Exploring The Ramayana Trail, A Solo Traveller’s Guide
Sri Lanka is home to over 50 sites associated with the Hindu epic, Ramayana. It is said that the ten-headed demon king, Ravana, resided on the island, and after abducting Seetha Devi, he brought her back to his homeland. The Ramayana Trail is not only a great immersive spiritual and religious experience for Hindus, but it is also a good way for non-Hindus to learn more about this legend.
Start your journey from the commercial capital of Colombo and head south.
- Ussangoda: After meeting Seeta Devi, it is said that Lord Hanuman wanted to test the strength of Ravana and his army of Rakshasas. There was a battle, and the Rakshasas set Hanuman’s tail on fire who retaliated by scorching parts of King Ravana’s empire. One such location is Ussangoda, which is thought to have been one of the king’s ancient airports.
- Kataragama Temple: Kataragama Temple is still one of the holiest sites for both Buddhists and Hindus in Sri Lanka. The temple is of Lord Karthikeya Subramaniam, who had been requested by Lord Indra to go to the battlefield when Rama was fighting King Ravana. This, in turn, strengthened Rama, who was ultimately able to beat Ravana.
The next leg of your journey takes place in the rolling green hills of Sri Lanka.
- Seeta Amman Temple: This temple is a significant shrine dedicated to Lord Rama and Seeta Devi which is visited by many devotees.
- Hakgala Botanical Gardens: After her abduction, Seeta Devi was understandably quite depressed. In an attempt to cheer her up and win her over, King Ravana took her to one of his many magical gardens. The Hakgala Botanical Gardens are home to a renowned orchid collection and houses many other exotic species of plants. It is also within the confines of this garden that Seeta met Lord Hanuman who brought Lord Rama’s ring and told her that he was searching for her.
- Divurumpola Temple: Another site of worship that is still important to Sri Lankans, Divurumpola Temple is where Seeta performed her Agni Pariksha (a ceremony to prove her chastity) to her husband.
- Ella: Ella town and its surroundings house three locations linked to the Ramayana. One prominent location is Rava Cave; a huge dark gaping hole that looks endless and it is thought to house one of King Ravana’s underground palaces.
Next, visit the sacred city of Kandy found in the heart of the Central Province.
- Sri Bhakta Hanuman Temple: The Sri Bhakta Hanuman Temple is an important temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman and which many devotees make a pilgrimage to. The temple was built in the hills of Ramboda, one of the locations Hanuman was searching for Seeta.
- The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic: This temple is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples. Found in the centre of Kandy town in the palace complex of the Kandyan Kingdom, the temple bestows the Sacred Tooth Relic belonging to Lord Buddha.
Discover Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle which is often considered to be the heart of the country.
- Sigiriya: Sigiriya is best known for its ancient rock fortress with the same name. The fortress was built by King Kashyapa, one of Sri Lanka’s ancient kings, and is truly an architectural phenomenon. Hike to the top of the fortress for some amazing views and wander through its different gardens.
- Ritigala: Consisting of 70 caves, Ritigala is one of the most prominent ancient monasteries that is still functioning today. This forest is also associated with Ramayana because it is said that when Rama’s brother Lakshman was injured, Hanuman was sent to get a special herb from the Himalayas. However, unable to find the right plant and running out of time, Hanuman carried a whole mountain range back to Lanka. One of these mountains slipped (Ritigala) and is thought to be why Ritigala is full of plants which can only be found in the Himalayas.
- Cobra Cave: Also known as Cobra Hooded Cave due to its shape, is believed to be one of the many places Ravana hid his captive Seeta.
Finally, end your journey on the West/North West Coast of Sri Lanka in Chilaw and Negombo.
- Munneswaram Temple: Munneswaram Temple is one of the few ancient temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and it actually predates the Ramayana. Lord Rama visited this temple after his victorious battle against King Ravana as he felt that he was being followed by a Bramhaasthi Dosham (an evil spirit). He prayed to Lord Shiva and asked him for advice on how to get rid of the malevolent presence, who stated that Rama must install and pray to four different lingams.
- Manavari Temple: The first of these lingams were installed in Manavari Temple near the banks of the Deduru Oya. Since this was the first lingam installed and prayed by Rama, the lingam is called Ramalinga Shivan and is an important site of worship for Hindus all around the world.
If its your first time travelling around Sri Lanka, here are some popular places you must visit too on your backpacking adventure.