The Mystic Mountain of Rumassala in Galle (අභිරහස් රූමස්සල කන්ද)

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The impressive cameo note, in the Daily News Travel by Ganga Pradeepa, nudged me into musing about Rumassala and its environs. There is a strong reason for such reflection. I hail from Unawatuna and was born and bred on the leeward side of the sheltering Rumassala.

First, let me make a brief observation about the popular etymology of the name of this village – Unawatuna. Most people tend to settle for the ready interpretation, that, Unawatuna derives from ‘Onna-wetuna’ (There, it fell).

But, in reality, the name ‘Unawatuna’ denotes a minor harbour – ‘a cove or a small bay’. It comes from Una-Patuna (Oonapattana) – a small inlet. This expression has been used to denote natural harbors, in ancient Sri Lanka (Dambakola Patuna, Yapa Patuna etc.).

For centuries, ocean-going vessels were called at Galle and Unawatuna. A helpful ocean current allowed ships to drift almost effortlessly to these natural harbours of the southern coast.

Though the Portuguese Captain Laurenco de Almeida, intended to sail to the Port of Colombo, the current brought him to Galle. Age-old lore has it, that, Tarshish – a Port referred to in the Bible, is in fact, Galle. Around the cove of Unawatuna, there are traces, that speak about links with lands beyond the ocean. Even today, there is a place on the shore at Unawatuna Bay, known as ‘Ja-Kotuwa’ – ‘The camp of the Javanese people’.

The very name of the capital city of the Southern Province – Galle – has been whimsically interpreted in popular etymology. They try to make out that, Galla is derived from Gala which means cattle shed. But, Galla simply means forest or grove as in such instances as Attana-galla, and Tan-galla. At times Galla changes into Golla.


To return to Unawatuna – in quite a strange manner, there are several ‘falls’ associated with the area around Unawatuna.

The hillock of Rumassala figures prominently in a mythical ‘fall’. The core theme of the Indian epic Ramayana is a mythical encounter between Rama and Ravana. When Rama’s brother Lakshman was near-fatally wounded in battle, there was only scant hope for his life. The Prince’s life could be saved only if certain herbs could be fetched from the Himalayas. Speed was of high essence. Hanuman the Monkey God undertook the mission. At the site, he forgot the names of the herbs.

He broke off the chunk of one mountain, where the herbs occurred. When the chief physician extracted the essential herbs, Hanuman threw away the chunk of the mountain. It fell to the ground and came to be named Rumassala. Ru-mas-sala could be translated as ‘Beautiful Rock’. Incidentally, its present name ‘Buona Vista’, seems an echo of the original meaning, since ‘Buona Vista’ implies, ‘Beautiful Sight’.

There is yet another ‘fall’ associated with this region. As Pradeepa indicated, in a far-off age, a meteorite from outer space would have fallen in this area. Sir Arthur C. Clarke has stated that a spot in this region does not come within the magnetic field that envelops the whole earth.


In consequence, Sir Arthur explains, that, Exhausted geo-stationary satellites end up high above this place around Unawatuna, and keep on milling round and round.

It is interesting to note in this context, that, when Arthur C. Clarke came to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), way back in 1956, he made Unawatuna his first home. The mystery associated with the Rumassala area, may, in all probability, have intrigued him. When we were children, the elderly folk told us stories about the mystery of Unawatuna and Rumassala.

There are fruit groves in Rumassala that, only those travellers who genuinely lose their way, would come upon. Among precious herbs, in the Rumassala region, recorded to folklore, is ‘kalu-nika’, a medical plant with life-giving properties.

Ganga Pradeepa dwells extensively on the Peace Pagoda. This sacred edifice, gives a new significance to ancient Rumassala, converting the whole rock into a monument for harmony and peaceful co-existence.

There are other places of high significance, that a visitor to Rumassala should not miss.

A fascinating Buddhist Theme Park is evolving around the Elders’ Home in Rumassala.

A well-proportioned statue of the Buddha is the predominant feature of this Park. Serene, tranquil, and compassionate the statue of the Buddha contemplates the ocean below. The originator and the main implementer of this concept, Sarath Dias, had this sacred statue of the Buddha constructed to symbolize the miracle of a whole series of Buddha statues, that mysteriously withstood.

The hideous, massive, and monstrous onslaught of the Tsunami. Other images at this Buddhist Theme Park, depict the Introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Arahant Mahinda and his saintly retinue. On September 17, 2008, a statue of Anagarika Dharmapala, became part of this site.

Social worker, Buddhist activist, and community leader, Sarath Dias, keeps on adding to this Buddhist Theme Park. The Arrival of Buddhist Nun Sanghamittha, bearing a sapling of the Sacred Bodhi Tree from India, will be depicted in an edifice that is currently being constructed.


While at Rumassala, one must make it a special point to see a very old institution of learning. The Buona Vista School possesses an impressive history. Among its alumni, are Sir Oliver Goonetileka, Prof. Senarath Paranavithana, and Martin Wickremasinghe.

Rumassala shelters, those under its shadow, when the Tsunami struck. But, on either side of the Fortress Rumassala, the Tsunami’s effect was grievous and disastrous.

Rumassala is undergoing a process of fast urbanization, roads, residential places, and restaurants are being continuously built.

When we were children, we sat on the comely beaches and had literary debates and recited poetry. Rumassala was then a place of mystery and had been inhabited only peripherally. But, with all the modernization, a streak of mystery remains.

On a visit there, if you momentarily step beyond the beaten track and walk among the trees and bushes that still stand, you may even come upon the miraculous Kalu Nika – the life-giver.

Also See

Map of  the Rumassala Mountain in Galle

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Travelling Directions to Rumassala Mountain in Galle

Route from Galle to Rumassala Mountain Route from Colombo to Rumassala Mountain
Distance :5 km
Travel time : 10 mins
Driving directions : see on google map
Distance :125 km
Travel time : 2.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

Roomassala – the mystery mountain

by By Ishara Mudugamuwa
Sunday Observer, 24 August 2008
Japanese Peace Pagoda at Rumassala
Japanese Peace Pagoda at Rumassala

The historical mountain Roomassala stands majestically in the vicinity of Galle harbor along Galle- Matara road. The pagoda built recently by a Japanese Buddhist glistens in the morning sun .

The mountain violates the continuity of the southern coastal belt. Many devotees, Hindus, and other tourists throng this mountain to discover its mysteries and fantasies derived from the epic of Ramayana by Valmiki.

When I went there I felt that it is an ideal location to spend my leisure time peacefully. There are so many stories woven around the Roomassala Mountain.

It’s said that the life-reviving medicinal herb Sanjeevanie grows here but so far no one has found it. But in Ramayana, it is mentioned that Sanjeevanie could heal Lord Rama and his army.

Hanuman Statue at Rumassala
Hanuman Statue at Rumassala

M. D. Somadasa Kariyawasam, a researcher on the subject, recalls that Ramayana is about the war between Lord Rama of Bharatha Desha, that is India, and king Ravana of Lanka, over Seetha, the most beautiful woman at that time in the history of the world, the wife of Lord Rama, abducted by Ravana and kept hidden at Seetha Eliya in Nuwara Eliya.

Lord Hanuman led a Vanara Sena (a monkey army ) to rescue Seetha, and the Vanara casualties were so great, and even when Lord Rama and Lakshmana were seriously injured, in the battlefield sanjeevanie was needed to revive them.


This hurb is said to have, the magical powers of reviving the dying and rejuvenating life. Hanumantha who leapt across to the Himalayas to pluck the herb sanjeevanie, in a hurry, pulled the whole section of Samantha Kuta where the herb grew, brought and dropped it near Galle.

But the folklore says it was only a part of Samantha Kuta that fell near Roomassala. But there is no evidence of the other part of the mountain that was supposed to have fallen. So it’s logical to think that the entire mountain is intact.


People in Roomassala say that when a pooja is in progress on top of Roomassala Mountain, there prevails an eerie atmosphere in the whole area. In addition to the medicinal herbs endemic to this mountain, it is said that even the gravity here is different from other parts of the country.

The Viharadhipathi of the Vivekarama temple on top of Roomassala, Ven Aththiligoda Saddathilaka thero told me that it is impossible to take any medicinal herbs and material away from the mountain.

Those who tried to do so are said to have got lost. In Roomassala, hardly do fathers and children meet each other. In the evenings their fathers go to the sea and return only the next morning and by that time the children have gone to school.

Fishermen believe that a mystic power works for them as they always yearn for the blessings of the Lord Rama and Hanuma. It helps them to get a good catch.


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