Mulkirigala is an imposing rock with remarkable cave temples located 21km north from the town of Tangalle in the district of Hambantota. This enormous boulder known as ‘little Sigiriya” rises almost perpendicularly for over 200 metres out of the surrounding palm forest .Mulkirigala consists of a series of rock temples carved out of the face of a huge rock outcrop built in the 2nd Century. B.C. Mulkirigala Viharaya is a Buddhist temple complex that ascends and crowns the rock. It is a temple of great antiquity with fine murals . In these rock temples, the British colonial administrater, George Turner, discovered an ancient manuscript, Mahavamsa, the great chronicle, in 1826.
The climb to the summit of this sacred rock begins near the dwelling of the Buddhist monks at the base. A stone path gives way to a flight of steps leading up the flank of the rock. Immediately beyond the ticket office lies the first terrace, home to two rock temples and a small dagoba. The temple nearest to the entrance contains a reclining Buddha with murals of Vishnu, Kataragama , Vibbishana and paintings of Jataka stories. Just past the ticket office there is a steep flight of steps that lead up to the second terrace. The rock temple on this terrace houses a reclining Buddha with two disciples. The path rises steeply thereafter and turns into a flight of steps and leads to the next terrace, the location of four cave temples with a small rock pool. Immediately behind the pool is the smallest of the four temples the Naga Viharaya.
The Aluth Viharaya, Raja Maha Viharaya, and Piriven Viharaya are the other three temples on this terrace. Next to the Raja Maha Viharaya a narrow flight of steps leads to the summit of the fourth terrace. The view of the surrounding lands from this terrace is breathtaking especially at sunrise and sunset.
The origin of Mulkirigala is so ancient that it has been veiled in the mists of time. The first historical evidence identifies Prince Rohana, the brother of Prince Bhaddakachchana, who made the Mulkirigala area his homeland around 500 B.C. History shows that one of the 32 bo sprouts from the original bo tree brought over by Sanghamitta thera was planted at the Mulkirigala Viharaya.
The Mahavamsa records that King Saddatissa constructed the Mulgirigala Viharaya in the 3rd century. The Mulkirigala caves have a mixture of religious and secular paintings and sculptures with several reclining Buddhas, including the 15 metre long sculptures of the dying Buddha. Mulkirigala contains many beautiful wall paintings based on Jataka stories of Wessanthra and Telepaththa.
There are seven viharas and seven sculptures of Buddha. One of the seven viharas at Mulkirigala Dakkinagiri Viharaya was constructed by King Dhatusena around 400A.D. During the rule of King Agbo, Girivehera was constructed. Ministers known as Mulava, during the the King Valagamba era built Mulava Viharaya. These and other kings of bygone eras who ruled this country contributed immensely to the improvement of the Viharaya.
Ven. Wataraggoda Dhammapala thera, a pioneer amongst the monks of Ruhuna had connections with the Kandyan King Sri Rajasinghe, who did yeoman service for the Buddhist cause. With its remarkable history and unrivalled setting, no wonder Mulkirigala has always been a prime destination for travellers from all corners of the country.
Map of Mulkirigala Cave Temple
Travel Directions to Mulkirigala Cave Temple
first published : February 3, 2007