Discover the Ramayana Trail; A Guide for Group Travellers
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic that chronicles the story of Prince Rama, who was the seventh avatar of the Hindu god, Vishnu. A major part of his legend includes the kidnapping of his wife, Sita, by a demon king from Lanka, and Rama’s quest to recover her. When visiting Sri Lanka with a group; be it your friends or as part of a tour, you’ll be following the Ramayana Trail: a journey that takes you to the sites that form a part of Rama’s legend. There are more than 50 sites that belong to the Ramayana Trail, and you would be hard-pressed to visit them all during your stay. Here are some of the major sites on the Ramayana Trail that you can visit.
Rama’s Bridge (or Adam’s Bridge)
The story of Rama’s journey to Sri Lanka begins with the kidnapping of his wife, Sita. The demon king Ravana is said to have travelled to India and captured Sita while Rama was away, carrying her on his airborne chariot to his home on the island of Lanka (modern-day Sri Lanka). Rama chased after them, but found a hurdle in crossing from India to Sri Lanka.
According to Hindu legend, an army of warrior monkeys built a bridge between the two countries to allow Rama to cross into Lanka and pursue the demon king. The remains of Rama’s Bridge can be seen today extending from Mannar Island in the north of Sri Lanka, to Pamban Island in India’s south. It is a chain of disconnected limestone shoals and sandbanks, covering a distance of approximately 48 kilometres. It is also known as Adam’s Bridge due to claims from early Islamic sources that Adam, the first man, crossed to India from this bridge after falling to earth at Adam’s Peak.
Ravana Cave and Ravana Falls
After kidnapping Sita, King Ravana is said to have hidden her in the caves behind Ravana Falls – the area would have been surrounded by a cloak of thick wilderness that would have hidden the waterfall from view. Located in the Ravana Ella Wildlife Sanctuary, the entrance to Ravana Cave lies around five kilometres away from the Falls, but the two are said to be connected to each other. The cave is more than a thousand metres above sea level. Ravana Falls reaches a height of 25 metres and is known as the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka, and legend has it that Sita bathed in a pool of water gathered by these falls during her confinement here.
The best time to visit Ravana Falls is between June and November, during the rainy season, when the waters gush over the rocks and cascades in stunning form to the pool below. People have been known to swim here, but be warned that the rocks can get slippery.
The Sri Munneswaram Devasthanam Temple
Located in the village of Munneswaram, a 9 minute drive from the town of Chilaw, this temple complex dedicated to Lord Shiva is considered the oldest Hindu temple in Sri Lanka. King Ravana was a Brahmin, which is a sacred title in Hinduism. When Rama killed him, he had committed a major sin in the religion, and so turned to prayer to repent. The Munneswaram temple is said to be the location where Rama prayed to Lord Shiva for guidance after killing the king.
The temple complex is one of the Pancha Inshwarams, which are a group of five ancient Hindu kovils dedicated to Shiva that are dotted around Sri Lanka’s coast. The complex contains five different temples, one of which is honoured by Buddhist worshipers. In 1578, the temple was destroyed by the Portuguese, with the entire building left in ruins except for its basement. Members of the local community managed to save some of the temple’s idols before its destruction, and it was rebuilt by a Sri Lankan king before again being destroyed by the Portuguese in the early 17th century, and rebuilt by the locals.