The gorgeous Habarana Lake is the primary lure to the town of Habarana, Sri Lanka , and it may be discovered on foot in approximately ninety minutes via the nearby pathway. If you would like, there are a number of hotels and tour businesses in the area that offer elephant rides
Table of Contents
- Habarana, Sri Lanka
- The National Park of Kaudulla
- Ritigala monastery
- The National Park of Minneriya
Habarana, Sri Lanka
The sizeable village of HABARANA is located on a major road intersection, and it is close to both Sigiriya and Ritigala, as well as Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Dambulla is an important city in the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka. In spite of the fact that it provides guests with access to a reasonable number of hotel options, its primary value lies in its function as a launchpad for excursions to any of the Cultural Triangle’s most notable points of interest. It is also the most convenient spot from which to begin trips to the national parks of Kauduall and Minneriya, which provide some of the greatest opportunities for watching elephants in Sri Lanka.
The gorgeous Habarana Lake is the primary lure to the town of Habarana, Sri Lanka , and it may be discovered on foot in approximately ninety minutes via the nearby pathway. If you would like, there are a number of hotels and tour businesses in the area that offer elephant rides by the lake and in other spots (the cost is approximately $25 for an hour). However, when you see these gigantic animals wandering around town under a sea of chains, you could feel just as anxious as the elephants themselves.
The National Park of Kaudulla
A new connection in the elephant migration corridor was established in 2002 with the establishment of the Kaudulla National Park. This park can be found around 22 kilometres to the north of Habarana. Its purpose was to connect with the Minneriya National Park and Wasgomuwa National Parks to the south and the Somawathiya National Park to the north and east. In a manner analogous to that of Minneriya, the primary attraction is a lake known as Kaudulla Tank, which serves as a gathering place for elephants when there is insufficient water. August through December are the best months to visit this destination. The months of September and October, which are a little later than Minneriya’s “Gathering” period, see anywhere from one hundred to two hundred elephants congregating around the tank. During the dry season, a significant area of the park is buried beneath water, making it more difficult to spot elephants in their natural habitat. Other animals that call the park’s mixture of grasslands and scrubby woodland home include sambar deer, monkeys, and the unavoidable, though extremely infrequently sighted, leopards and sloth bears. In addition to the typically broad range of birds, the park is home to a number of other species of animals.
The mysterious ruins of the Ritigala forest monastery can be found tucked away to the north of Habarana on the slope of a thickly wooded mountainside that is preserved as part of the Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve. This area is also known as the Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve. The monastery is located on a mountainside that is thought to resemble Aristha from the Ramayana. According to this interpretation, Aristha is the location from whence Hanuman sprang back to India from Lanka after discovering where Sita was being held captive. Although a more realistic explanation is that the region is higher and wetter than the plains that surround it, which supports a proportionally broader range of plant species due to the fact that it can sustain them, It is believed that Hanuman later travelled through Ritigala again, and on his second visit, he carelessly dropped one of the chunks of the Himalayan mountain that he was transporting back from India for its medical plants (other fragments fell to earth near Unawatuna and Hakgala).
Because of its remote location, Ritigala attracted hermits who were looking for solitude, and these reclusive individuals first began settling in the area about the third century BC. Pamsukulikas, also known as “rag robes,” are so-called because the monks who wore them took a vow to only put on rags that had been discarded or salvaged from decomposing bodies. An order of ascetic and solitary monks who dedicated their lives to severe austerity and resided in Ritigala during the ninth century. It would appear that the order was established in an effort to reestablish ancient Buddhist values as a reaction to the showy living that the clergy of the island was granted. This was done in opposition to the opulent lifestyle that was prevalent at the time. Sena I, who reigned from 831 to 851 AD, was so moved by the renunciation displayed by the order that he built them a splendid new monastery at Ritigala and bestowed upon it lands and slaves; the majority of the ruins that you see today come from this time period.
The remote location of Ritigala in the middle of an uncharted stretch of uninterrupted forest and the lack of any visitors both contribute to its secrecy and allure. Despite the significant amount of archaeological work that has been done here, nearly nothing that you can see presently has any clear indication as to what its original purpose was. While certain sections of the complex have been painstakingly reconstructed, others remain concealed in the surrounding vegetation. One thing that stands out about this location is that there are no houses or other residential structures anywhere on the property; it seems that the monks themselves exclusively lived in the various caves that are scattered throughout the forest.
After passing through the entrance, the path continues along the edge of the fallen limestone bricks that used to surround the Banda Pokuna tank. It is possible that this was done for a ritualistic reason, with visitors taking a bath in this area before entering the monastery. At the opposite end of the tank, a flight of steep steps leads to the beginning of a thoughtfully built route that winds through the forest and connects all of the primary buildings that make up the monastery. The meditation route at Arankele served as inspiration for the design of this walk. After travelling around 200 metres, the walkway arrives at the first of several underground courtyards, which consist of three raised terraces that are encompassed by a retaining wall. Which one is the one that is closest? It is a double-platform building, which are characteristic of the Ritigala neighbourhood. In most cases, these are made up of two elevated platforms that face east and west and are connected by a stone “bridge.” They are also often surrounded by a tiny “moat,” with one platform typically having the remains of pillars while the other platform is plain. There have been a number of hypotheses put forward regarding the structures’ intended functions when they were first built. One theory proposes that the platforms themselves were used for meditation, with group meditation taking place on the open platform and solitary meditation taking place inside the building that is located on the linked platform that is located across from it. Additionally, the “moat” that surrounds the platforms would have been filled with water, which would have acted as a natural form of air conditioning. A few yards to the right (east) of this enclosure is where you’ll find another courtyard; however, this one is underground. Although it may have been an almshouse or bath in its earlier days, it is most commonly referred to as the hospital today.
From this point on, the pavement will continue to run straight ahead until it reaches one of the “roundabouts” that are scattered throughout its length. It is possible that this “roundabout” was formerly a covered rest area, similar to the one at Arankele. About 20 metres before the roundabout, a trail forks off to the right and leads through giant tree roots to the so-called “Fort.” The “Fort” can be reached by crossing a stone bridge that stretches across a creek and offers wonderful views over the surrounding woodlands.
After you go around the roundabout, there are some unexplored platforms off to the left of the trail in the trees. These appear to be in the same exact position that the British archaeologist H.C.P. Bell must have observed them in when he first began exploring the site in the year 1893. After travelling for 500 metres, you will come upon two further underwater courtyards. The enormous edifice with two platforms that can be found in the first courtyard is one of the most important and significant buildings in the entire monastery. There are two stele that line the left side of the courtyard; one hypothesis proposes that monks would have gone between these as part of their walking meditation practise. A short distance away is where you’ll find the second courtyard in addition to an additional huge double platform.
The National Park of Minneriya
Minneriya National Park, which is located just 10 minutes east of Habarana and can be reached by car, offers a refreshing change of scenery to anyone who is getting tired of looking at ruins. The park is home to a broad variety of ecosystems, despite the fact that it is only a moderately large area. These ecosystems include a dry tropical forest, wetlands, grasslands, and terrain that was formerly utilised for chena, or slash-and-burn, agriculture. The gigantic Minneriya Tank, which was constructed by the well-known tank-builder and monk-baiter Mahasena, serves as the focal point of the park. The good dry-zone evergreen forest that covers a considerable amount of the region near the entrance is home to a variety of stunning trees, including satinwood, palu (rosewood), halmilla, and weera. However, due to the dense forest cover, it can be difficult to spot wildlife in this area.
The presence of elephants is the primary reason people come here. Minneriya is a portion of the elephant corridor that extends to Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa national parks and connects to them via Wasgomuwa. Elephants are known to migrate through Minneriya at particular times of the year; local guides should be able to tell you where the biggest concentrations of elephants are at any given moment. Up to three hundred or more come to the tank’s continually receding borders from as far away as Trincomalee to drink, bathe, and munch on the new grass that sprouts up from the lake bottom as the waters retreat. The shores of the tank are constantly receding as the tank fills with water. They come here not only to socialise but also to look for potential partners. Their population is at its highest from July to October, with a peak in the months of August and September, when other sources of water become scarce. The annual event known as “The Gathering” is the time when the biggest number of Asian elephants from all over the world congregate in one area. There is a possibility that there will be fewer elephants visible at other times; nonetheless, it is typically much simpler to watch them from the broad road that runs along the northern boundary of the park and connects Habarana and Polonnaruwa. In addition to a huge variety of birds, the park is home to sambar, spotted deer, macaque and purple-faced langur monkeys, sloth bears, and possibly twenty leopards (though sightings of the sloth bears and leopards are extremely rare).