Explore the ancient Mulkiragala Rock Monastery near Mawella, Tangalle.
Just a short drive from Taru Villas – Mawella, Tangalle lies the ancient Mulkiragala Rock Monastery. Nestled on the cliffs of a 600ft rock, surrounded by jungle and watched over by families of monkeys, the series of caves and structures has played a significant role in Buddhism and Sri Lankan culture.
Much like its famous cousin in Dambulla, Mulkiragala has captivated visitors with magnificent reclining Buddha statues and age old murals within cave walls depicting Lord Buddha’s life and tales from the famous Jataka stories.
The origins of the temple are unclear. However, local legend has it that King Saddhatissa was hunting close to the rock when a villager spoke to him of an impressive rock suitable for a grand temple. The king agreed and built the temple during the 3rd century, naming it Mu Kivu Gala (‘the rock he mentioned’). It later became known as Mulkirigala.
During the 18th century, Dutch explorers renamed the rock ‘Adam’s Berg’ believing it to be the tomb sites of Adam and Eve. Little did they though that they confused the temple with Sri Pada, or more commonly referred to as Adam’s Peak.
The journey to the cave temples starts at bottom of an imposing staircase. In fact, you’ll clamber over 500 steps as you climb along winding paths up the side of the rock to the seven caves.
First and lowest terrace to encounter is known as Padamaluve. This terrace houses to two caves with a large reclining Buddha carved into solid rock. Growing on the terrace is a sacred Buddhist Bo Tree which is a descendant of the same tree that Siddhartha Gautama meditated below where he attained enlightenment, becoming Lord Buddha.
A further climb leads you to the ‘Bomaluwa’ housing the Majjhima Nikaya Cave with rock inscriptions believed to between 1400 and 1500 years old.
A short climb next leads you to the Raja Maha Vihara compound with a series of caves, paintings and a rock inscription giving the ancient name of Mu Kivu Gala.
On the fourth terrace lies the Cobra Cave. According to local tales, whoever climbs there will not return as ‘many cobras live there’. Luckily for intrepid visitors, these encounters are incredibly rare.
The final steps leading to the summit are carved into the steep rock face. On the summit stands the ancient stupa added by King Datesena sometime between 461-479 AD. These mound like structures are central to Buddhist rituals and often contains relics of Lord Buddha.
The temple is open daily for visitors from dawn till dusk though the best time to experience this is during the majestic sunrise and to take advantage of the cooler temperatures.
After an early start climbing into ancient Sri Lankan history, be rewarded with our signature breakfast back at Taru Villas – Mawella and relax in luxurious beachside surroundings.