Urakanda Petroglyphs (ඌරාකන්ද ප්‍රාග් ඓතිහාසික සීරුම් චිත්‍ර)

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Urakanda Cave with Petroglyphs
Urakanda Cave with Petroglyphs
Source : Petroglyphs of Urakanda – Sri Lanka : a Preliminary Account

Urakada Cave with the petroglyphs is found at the foot of Urakanda Mountain in the Asmadala Village in Kegalle District. Asmadala is an ancient and remote village with several natural caves in the surrounding mountainous areas. Some of them have drip ledges and inscriptions, indicating that these caves have been used as dwellings for meditating monks in the ancient past.

The natural cave with petroglyphs in Urakada was first discovered by the former Director General of Archaeology, W.H. Wijayapala in 1983. Petroglyphs also called rock engravings which have been achieved using some form of sharp instrument, on the face of a rock or a cave wall. In Sri Lanka, only seven such sites have been discovered, They are the Habbelikanda, Dorawaka and Urakanda petroglyphs sites located in the Ma Oya Valley as well as those at Navagala, Molagoda, Budugala, Dimbulagala.

The Urakanda petroglyphs lie near the base of the rock surface. Their numbers dwindle as one moves from the eastern to the western side, owing to the steep slope toward the west, potentially making it cumbersome for their creators. The petroglyphs of Urakanda have been made by repeated engraving of the rock surface with a pointed instrument, in order to obtain the desired figure.

Alongside these ancient etchings, there’s also a depiction of a sacred footprint (siripathula) above them, clearly added at a later date.

All the engravings exhibit a commonality in their use of simple lines. However, what becomes evident is their attempt to convey something symbolic rather than merely depicting geometric or natural forms. Notably, the two larger petroglyphs (Figure 04, 05) portray human figures, suggesting the possibility that they represent significant individuals of that era, given the emphasis placed on them by the engraver.

Additionally, triangular engravings adorn the rock face, displaying a shallower yet crisper quality compared to others. Furthermore, numerous depictions consist of three straight lines, known as phytomorphs, dispersed across the drawing plane (Figure 06, 07). These figures are probably humans. Some of these engravings are deeply incised while others are more superficial.

Side view of the Urakanda Cave and the Petroglyphs
Side view of the Urakanda Cave and the Petroglyphs
Urakanda Petroglyphs
Urakanda Petroglyphs
Source : Petroglyphs of Urakanda – Sri Lanka : a Preliminary Account

Asmadala Rajamaha Viharaya is found after a short distance on a slightly hilly road that goes up through the village near Purana Ambalam near Asmadale Kadapela. From there, the rock caves are located on the Urakanda slope in the upper area.

Ascending beyond the caves with drip ledges, you’ll encounter a natural formation resembling a mushroom-shaped cave. This distinctive cave, known as Mukkugala Cave, owes its existence to a large flat rock resting atop another. Within this cave is where you’ll discover the petroglyphs.

References

  • Senanayaka, J. and Rammungoda, U.R. (2010) ‘Petroglyphs of Urakanda – Sri Lanka : a Preliminary Account’, in Sirinimal Lakdusinghe : Felicitation Volume. Battaramulla , Sri Lanka: Neptune Publications (Pvt.) Ltd, pp. 247–253.
  • Wijayawardena, K. (2021) නූතන ලොවෙත් ලෙන්වල දිවි ගෙවූ අස්මඩලේ මිනිස්සු, Roar Media. Available at: https://archive.roar.media/sinhala/main/srilanka-life/asmadala-people-who-lived-in-caves (Accessed: 11 May 2024).

Also See

Map of  Urakanda Petroglyphs

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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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Driving Directions to Urakanda Petroglyphs

Route from Colombo upto Asmadala Rajamaha Viharaya
Through : Warakapola
Distance : 91 km
Travel time : 2.30 hours
Driving directions : see on Google map

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