The Ramayana Epic
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic attributed to the poet Valmiki and an important part of the Hindu canon. One of the most important literary works of ancient India, the Ramayana consists of 7 chapters (Kānda), and narrates the story of Rama’s wife Sita being abducted by Rāvana, the demon (Rākshasa) king of Lanka. The Ramayana begins with Ayodhya in India and climaxes at Lankapura (Sri Lanka).
Ramayana has fascinated many generations, and had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Sri Lanka shares a special bond with India geographically, historically, culturally and spiritually – The Ramayana is one such link.
The people of Sri Lanka through generations believed that king Rāvana ruled this country. There are many sites in Sri Lanka which are connected to the Ramayana. Below is a list of places which we have identified as connected to the Ramayana and listed according to the Ramayana epic.
The Kidnapping of Sita by Rāvana.
Rāvana was the king of Lanka and another 9 kingdoms. He was known as Dasis (or Dasa Shirsha) meaning 10 heads, because he had ten crowns, one each for his ten kingdoms.
His sister Surpanakha went to Jambudweepa for some business. Surpanakha chanced upon Rama at his hermitage and became enamored with the handsome prince. Rama being faithful to his wife Sita did not respond and asked Surpanakha to approach Lakshmana who was unmarried. Surpanakha who felt humiliated by this, tried to attack Sita in anger saying Sita was the cause of the men’s contempt for her. Lakshmana then intervened and cut off Surpanakha’s nose.
Surpanakha terrified and in pain, flew at once to Lanka to seek the protection of Rāvana. When Rāvana asked his sister for the cause, Surpanakha said that she had seen Sita, a lady of incomparable beauty, and wanted to bring her for Rāvana. Ravana resolved to take revenge for the insult his sister has suffered, as well as to get lovely Sita for himself – he set out to abduct Sita and bring her to Lanka.
Ravana using a golden deer as a decoy visited Sita when she was alone in the guise of an old sage, abducted and brought her to Weragantota in Lanka in his plane, the ‘Pushpaka Vimana’. The Pushpaka Vimana is widely known in Sri Lanka as the “Dandu Monara Yanthranaya”, or Large Peacock Machine in Sinhala. Weragantota means the Place of Aircraft landing in Sinhala. This is the first place Sita Devi was brought to Lankapura (capital city of king Rāvana).
Sita Devi was kept at queen Mandothari’s palace at Lankapura. The place Sita was held captive is called Sita Kotuwa; which means Sita’s Fort in Sinhala. It is believed Rāvana had an aircraft repair centre at Gurulupotha close to Sita Kotuwa. Gurulupotha means Parts of Birds in Sinhala.
Sita taken from Sita Kotuwa to Ashok Vatika
Ravana moved Sita from Sita Kotuwa to Ashok Vatika the salubrious garden in the mountains. The route too was said to be spectacularly beautiful, as Ravana wanted to show Sita the beauty of his kingdom.
The Chariot Path atop the mountain range is still visible. The Sita Tear Pond close to the Chariot Path is believed to have been formed by Sita Devi’s tears. Visitors could also see the famed Sita Flowers which are endemic to this area.
Sita’s captivity at Ashok Vatika (also known as Ashoka/ Asoka Vanam)
Ashok Vatika is a garden where Rāvana held Sita captive. This is in the area of Sita Eliya, close to the city of Nuwara Eliya. The Hakgala Gardens located at the base of the Hakgala Rock forms part of the famed Ashok Vatika. The Sita Pokuna is a barren area atop the Hakgala Rock Jungle where Sita was kept captive. Sita Devi is set to have bathed in a stream at Sita Eliya. The Sita Amman Temple is located at this spot.
Search for Sita
Sugriva, (also spelled Sugreeva) ruler of the Vanara or monkey kingdom, ordered his monkey armies to search for Sita in all four corners of the earth. Hanuman, Angada, Jambavan and other heroes traveled southwards. Hanuman was the only one strong enough to cross the ocean to reach Lanka.
Whilst crossing the ocean, Hanuman was tested by Surasa Devi, the Naga maiden en-route to Lanka. This place is now called Nagadeepa.
Hanuman meets Sita at Ashok Vatika and is captured by Rāvana
Hanuman after meeting Sita at Ashok Vatika, decided to test the strength of king Rāvana and his army of Rakshas. He invited battle by uprooting trees and destroying the garden. Upon being captured by the Rakshasa guards, Hanuman was brought in the presence of Rāvana. As a punishment, Hanuman’s tail was set on fire. Hanuman in turn set fire to the houses in the city. Ussangoda is one such torched area.
Hanuman on the way back to India rested at Mani Kattuthar. Nearby is the village of Kondagala, known as Kondakalai in Tamil, where Sita is said to have deranged her hair whilst passing the place. The village also contains Sita Gooli which are rice balls offered by Ravana to Sita; which she refused and threw away.
Preparing for battle
Gayathri Peedum is the place where Ravana’s son Mehganath was granted super natural powers by Lord Shiva prior to the battle.
Neelawari is located in the North of the country in the Jaffna peninsula is a place Lord Rama shot an arrow to the ground to obtain water for his army upon arriving Lanka.
Dondra, Seenigama & Hikkaduwa are places in the South of Lanka where Sugriva (king of Vanaras) prepared for his onslaught on king Ravana’s forces from the Southern flank.
War breaks out
During the height of the battle Indrajit, elder son of Rāvana beheaded a lookalike of Sita Devi in front of Hanuman to break his spirit. This place is known as Sitawaka in the Avissawella area.
Yudhaganawa, battlefield in Sinhala is a place in Wasgamuwa where the major battles took place.
Upon being hit by Indrajit’s Brahmastra, both Rama, Lakshmana and the monkey army lay unconscious on the battle field. To cure them Jambavan the veteran monkey instructed Hanuman to go to Sanjeewani Parvatha, the hill of herbs between Rishhaba and Kilasa peaks in the Himalayas and bring the necessary medicinal herbs. As he could not identify which herbs to select, Hanuman uprooted the entire peak with all the herbs growing there from the mountain and returned to Lanka.
Parts of the hill fell on five places in Sri Lanka; namely Rumassala in Galle, Dolukanda in Hiripitiya, Ritigala close to Habarana, Talladi in Mannar and Katchchathivu in the north.
Lord Karthikaya Subramaniyam was requested to go to battle by Lord Indra to protect Lord Rama from king Rāvana’s Brahmastra. This was at Kataragama, which is now a very popular place for worship among Sri Lankans.
The fall of Rāvana
Dunuwila is a place from which Lord Rama fired the Brahmastra at king Rāvana who was directing the war from Laggala, where he was killed.
Laggala is derived from the Sinhala term “Elakke Gala”, which means Target Rock. Laggala served as a sentry point to observe Lord Rama’s army. Geographically, this is the highest part of the northern region of Rāvana’s city.
After Rāvana’s death, his body was kept at Yahangala, Divan or Bed Rock in Sinhala for the country men to pay their respect for their departed King.
After the war
Sita met Rama after the war, and Divurumpola is the place she under went the “Agni” test of fire where she proved her innocence and purity to Rama. Divurumpola means the Place of Oath in Sinhala.
Vantharamulai is a place that Lord Rama, Sita Devi, Lakshmana and Hanuman rested after the turmoil of the war. Amaranthakali is believed to be the place where they had the first meal after the war.
When returning to India, Rama felt he was followed by a “Brahmahasti Dhosham”, a dark cloud capable of taking his life, as he had killed Rāvana, a Brahamin. Rama felt safe from the “Brahmahasti Dhosham” at Munneswaram. This is the place Rama prayed to lord Shiva and where Shiva asked Rama to install four Lingams to get rid of the Dhosham. These four Lingams were installed at Manavari, Thiru Koheneshwaram, Thiru Ketheshwaram and Ramaeshwaram in India.
After king Rāvana’s death, Rāvana’s brother Vibhishana was coroneted as a king of Lanka by Lakshmana at Kelaniya.
A collection of Ramayana Tours organized by Tourslanka.
Ramayana Points of Interest in Sri Lanka
It is believed that Munneswaram predates the Ramayana and a temple dedicated to lord Shiva was located here. Munneswaram means the first temple for Shiva (Munnu + Easwaran). A Shiva Lingam was already here when lord Rama visited the place.
Rama after his victorious battle left for Ayodhya with Sita in one of King Ravana’s vimanas. He felt he was being followed by Bramhaasthi dosham (a malevolent black shadow) as he had killed King Ravana who was a Brahmin. When the Vimana was passing over Munneswaram, he felt the vimana vibrating, and realised the “Brahmaasthi Dosham” was not following him at this particular point.
Dolu Kanda – Sanjeevani drops
At different points of time during the war both Rama and Lakshmana were hit by powerful arrows and fell unconscious. To bring them back to life, Hanuman was instructed to fetch the life saving herbs from Himalaya. Hanuman went to the hill, lifted the whole hill and brought it, as he was not able to identify the life saving herbs alone. Parts from the hill fell on five places in Sri Lanka, namely, Rumasala in Galle, Dolu Kanda in Hiripitiya , Ritigala on the Habarana Anuradhapura road, Thalladi in Mannar and Kachchativu in the north.
Divurumpola means a ‘place of oath’. This is the place where Sita underwent the “Agni” test. She came unscathed and proved her innocence and purity.
The message of Rama’s victory over Ravana was sent to Sita. After a bath and adorned with jewels she was taken on a palanquin before Rama. Meeting her husband after such a long time she was overcome with emotion, but Rama seemed lost in thought. At length he spoke, “I have killed my enemy. I have done my duty as a true king. But you have lived for a year in the enemy’s abode. It is not proper I take you back now.”
Sita was shocked. “You have broken my heart” she said, “only the uncultured speak like this”. Have you forgotten the noble family I come from? Is it my fault Ravana carried me off by force? All the time, my mind, my heart, and soul were fixed on you alone, my lord!”
She turned to Lakshmana and said with tears streaming from her eyes, “prepare for me a fire. That is the only remedy for this sorrow of mine.” Lakshmana in suppressed anger, looked at Rama’s face, but there was no softening, he lighted a big fire. Sita reverently went round her husband and approached the blazing fire. Joining her palms in salutation, she said, “if I am pure, o fire, protect me.” With these words she jumped into the flames. Then arose from out of the flames Agni, the fire-god, whom she had invoked. He lifted Sita from the flames unharmed, and presented her to Rama. “Don’t I know that she is spotless and pure at heart?” cried Rama, standing up to receive her. It’s for the sake of the world that I made her go through this ordeal of fire, so that the truth may be known to all.”
The spot was initially fenced and walled to protect it from surrounding wilderness. Then a sapling of the Anuradhapura bodhi tree (one of the 30 original saplings) was planted as a mark of respect of the place. A small dagoba was built subsequently under the Bodhi tree. The temple depicts paintings of the Ramayana epic.
Today the temple is revered for the oath taken by Sitadevi and even the legal system permits and accepts the swearing done at this temple.
Sita Amman Temple, Sita Eliya
The stream that runs from the hill, catered to the needs of Sita devi during her stay at Ashok Vatika. She is said to have bathed in this stream. About a century ago of three idols were discovered in the stream, one of which was that of Sita. It is believed that the idols have been worshipped at this spot for centuries.
Now there is temple for Rama, Sita devi, Luxshmana, and Hanuman by the side of this stream. It is interesting to note that foot prints akin to Hanuman’s are found by this river and some are of small size and some are of large size, which tells us of the immense powers of hanuman transforming himself into any size.
Chariot Path and Sita Tear Pond
The summit of the mountain next to the mountain range overlooking Frotoft Estate in Pussallawa is the place where Hanuman first set his foot on mainland Lanka. This mountain known as Pawala Malai is visible from this mountain range. These hills stand tall in-between King Ravana’s capital city and Ashoka Vatika.
The barren land atop the mountain range is believed to be the route in which King Ravana took Sitadevi from his capital city Lankapura to Ashoka Vatika, which was a paradise on earth. Till date no vegetation grows on this passage except grass. King Ravana is believed to have taken this passage on top of these hills to show Sitadevi the beauty of his kingdom.
The Sita tear pond is found en route by the chariot route, is believed to have been formed by the tears of Sitadevi and has not dried up since, even during severe droughts when the adjoining rivers dry up.
In this area there are many large trees whose bright red blooms add colour to the scenery. These flowers are called Sita flowers. The peculiarity of these flowers is the configuration of the petal’s, stamen and pistil’s, which resemble a human figure carrying a bow, and is said to represent Rama. These flowers are unique only to this area in the whole of Sri Lanka.
Note: This route is quite bad and accessible only through a 4WD vehicle or estate tractor. Drive time is about 2 hours to Frotoft from Labookelle. The trek to the summit is extremely challenging and may not be suitable children, elderly and physically infirm.
Kondakalai (also known as Kondagala), like many other cities and villages in Sri Lanka also derives its name from the Ramayana, when King Ravana took Sitadevi in a chariot to Ashoka Vatika her hairs got deranged because of the speed of the chariot. Konda kalai in tamil means deranging of hair. Till date the villagers live with legacy of this event.
When King Ravana carried Sitadevi on his chariot to Ashoka Vatika, he provided her with vitaminised rice balls for refreshment. But Sitadevi who did not want to consume anything provided by King Ravana, scattered the rice balls all over the place during her journey, and they are found till date along the chariot track. The local people call these rice balls Sita Gooli and they prescribe them for their children as a cure for stomach disorders and headaches. The farmers too keep them in their cash boxes or grain pots for prosperity. It is claimed that carbon dated testing has been done in Tokyo and Delhi on these rice balls and ascertained to be more than five thousand years old.
This is a rock in the Labookelle estate. Hanuman met Sitadevi and on his way to announce this happy information to Rama, rested on this hill-top. The hilltop where Hanuman is believed to have rested after meeting Sitadevi is known as Mani Kattuther. Today an open temple with statues of Rama , Sitadevi, Lakshmana and Hanuman stands on top of it . Locals visit the temple often.
Ishtreepura (also spelled Ishtripura or istri pura) means an area of women in Sinhalese. This was one of the places to which King Ravana hid Sitadevi as a precautionary measure. He was forced to take this action due to Hanuman’s advent. There are lots of intruding tunnels and caves in this area. Ishtreepura seems to be a part of a great ingenious network of paths, which is interconnected to all the major areas of King Ravana’s city. Most of the tunnels are yet to be fully explored.
Ravana Cave & Tunnel Network
Ravana Cave & tunnels prove beyond doubt the architectural brilliance of King Ravana. The tunnels served as a quick means of transport through the hills and also as secret passages.
It is believed that the tunnels networked all the important cities, airports and dairy farms. A close look at the tunnels indicate that they are man-made and not natural formations. This Buddhist shrine at Kalutara was where once King Ravana’s palace and a tunnel existed. Existing tunnel mouths are situated at – Isthripur at Welimada, Ravana cave at Bandarawela, Senapitiya at Halagala, Ramboda, Labookelle, Wariyapola/Matale, and Sitakotuwa/Hasalaka.
Sita Kotuwa (also known as Seetha Kotuwa) means ‘Sita’s Fort’ in Sinhala, and got its name because of Sitadevi’s captivity at this place. Sitadevi was initially kept in queen Mandothari’s palace until she was moved to Sita Kotua and then on to Ashoka Vatika. The remains that are found at Sita Kotuwa are the remnants of later civilizations.
Weragantota (also spelled Weraganthota), means ‘a place of aircraft landing’ in Sinhala. Weragantota is believed to have been be the Capital of King Ravana and the first place where Sitadevi was brought into Lanka in King Ravana’s Vimana. The present jungles are the place where the city of Lankapura once stood .The city had a beautiful palace for queen Mandothari surrounded by waterfalls, streams and varieties of flora and fauna.
Dunuwilla is the place from where Lord Rama fired the Brahmaastharam at King Ravana, which eventually killed him. Dhunu means arrow and Vila Means Lake. This place got its name because Lord Rama fired his arrow from this lake. Dunuvila is located in the Matale district on the out skirts of Wasgamuwa National Park.
King Ravana had his dairy farm here. Milk was air lifted to the capital Lankapura from here using Vimana’s. The stone pillars here have the worn out marks cast by constant use of tying ropes on them.
There was an aircraft repair center in the capital city. This place is known as Gurulupotha. In Valmiki’s depiction King Ravana’s Vimana resembled a huge peacock. The Vimana in Sinhala language means Dhandu Monara which is known as ‘flying peacock’, and hence the name Gurulupotha, which means ‘parts of birds’.
The cartels behind the Dunuvila lake are called Laggala (Also Known as Lakegala). Laggala is derived form the Sinhala term Elakke Gala, which when translated into English gives us the meaning’ Target Rock’. Laggala served as a sentry point for King Ravana’s army. It was from this rock the first Glimpse of Rama’s army was sighted and information sent to King Ravana. This hill is geographically the highest part of the northern region of King Ravana’s city. On a clear day the north-east side that is Thiru Koneshwaran and north west side that is Talai mannar could be seen even today. King Ravana is believed to have meditated on this rock and prayed Shiva at Thiru Koneshwaran from this point. It is here that King Ravana was killed by Lord Rama’s Brahmaastharam. The top of Laggala is flat and is believed to have been hit by the Brahmaastharam.
Yahangala means the ‘rock of rest’ in Sinhala.
Yahangala is situated along the Mahiyanganaya – Wasgamuwa road. King Ravana’s body after his death was kept upon this rock His body was kept here for his countrymen to pay their last respects to their dear departed king. Geographically this rock is visible from miles away on its 3 sides. The area is also referred to as “Gale Bandara Deviyange Adaviya”, (Domain of the Gale Bandara Deity). Locals believe this is area is protected by ‘Gale Bandara’ deity and misfortune visits those who enter the territory with ill intent.
He stops the vimana at this juncture and asks God Shiva for a remedy. Shiva blessed Rama and advised installing and praying for four lingams at Manavari, Thiru Koneshwaram, Thiru Ketheshwaram and Rameshwaram in India, as the only remedy to get rid of the dosham. The first Lingam was installed at Manavari about 5 Km from here, near the banks of Deduru Oya.
Other places of interests connected to Ramayana in Sri Lanka
- Kanniya – The place where King Rāvana carried out the last rites for his mother.
- Gavagala or Ghoushala – King Rāvana’s dairy farm.
- Airports of King Rāvana
- Thotupolakanda (means Mountain Port in Sinhala) at Horton plains
- Weragantota (means Place of Aircraft landing in Sinhala) in Mahiyangana
- Ussangoda (means Area of Lift in Sinhala) in the Southern coast
- Wariapola (means Aircraft Port in Sinhala) in Matale and Kurunagala.
- Neelawari- A place where Lord Rama aimed an arrow to obtain water.
- Panchamuga Anjanaya Temple- The first Anjanaya Temple in Sri Lanka.
- Rama Temple at Rattota- One of the few Rama’s temple in Sri Lanka.
- Maha Rāvanagoda/ Kuda Rāvanagoda- Ravana’s places in the south.
- Veedurupola – Buddhist temple dedicated to research on Ramayana.
- Sri Baktha Hanuman Temple, Ramboda- Ramboda is a place where Hanuman was searching for Sita Devi. The name is also associated with Rama’s army. Rampadai, menas Rama’s force in Tamil. The Chinmaya mission of Sri Lanka has built a temple with Hanuman as a presiding deity at this location.
Panchamuga Anjaneyar Temple, Kalubowila
Anjaneyar Temple KalubowilaThis is the first Anjaneyar Temple in Sri Lanka and also the only Panchamuga (five faced) Anjaneyar Temple in Sri Lanka. Its the only temple in the world to have a chariot for Ajanyear. The chariot festival is held annually end Dec/ beginning of January.
Althought the name Hanuman is used in North India, in South India he is known as Anjaneyar. Hanumans mothe’r name is Anjan – Thus Hanuman is known as Anjan + Aiyar = Anjaneyar.
The temple is open daily from 5;00 am.
Morning Pooja is held at 8;00 am.
Noon Pooja at 12:00 noon and closed at 1:00 p.m.
Anjaneyar Temple Kalubowila Temple etiquette:
- Please wash hands and feet before entering temple
- Do not cross hands inside temple
Rama Temple at Rattota
The Rama temple is the only one in this area. Rattota is located about 9.5 Km from Matale. The privately managed temple can be accesed on Matale-Rattota-Riverston-Pallegama route. This is one of the most scenic routes to travel from matale to Laggala (on the northern side of Knuckles).
Ravanagoda is where Sita Devi stayed during her transit. This area is linked with tunnels and caves, which runs through to other parts of King Ravana’s kingdom. Ravanagoda is situated in the Kotmala area opposite to Ramboda rock. The main cave entrance was closed by an earth-slip in 1947. Locals believe this part of the complex was used as a prison by Ravana. The cave complex has not been fully explored.
Sites connected to local belief, but yet to be discovered
Rāvana’s mummy – Locals believe Rāvana’s mummified body is hidden within the mountain range of Harasbedda, Ragala and Walapane.