Sri Nagala Rajamaha Viharaya. Cliffhanger at Nikawewa. Sri Lanka

There are four vehicles with 20 excited travellers, all prepped and ready for a weekend of serious climbing. We leave Colombo at 4:30 a.m. and journey on the Minuwangoda – Giriulla – Narammala – Wariyapola – Maho – Madagalla road  towards Nikawewa.

Our first stop is the Sri Nagala Rajamaha Viharaya, that lies at the foothill of the Nikawewa mountain range. But our goal is to climb the mountain to reach the ancient stupa and image house that clings onto the edge of this mountain.

I had already made contact with the head priest via social media and he assures me it’s an easy climb and worth a visit and that  we should “come and see”. Once here, we get his blessing and off we go.

We clamber over roughhewn steps,  most carved from rock, others steep blocks of uneven stone, through overgrown vines, fallen logs, and steep paths, and 45 minutes later, we make it to the first cave which houses an ancient stupa where the Buddha statue lies.

This 42-foot reclining Buddha, which was once made of bricks has been carefully restored leaving a small patch that shows the original material. I’m told that there once were inscriptions and murals on the walls. There is nothing now, except for some graffiti scrawled by uncouth visitors who obviously do not appreciate or respect our historical wealth.

Built during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BC), it is also mentioned that latterly, Prince Saliya, son of King Dutugemunu, was also responsible for adding to the construction of this temple. King Devanampiyatissa was one of Sri Lanka’s earliest kings. He reigned from the ancient capital, Anuradhapura during which time Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Emperor Ashoka.

Apart from the stupa, the view from here of water tanks, forested lands, vast swathes of paddy lands, and a stunning countryside, is pretty awesome.

On to the right of the mountain is another short climb that leads to an image house. Unfortunately the doors were locked because of renovations and we could only peek inside at what looks to be some interesting artifacts and relics.

It’s almost 10 a.m. and the sun is bearing down on us. The climb down is harder on my knees, yet faster probably because we are also very hungry and thirsty.

Back at the temple grounds, I take in the dagoba with the unmistakable Bo tree that adds to the sanctity of the area. Two statues of a couple, perhaps an ancient king and his consort (or vice versa), a stone seat, and the view of the cave temple hanging off the cliff adds to the serenity of this temple.

Having paid our respects to the deity and the residing priest, we leave the temple and a couple of hours later, we check in to the Deer Park Hotel in Giritale and prepare for an evening of drinks and chatter. Tomorrow is another climb.

Deer Park Giritala

Good to know
Climb is rated easy to medium.
Take some dry rations or a donation to the temple.
Take lots of water, a hat and stay on the walking path.
Do not litter or deface this historical landscape.


10 Comments on “Sri Nagala Rajamaha Viharaya. Cliffhanger at Nikawewa. Sri Lanka

  1. Was part of this hike and appreciate the author’s excellent account written in an easy and engaging style and of course her enthusiasm and her initiation of this and other hikes… What great finds of lesser known, or rather, hardly known, sites of Lanka immense archeological value we discovered. How can we have not known …!!!
    We have added a Sinhala prefix to her name and renamed her Su+Mihiri 🙂 , can be short for Super ! Mihiri 🙂

    • It was more special because of fun explorers like all of you. Every one of the 20 added to the fun and memories we made. Time for more!

  2. It was indeed a charming climb, a prelude to what was to come the following day! Made all the more enjoyable in the brilliant company of the author and others in the “Super” group.

    Mihiri’s words and pictures aptly captures the ambience of the place. Heritage sites such as the Sri Nagala Rajamaha Viharaya would get only a smidgeon of the attention that they so richly deserve, and its such a shame that a majority of people in this country are not even aware of them. Thank you Mihiri for documenting this for the benefit of future adventurers!

    • Thank you Rohantha. We were all part of one super climb that kept everyone on their toes! Oh yes, the next day’s climb is indeed in the writing stage. I’m trying to capture all the emotions and “sole-less” incidents. Looking forward to our next adventure.

  3. Was a part of the amazing and memorable trip with this awesome bunch of people including our Su-Mihiri Author, wherein we look forward to the write ups as it lingers in our memories..

    • You are definitely the fittest of us all! And the most entertaining! And there are many more trips planned for the future.

  4. Was so happy to be a part of this climb. There are so many un spoilt and lesser known locations in Sri Lanka awaiting to be explored. The serene pathway amidst nature was so amazing and climbing together with the group made it more exciting.

    • Absolutely true. It was such a lovely climb and well worth the effort! Thanks for being such a good sport!

  5. What a lovely recount of an exciting journey to this amazing place!
    Despite me being a rather ‘reluctant’ hiker, this eager bunch made the climb seem effortless & fun!  😃👍
    Hope the temple will be able to complete it’s restoration work by June/Poson Poya as planned. 🙏
    Thank you Mihiri for taking the lead & making this hike happen; so fortunate that Ajith (our good friend & a great explorer himself!) had caught a glimpse of this fascinating space on one of his previous travels & was keen to pursue it.
    Look forward to many, many more adventures! 😃👍

    • It was great that you made the climb. And yes, hope the restoration work is completed soon.
      Let’s certainly look forward to many more exciting trips together in the future!

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