is situated in the Southern Coast between Ambalantota and Tangalle
Legend: According to Ramayana, after meeting Seetha Devi Lord Hanuman decided to test the strength of the mighty King Ravana and his army of Rakshasas. In the event that unfolded Lord Hanuman’s tail was set on fire by the Rakshasas,who in turn went on to torch some parts of King Ravana’s empire. Ussangoda is one of the torched areas, which is said to have been an airport used by King Ravana.
Distance from Colombo 225 km
Ishtripura / Konda Kattu Gala
Location: This is situated in the Welimada Area
Legend: Ishtripura means an area of women in Sinhala. This was one of the places to which King Ravana shifted Seetha Devi as a precautionary measure, which he was forced to take by Lord Hanuman’s advent.
Seetha Devi took a bath in the stream close by and had dried her hair sitting on a rock and put clips to her hair, hence this rock is known as Konda Kattu Gala.
Distance from Colombo 230 km
Location: From Bandarawela pass Ella to Ravana Cave
Legend: These tunnels prove beyond doubt the architectural brilliance of King Ravana. The tunnels served as a quick means of transport through the hills and also as a secret passage. They networked all the important cities, airports and dairy farms. A close look at these tunnels indicates that they are man-made and not natural formations.
Existing tunnel mouths are also situated at Ishtripura in Welimada, Senapitiya in Halagala, Ramboda, Labookelle, Wariyapola in Matale, and Seetha Kotuwa in Hasalaka and in many more places.
Distance from Colombo 220 km
Location: Situated in the midst of the jungle Wasgamuwa
Legend: It is said that this particular piece of land can never bear any vegetation as this served as the battlefield and had borne the brunt of destruction.
Distance from Colombo 240 km
Location: In the Matale District on the outskirts of Wasgamuwa National Park
Legend: Dunuwila is the place from where Lord Rama fired the brahmaastharam at King Ravana, which eventually killed him. Dhunu means arrow and wila means lake. This place got its name because Lord Rama fired his arrow from this lake.
Distance from Colombo 240 km
Rumassala Sanjeevani Drops
Location: Unawatuna, Galle
Legend: At different points of time during the war both Lord Rama and Luxshmana were hit by powerful arrows, fell unconscious and to bring them back to life Lord Hanuman was instructed to fetch the life saving herbs from Himalaya. Hanuman went to the hill, lifted the whole hill and brought it, as he was not able to remember and identify the life saving herbs alone. Parts from the hill fell on five places in Sri Lanka, namely, Rumassala in Galle, Dolu Kanda in Hiripitiya, Ritigala on the Habarana – Anuradhapura Road, Thalladi in Mannar and Kachchativu in the north.
Distance from Colombo 125 km
Location: It is situated 15 km from Seetha Eliya on Nuwara-Eliya – Welimada Road.
Legend: This is the place where Seetha Devi underwent “Agni Pariksha” (test). It is a popular place of worship among locals in this area. Divurumpola means place of oath in Sinhala. The legal system permits and accepts the swearing done at this temple while settling disputes between parties.
Distance from Colombo 210 km
Location: About 5 km from Chilaw Town
Legend: Lord Rama after his victorious battle left for Ayodhya in one of King Ravana’s Vimanas. He felt he was being followed by Bramahathi Dosham as he killed King Ravana who was a Brahmin. He stopped the Vimana at this juncture because he felt at this place the “Bramahathi Dosham” was not following him. He discended from the Vimana and asked God Shiva for a remedy. God Shiva blessed Lord Rama and advised him to install and pray four lingams in Manavari, Thirukoneshwaram, Thiruketheeswaram and Rameshwaram in India, as the only remedy to get rid of the Dosham.
Distance from Colombo 85 km