Ritigala Forest Monastery
A mountain of mists, mysteries and an abundance of plants widely used in traditional Sri Lankan medicine because of their legendary healing properties.
This is Ritigala, where a network of caves were also once home to ascetic mystic monks seeking their own personal and individualistic nirvana.
Deep inside the Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve, this mountain refuge—the highest mountain in the north-central plain of Sri Lanka—is three miles long, two miles wide, and covered with dense jungle inhabited by elephants, leopards and bears.
Ritigala is bare-bones, with none of the trappings of traditional Buddhist temples: no bo tree, no stupas, and it was home to a group of Buddhist ascetics known as the Pansukulikas (rag-robes) monks who devoted themselves to extreme austerity.
Carved urinals are the only examples of decorative stonework to be found at Ritigala—and it is thought that the act of urinating in them was for the ascetic monks a symbolic act of rebellion.