By Hiranthi FernandoSri Lanka is blessed with such a variety of archaeological sites of historical and cultural importance that the visitor is often spoilt for choice. While the grandeur of the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa is difficult to surpass, there are lesser-known sites like Pidurangala in Sigiriya, which are overshadowed by the grandeur of the Sigiriya rock fortress . This frequently stems from the fact that they lie off the beaten track, are on a smaller scale, and are encircled and even encroached upon by jungle.
Pidurangala is located just a short distance away from the Sigiriya Rock fortress . ‘Pidu’ means donated or gifted, and rangala means golden rock. Although its origins date back to the same period as the Sigiriya rock fortress , this site does not share the same glamour and renown. Not even 10 percent of visitors, who flock to the Sigiriya rock fortress , spare even a glance at this ancient shrine. Most don’t even know it exists.
The Pidurangala monastery was built by King Kashyapa in the 5th Century A.D. Although Sigiriya was his kingdom, King Kashyapa’s religious center was at Pidurangala. Spread over 13½ acres, the monastery gave sanctuary to over 500 meditating bhikkus.
The ascent of Pidurangala was as challenging as Ritigala , and I strongly advise those over 40, not to visit both places on the same day. Crude stone steps along the way lead to the rock cave temple. At the top of the hill, is a large rock cave about 200 feet in length. Inside is a statue of the reclining Buddha, 48½ feet in length. This is said to be the largest reclining Buddha image in the world, built of clay and brick.