Where Aliens May Have Tread. Danigala Rock Sri Lanka
It’s 5:30 a.m. and the lobby of the Deer Park Hotel is buzzing with excitement …or is it anticipation? Today we try to summit the much-talked about and carefully planned hike to the top of Danigala. This rock is also known as the Alien Mountain because of its unique semi-circular shape caused by geological activities and weathering conditions or, perhaps some mysterious alien activity. It is also, interestingly, called the ‘Star Gate of King Ravana’, because, according to folklore, it is where Ravana landed his famed ‘Dandu Monara’.
We travel towards Aralaganwila to the Kandegama Rajamaha Viharaya, (also called Dhananjaya Rajamaha Viharaya), that lies at the foothill of this mysterious mountain. Again, it is the head priest that has to allow us to climb and he sends for a villager to act as our guide. No one is allowed to climb without one and we will soon find out why!
Our enthusiasm is palpable, and we set off, confident of our skills, stamina and core strength after last morning’s climb. Boy…are we in for a surprise! For unlike yesterday, there are no steps, paths or trails. We just follow the guide, who doesn’t seem to be in the best of moods, quite unlike most villagers who are usually very friendly and helpful.
From get-go, the climb is hard and we scramble up stones and slide over crags and crevices as the ground cover of fallen, slightly damp leaves makes each step a slippery accident-waiting-to-happen.
There is pushing and pulling…
Tugging and shoving…
Slipping and sliding.
Some of us lose our soles, while others lose skin off their elbows and knees.
There are the “spring chickens” and then there are some of us who huff and puff our way up.
Along the way up, we come across abandoned, vandalised caves. There are 70 caves within this mountain.
But eventually we make it to the cave where a Buddha statue lies in repose. Measuring 38.9 feet, this once magnificent statue has also been vandalised and is now covered from head to toe undergoing repair. Apparently this statue is similar to the one found at Pidurangala next to the mighty Sigiriya Rock.
According to renowned archeologist and historian, Pura Vidya Chakrawarthi Most Ven. Dr. Ellawala Medhananda Thera, who has done extensive research on this 2nd century BC site, there is evidence of another room, measuring 80 ft x 25 ft at the foot of the statue. He says this image house would have also had another statue probably lost to vandals over time. There have been inscriptions carved into the rock, including one referring to King Saddha Tissa and his son as well as names of various donors. He has also found inscriptions in a cave mentioning an ancient port in India which, according to him, signifies communication between the two countries.
But our climb does not end here. Thankful for the respite to quench our thirst and rest our feet, we start the scramble uphill again. This time the climb is steeper and the terrain rockier and sometimes we descend a fair distance only to have to scale up the mountain again.
There were many times when we had to stop for breath and for photos – of ourselves and the view around us. And then there is more pushing and shoving and pit-stops along the way.
But eventually, 2.5 hours later, we get to what seems to be the flat top of the mountain. Despite the scorching sun that is now bearing down on us, we spend time savoring the views of the North Central, Uva and Eastern provinces that stretches out ahead of us. It’s pretty amazing.
But this is not the end of our climb. Our guide leads us further uphill to the final plateau.
The precipice of the circular rock is very apparent from here and only the bravehearted get close to the edge. It’s actually hard to fathom the exact shape of this alien mountain.
Thankfully, there is aerial photography now and we are somewhere up there.
Our descent is also hard. We have now run out of drinking water, our clothes cling to our bodies, most of us have lost our ‘soles’ and are limping or simply sliding due to lack of traction, breathless and winded, yet still remain happy and pleased with each other for the support and encouragement.
Back on terra firma we take a quick look inside the Dhananjaya Rajamaha Viharaya, which is built into a large outcrop of the natural rock.
We thank the head priest, tip the guide and go in search of Necto, (and other liquids) to quench our thirst, before returning to the hotel for a good soak and shower.
I hope this crowd is ready for the next adventure!
Good to know:
Distance from Polonnaruwa – 46.0 km (1 hour 15 minutes)
Wear good, solid walking shoes.
Take lots of water.
Start the climb before 9 a.m. to avoid the heat of the day.
Climb is medium to hard.
Permission from the head priest and a guide is mandatory.
Parking is available at the temple grounds.
Make a donation to the temple. Dry rations is a good idea.
Camping is not allowed at the top of the rock.
Do not deface or vandalise. No one is interested in your sweethearts name or yours.
Do not litter. What you take up must be carried back and disposed of properly.
Be kind to the dog that is sure to accompany you to the top and back. Sometimes it will show you better shortcuts.