Ritigala monastic cluster, (near) Habarana, North Central Province, SL

Raw data

"Ritigala mountain is 2,513 feet above sea level, three miles long […] It is the highest mountain in northern Sri Lanka and in the rainy season its summit is often shrouded in mist and cloud.

These are at least 70 caves at Ritigala which were prepared for monks between the 1st century BCE and the early centuries CE. An inscription in one of these caves mentions that King Lanjatissa the brother of Duttagamini gifted it and he probably founded the first monastery at Ritigala. The Culavamsa tells us that King Sena I [(ruled 833 - 853 CE) - http://www.lanka.info/Sri_Lanka/ancientKings.jsp] built a monastery here for the Pansakulika monks and provided it with numerous slaves and servants. It is the ruins of this monastery that the modern pilgrim sees today. Sometime during the 8th century a group of monks broke away from the Abhayagiri [rules - tmciolek] and called themselves the Pansakulikas, that is ‘The Rag-robe Warers’. Wearing robes made out of rags, usually shrouds picked up from cemeteries, is one of the thirteen ascetic practices (dhutanga) allowed by the Buddha.

For at least two centuries the Pansakulikas commanded enormous respect from both kings and commoners. But over the centuries they accumulated vast estates and their asceticism became more symbolic rather than real. In the 12th century they split into two rival sects and during the reign Vijayabahu I [[(ruled 1055–1110) - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayabahu_I_of_Polonnaruwa] they left Polonnaruva in a huff when their wealth was confiscated as a part of the kings attempts to reform and unite the Sangha. After that they disappeared from history".

Input by: GitaG, Jan 23, 2013

“Ritigala is an ancient Buddhist monastery and mountain in Sri Lanka. The ruins and rock inscriptions of the monastery date back to 1st century BCE. It is located 43 km away from the ancient monastic city of Anuradhapura. […] The first Lanka Vihare (temple) was founded near Ritigala at the foot of the mountain in the second century BC. The Aritta Vihare was founded a century afterwards. Royals proved generous patrons. In the ninth century AD, King Sena made endowment of the monastery, a larger complex higher up the slope for a group of Buddhist ascetics called the Pansukulikas (rag robes) monks who devoted themselves to extreme austerity in search of supreme enlightenment.”

“The turn off to Ritigala is on the main Anuradhapura-Polonnaruva road some 7 km from Ganawalpola and about 16 miles from Habarana between the 6 and 7 mile post. The ruins are about 3 miles from the turn off and the road is unpaved but in good condition. The ruins are situated roughly half way along the mountain on its eastern side.” - http://www.buddhanet.net/sacred-island/ritigala.html

“There are at least 70 caves at Ritigala which were prepared for monks between the 1st century BC. An inscription in one of these caves mentions that King Lanjatissa the brother of king Dutugamunu (B.C.161-137) gifted it and he probably founded the first monastery at Ritigala. The monastery was abandoned following invasions in 10th and 11th and was rediscovered by the British in the 19th century. The name Ritigala has a meaning of 'Safety-rock' and describes as a place of refuge. Many Kings from the 4th century BC, have used it for the purpose. […] The monastery, which contains a remarkably undamaged urinal, a hospital, complete with stone bed, oil-bath and medicine grinders and along another jungle path, the remains of a library.”

“Historically, this has been called as Arittha Pabbatha (the mountain of Aritta) which can be translated as 'Dreadful Rock' or 'Safety Rock' or even 'Riti trees' growing upon it. Around 3rd Century BC, Aritta , who was the Chief Minister of King Devanampiyatissa, who later was ordained as the First Sri Lankan Monk and became an Arahath, spent his monastic life at Ritigala.” - http://www.srilankaview.com/ritigala.htm
Input by: tmciolek, 23 Jan 2013

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 30 Jan 2013

Lat/Long coordinates' accuracy:
The monastery in question is assumed to be situated actually no farther than 200 m from the point defined by the coordinates below.

Location of Ritigala monastic cluster, SL.

General location of the Ritigala monastic cluster, SL.
Lat 8.1165 Long 80.6630
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (http://www.fallingrain.com), 2013.

Google Map link:


Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Ritigala monastic cluster

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Sri Lanka: North Central Province

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx. Lat 8.1165 Long 80.6630 - based on visual identification of the site's ruins in maps/satellite and Panoramio photographs imagery, maps.google.com - tmciolek, 23 Jan 2013.

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

  • [missing data]

6. Modern name of the known nearest city, town, or village

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

  • Theravada

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

11. Date-early

  • MBM chrono-tag <=0200 - GitaG 23 Jan 2013
  • <=0200 0200-32c 0233-66c 0267-99c 0300-32c 0333-66c 0367-99c 0400-32c 0433-66c 0467-99c 0500-32c 0533-66c 0567-99c 0600-32c 0633-66c 0667-99c 0700-32c 0733-66c 0767-99c 0800-32c 0833-66c 0867-99c 0900-32c 0933-66c 0967-99c 1000-32c 1033-66c 1067-99p 1100-32p dated-el

12. Date-intermediate

13. Date-late

  • MBM chrono-tag 1067-99p 1100-32p - GitaG & tmciolek, 23 Jan 2013

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • [missing data]

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Archaeological

16. Additional notes

17. Corrections & addenda to this page were kindly provided by

  • [missing data]

18. Available Printed Literature

  • Dhammika, Ven S. 2008a. Sacred Island: A Buddhist pilgrim's guide to Sri Lanka. Kandy: Buddhist Publications Society.
  • [bibliographical details of the Book/Article 2]
  • [bibliographical details of the Book/Article 3]

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