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National Park

Ritigala National Park

  Province North Central
  District Anuradhapura
  Type of the Forest National park
  Established -
  Governing body Department of Wildlife Conservation
  Area 58,850 hectares

Deep inside the Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve, off the Anuradhapura-Habarana road, are the partially restored ruins of an extensive monastic and cave complex. The ruins lie on a hill, which at 766m isn’t exactly high, but is nevertheless a striking feature in the flat, dry landscape surrounding it. The 24-hectare site is isolated and almost deserted.

The true meaning of the name Ritigala remains unclear – gala means rock in Sinhala, but riti may come from the Pali arittha,meaning ‘safety’. Thus Ritigala was probably a place of refuge, including for kings as long ago as the 4th century BC.

Ritigala also has a place in mythology. It’s claimed to be the spot from where Hanuman (the monkey king) leapt to India to tell Rama that he had discovered where Sita was being held by the king of Lanka. Mythology also offers an explanation for the abundance of healing herbs and plants found in Ritigala. It’s said that Hanuman, on his way back to Lanka with healing Himalayan herbs for Rama’s wounded brother, dropped some over Ritigala.

Monks found Ritigala’s caves ideal for a ascetic existence, and more than 70 such caves have been discovered. Royals proved generous patrons, especially King Sena I, who in the 9th century made an endowment of a monastery to the pamsukulika (rag robes) monks. Ritigala was abandoned following the Chola invasions in the 10th and 11th centuries, after which it lay deserted and largely forgotten until it was rediscovered by British surveyors in the 19th century. It was explored and mapped by HCP Bell in 1893.

Ritigala is 14km northwest of Habarana and 42km southeast of Anuradhapura. If you’re coming from Habarana, the turn-off is near the 14km post. It’s a further 9km to get to the Archaeology Department bungalow (which is 2km past the turn-off at the Wildlife Department bungalow). You need your own transport to get here and the road may be impassable in the wet season (October to January). As this is a very isolated area, you are advised to go in a group.

  Physical features




  Endemic varieties