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.
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.