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Ritigala enigmatic Mountain

  Province North Central
  District Anuradhapura
  Nearest Town Ganewalpola
  Altitude 600 m

The Strict Nature Reserve with Ruins of a Forest Monastery.

This archaeological site is, however, scheduled for UNESCO listing as a World Heritage Site. The main cultural attraction is the Ritigala Forest Monastery, with superb views over the entire zone from the wooded slopes of the region's highest range of hills, rising to 600m above the surrounding plains; Ritigala is the highest mountain in northern Sri Lanka. There are several peaks in the range and the highest peak is the Ritigala. Kodigala or the Flag Rock is the highest point (of Ritigala Peak) in this mountain range and is of a height of 2514 feet. It is also the highest elevation between the Central Hills of sir Lanka and the South Indian mountain ranges.

This mountain range comprises three types of forests. The bottom part of the mountain range is Dry Mixed Evergreen Forest type, the middle part of the range is Tropical Montane Forest type and the highest terrain of Upper Montane Forest type. The mountain summits attract more rainfall than the surrounding areas and amidst dry weather at lower plains, the peaks get cladded with clouds and mist lowering the temperature at the summits.

Historically, this has been called as Arittha Pabbatha (the mountain of Aritta) which can be translated as 'Dreadful Rock' or 'Safety Rock' or even 'Riti trees' growing upon it. Around 3rd Century BC, Aritta , who was the Chief Minister of King Devanampiyatissa, who later was ordained as the First Sri Lankan Monk and became an Arahath, spent his monastic life at Ritigala.

The modern name Ritigala is derived from the ancient name Ariṭṭha Pabbata (Dreadful Mountain), mentioned in the Mahavamasa.. There are many monastic ruins of stones, terrace ways, circular terraces, a stone bridge, and remains of a giant stone banked pond built across a water stream.

The ascent of Ritigala Mountain at reservoir Ruins of Ritigala monastery are located on the eastern side of the mountain at the foot of the gorge which separates the main peak from the northern ridge of the range. The ruins cover an area of 24 hectares (60 acres). The ancient man-made reservoir is an impressive feet of engineering with a bund of polygonal plans completing a circumference of 366 meters. The construction of the reservoir is credited to King Pandukabhaya (437 -367 BC). The reservoir possibly served a ritual bathing purpose, with visitors bathing herein before entering the monastery. The order of ritual bathing tank, ruins of entrance complex and a pedestrian path seem to indicate devotees in large numbers visiting the monastery. To enter a Strict Nature Reserve, one needs prior permission obtained from the Forest Department but since the Archeological Department has allowed visitors to Ritigala to sight see around 60 acres of this prime Ecological wonder in the dry zone inside the forest land, strewn with archeological remains, one can have a glimpse of this wonderful and mystic Strict Nature Reserve, not found anywhere else in the island. The caves are very ancient and they are very important for school children as well as they can find some cave pictures there. Legends Legends abound on Ritigala. One of mysterious aspect is the belief of powerful medicinal herbs found near the crest. A herb called “Sansevi” is believed to have awesome power of conferring long life and curing all human pain. Then again, according to the legends, all vegetation on Ritigala is protected by Yakkas, the guardian spirits of the mountain In spite of its enormous significance, Ritigala remains one of the numerous “off the beaten track” culture and eco travel destinations of Sri Lanka. Ritigala isn’t alone in its degrading fate: numerous other tourist attractions, destinations of immense ecological and cultural value have been faded out in view of the splendor and grandeur of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla. That is in spite of most of such “off the beaten track” eco and culture destinations being located within the convenient circuit of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle itself.

The 6.5km (4 mile) range of hills is also rich in endangered bird species, including black eagle, grey hornbill, Sri lanka spurfowl, Malabar pied hornbill and spot winged thrush. Mammals including sloth bear, leopard and elephant, have been seen, but are shy.

The monastery and reserve are open daily, 08:00-18:00, last entry 17:00.