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Discovery, history, mystery: Ritigala, Sri Lanka’s prized nature reserve

Discovery, history, mystery: Ritigala, Sri Lanka’s prized nature reserve

One of Sri Lanka’s most prized and protected landscapes is the historical and mysterious mountain at Ritigala, now one of only three Strict Natural Reserves on the island.

The spirit of adventure and thrill of discovery that Ritigala encapsulates, and the archaeological biosphere it contains, makes it a much-prized destination for eco-tourists.

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The ROAR Life website hints that its special significance might even mean that it will be elevated to become Sri Lanka’s ninth UNESCO World Heritage site.

This would rank it with Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy, which form our famed Cultural Triangle. Says ROAR: “Most visitors are drawn to these sites for the prospect of travelling back in time. Attractions such as Sigiriya also showcase how Sri Lanka was once ahead of the curve in terms of architecture and construction.”

Minimal disturbance

Writer Sajiv Panditha notes that “in SNRs such as Ritigala, there is minimal human disturbance. Access to higher altitudes is reserved for scientific purposes and requires special permission from the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“The fascinating ecosystem of Ritigala features mixed forests upon the slopes of a mountain range, which include an eponymous peak standing 766 metres high—the tallest mountain in Northern Sri Lanka.

“Its defining features include the microclimates that enable the growth of a diverse vegetation. This occurs because the foot of the Ritigala range shares a similar climate to that of the surrounding region: hot and dry, while its summit is the opposite: cold and wet.”

Ritigala is also known for its preservation of an ancient monastery similar to Arankale. Built by King Sena I in the 9th century AD, the monastic ruins came to light in 1893, when Ceylon’s first Archaeological Commissioner, H.C.P. Bell, made an extensive account of the area.

Prior to Bell’s expedition, Ritigala remained untouched since the 11th century, when the monastery was abandoned due to invasions from the Chola Kingdom.

It is also mentioned twice in the ancient Hindu epic of the Ramayana. First, when the monkey-god Hanuman used the mountain as a launch pad to leap back to South India after discovering where Ravana was holding Sita captive.

Read more here.

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