Ritigala mountain is a designated Strict Nature Reserve in Sri Lanka located near Kekirawa in Anuradhapura District North Central Province between Habarana and Maradankadawala of Sri Lanka, having an area of 3,776 acres.
This mountain consists of four peaks that rise steeply from the surrounding plain. The hill is 6.5 km long and divided into northern and southern blocks by Maha-Degala Gorge. The highest top is Ritigala Kanda in the south block.
At 766 m (2,513 ft) over sea level and 600 m (2,000 ft) over the surrounding plains, It is the highest mountain in northern Sri Lanka. The modern name Ritigala derives from the past name Arittha Pabbata, said in the Mahavamsa.
Its equal is higher than the other main tourist attractions of the north central plains, namely Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Mihintale. Short penetration of the massif and humid micro-climate on the forested slopes and hilltops is the specialty of this geographical feature.
The hills intercept moisture-bearing winds and generate orographic precipitation, which makes the mountain wetter than the nearby lowlands. During the northeast motion (December to February), Ritigala experiences the top rainfall (125 cm) in an entire dry zone.
The wet micro-climate at Ritigala is a singular occurrence in the north central plains, past Sri Lanka’s “Wewu Bandi Rata,” explanation “the land of rainwater reservoirs” in Sinhalese.
The clime at the summit is in sharp contrast to the environment at the foot; it is more relaxed compared to the region’s hot and dry climate. During the southwest monsoon, there is more cloud and fog on the mountain tops, heavy vapor condensation occurs, the surrounding plains are arid, and the earth is wet.
It was founded on 7 November 1941 (Gazette Notification No. 8809) and managed by the Department of Wildlife of Sri Lanka and the Forest Department of Sri Lanka.
Ritigala is a central Sri Lankakan mountain home to an ancestral Buddhist monastery. The remains and rock inscriptions of the monastery date back to the 1st century BCE.
The monastery ruins have located at the base of the hill on the eastern part of the critical mountain, which divides the central mountain peak from the northern ridge of the mountain range. The ruins are close to 24 hectares (59 acres). The monastery precinct starts at the office of the on-site branch of the Department of Archeology of Sri Lanka, near the foot of the reservoir named Banda Pokuna.
The ancient artificial reservoir is an impressive feat of engineering with a bund of polygonal plan completing a circumference of 366 meters. The pool’s construction is a credit to King Pandukabhaya (437 -367 BC).
Qatar possibly served a ritual bathing purpose, with visitors bathing there afore entering the monastery.
The order of the ritual bathing tank, ruins of the entrance complex, and a pedestrian path indicate devotees in large numbers arriving at the monastery. The procession is similar to that of Kataragama, where pilgrims begin with a cleansing bath at Kataragama Manik river and end with a bounty to the God Skanda, the benevolent Hindu deity of Kataragama, at the main shrine.
The edge of the reservoir follows clockwise to arrive at the other bank and cross the bed of the stream feeding the pool. The steep steps here onwards lead up to a beautifully built pavement, a stone path 1.5 meters large that meanders upwards through the forest, linking the significant buildings of the monastery. The stone cut path has laid with interlocking four-sided slabs of hewn stone. Three large circular areas at intervals along the pavement allow for rest.
There are stone double-platform structures, Padhanaghara, characteristic of Ritigala, and other forest monasteries such as Arankele, Veherabandigala, and the western monasteries at Anuradhapura. Regarded 49 ha (120 acres) are about fifty such double platforms.
Found raised platforms formed by retaining walls of massive stones in pairs, linked together by a stone bridge. The central axis of the combined media has set precisely east-west. The models were then, most possibly, roofed and separated into rooms. Used, it is conceivable that for solitary practices such as meditation and functions such as teaching and ceremonies. Over the stone bridges are buttresses and the remains of a monastery and hospital, and there are still rock-cut ayurvedic oil baths. The pavement continues straight ahead to arrive at one of the roundabouts. About 20 meters (66 ft) before reaching the roundabout, a way heads off to the right, leading through immense tree roots to a lookout, run by a stone high above a burbling stream. Further up is another keeper. Then is found an unnatural waterfall contrived by placing a stone slab between two rocks.
500m, and there are two more yards sunken. The first area contains a large double platform structure, one of the most significant stone structures in the monastery; one of the platforms preserves the remains of the pillars that once supported a building—a few meters beyond lies the second courtyard and another sizeable double platform.
Except for a few broken granite Buddha statues in some caves, It has none of the ancestral icons of Buddhist temples: no bo tree, no stupas. The first Lanka Vihare (temple) has founded near Ritigala at the foot of the mountain in the second century BC. The Arietta Vihare has founded a century afterward. Royals proved benevolent patrons. In the ninth century AD, King Sena I made an endowment of the monastery, an immense complex higher up the slope for a group of Buddhist saint monks who talked the Pansukulikas (rag robes). They devoted themselves to extreme penance in search of maximum penetration.
Such was the detachment of these Buddhist saints from the traditional life of Buddhist monks at village temples. Their robes were cleaned, washed, and repaired with rags, mostly shrouds picked up from cemeteries, in line with one of Buddhism’s thirteen ascetic practices (Dhutanga).
Legends abound on Ritigala. One mysterious aspect is the belief in powerful medicinal herbs near the crest. A herb called “Sansevi” believes to have the power of conferring long life and curing all human pain. According to legend, all vegetation on Ritigala protect by Yakkas, the protector spirits of the mountain. The sacred Prof. Walpola Sri Rahula Maha Thera (1907–1997), a Professor of History and arrivals at Northwestern University, a Buddhist monk sage, in his “History of Buddhism in Ceylon, says “the term “Yaksa” represent superhuman beings goodly of respect. It is able that it was applied, by an affix of meaning, to some pre-Buddhistic tribe of human beings, aboriginal to Ceylon”.
The legend is that Yakkas assisted Prince Pandukhabaya (3rd century BC) during his battles against his eight uncles at the foot of Ritigala. Another code refers to a duel of two giants, most possibly Yakkas, named Soma and Jayasena. Soma has killed in the fight, and Jayasena became a legend.
According to famous belief, non-human Lord Hanuman of supernatural powers traveled over Ritigala and, by mistake, dropped a chunk off a mountain of the Himalayas range he was carrying from India to Lanka for its medicinal plants. Lord Rama’s brother, Prince Lakshmana, was lethally wounded in battle, and only an uncommon herb in the Himalayas could protect his life. The pocket of medicinal plants and vegetation of the dry zone plants on the little-known plateau at the top of the Ritigala and the lower slopes and adjacent plains can thus be enumerated. Lord Hanuman has visited Lanka on an agog occasion. That was when Lord Rama sent him in search of his consort Sita. King Ravana seized Sita from Parnasali in India, the holy hut of Lord Rama. It brought her to Asok Vana, a beautiful park at Sita Eliya (close to Nuwara Eliya or Little England, as the British introduced it three millennia later) on the Pusparaga (Dadumonara) in an air chariot without touching her. (The peacock logo of Air Lanka, the predecessor of Sri Lankan Airlines and successor of Air Ceylon, is a stylized version of Rawana’s air chariot.) Having found the area where Sita has held, Hanuman used Ritigala Kanda as a launching pad to leap South India. Incidentally, Ritigala is the top prominent between the central plains of Sri Lanka and the coast of southern India.