Bathalegala Rock / Bible Rock (බතලේගල)

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You don’t always get the opportunity to view the famous Bible Rock, or Bathalegala, from a very unusual angle. Usually, we see it from far – a sombre square sentinel in the distant mountainous horizon, looming over other rocks and mountains, on our way up or down the Kadugannawa Pass along the Kandy Road. It is a distinguishing feature of that scenery, rising 2,618 feet above sea level and considered a delightful landmark which has challenged painters, poets and photographers from time immemorial.

It was during the British Period that this rock was named Bible Rock, as its appearance is quite akin to an open book when viewed from the Kandy Road, which the British built.

We were travelling along the scenic Hathgampola Road after turning off from Mawanella. At first, we were not sure what this rock was, that kept looming from time to time, dominating the surrounding planes, for we were quite foreign to the area and were in pursuit of, together, another attraction.

Chasing the rock

When it struck us that this was the Bible Rock, the journey took a different turn. We began to chase the rock – observing it’s changing shape and stopping many times to capture it unmistakable digitally. At one point, it seemed that the road was passing right under this majestic giant. The rock, which at one point could have easily passed off as the Sigiriya Rock in shape and size, now stood almost triangular over us. Rubber trees fringed its base and it seemed that the mighty rock stood precariously balanced on that delicate fringe.

Sadly, we could only gaze and admire this mighty living rock that day. Promising ourselves a hike to the top one day, we had to be satisfied with reminiscing upon such an adventure by W.T. Keble, as he documents in his book, ‘Ceylon Beaten Track’, in the early part of the 19th Century.

Historical accounts

Kebel writes: “I came down to Attapitiya to climb Batalegala, or the Bible Rock. I turned back a little way along the road and turned to the left up an estate road until I came to the foot of the rock. Here I found a guide, an old man with grey hair and a grey moustache, who wore a white shirt and a brightly coloured cloth.

“He was old, but I have never seen anyone more nimble on two small, supple bare feet. I toiled up the hill through the rubber trees until I came to the edge of the jungle. Here, I scrambled mostly on all fours through a long tunnel under the scrub by which the cattle find their way to the summit of the rock. My guide flitted up in front without the least effort, as if he were the guardian spirit of the hill. I arrived at the top, in soggy clothes, covered with leech bites, but my imperturble guide, grey-headed, gentle-eyed and sympathetic, stood on the crest, cool and dry, and unbitten, shading the sun from his head with a large black umbrella.

“He told me that there were no remains of ancient buildings upon the hill. But two caves which he pointed out upon the north side, acquired the reputation of having sheltered Walagambahu when he fled from the northern invaders.

“I sat down under a small tree and looked out over the wide green map through which the Colombo-Kandy Road wound its invisible way. I had looked at the Bible Rock so often from that road that it seemed strange that I could scarcely see a trace of the road from the rock. There was Ora Kanda to the west and the little hump of Kegalle beyond it. To the north were the Three Sisters and Alagalla. Utuwankanda was a flat smudge at my feet. Away to the east, I could see the railway and the road converging between Balane and Belungala. The watch towers of the Kadugannawa Pass. Far off behind them, the hills of Kandy showed against the eastern sky.

“The top of the rock forms a long narrow hog’s back, with a puddle of water in the middle of it, which serves the cattle that feed upon the coarse grass growing among the boulders. At each end of the rock, north and south, are the grand precipices that make it look like a book to travellers coming down the Kadugannawa Pass.

“My guide showed me a cairn upon the highest point of the rock which had been used as a trig station. Away to the south, he pointed out the Maha Oya tumbling over the Ahupini Ella falls – ‘the mist that comes out of the sky’.

“In 1931, he said, I was upon this rock in the night. There was a great bonfire here and lamps were lit all around. There was a bana preaching more than a thousand people were gathered on the hill. We stayed till one in the morning and then we went away.

“Together we sat out a chew of betel for him, and a pipe for me. Then I used the stem of the pipe to remove eight or nine leeches from my legs, and we climbed down again to the foot of the rock.

by Kishanie S. Fernando
Ceylon Today

Also See

Map of  Bathalegala Rock (Bible Rock)

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Travel Directions to Bathalegala Rock (Bible Rock)

Route from Colombo to Bathalegala Rock (Bible Rock)
Through : Kegalle
Distance : 102 km
Travel time : 2.5 hours
Driving directions : See on Google Maps


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