Ritigala is the highest mountain in the North-Central plain of Sri Lanka, standing at 2,513 feet above sea-level. It is close to Kekirawa and Maradankadawala. This enchanting mountain is about three miles long and about two miles wide at its widest. Covered in dense jungle, it is populated by wild elephants, leopards and bears including many other species of wild life.
Being the main feeding point of the Malwattu Oya (river) which feeds the Nachchaduwa tank and Kalueba Ella which feeds Huruluwewa, this nature’s extravagant blessing is another worthwhile nature-destination. The upper part of the mountain is well known for its flora; some of which are rare and also includes a range of excitingly exotic wild orchids.
The mountain has over 70 documented caves, some of which were used by early inhabitants and subsequently used as monasteries by Buddhist Monks. Ritigala has a long and rich history and is also referred to as “Aritta-Pabbata”. Ritigala is also mentioned in the Mahawamsa – ancient chronicles - which records that King Pandukabaya of Sri Lanka (307 – 377 BC) lived in this mountain for seven years, preparing for wars intended to capture the kingdom. It is also recorded that the early inhabitants of Ritigala referred to as “Yakkas”, joined King Pandukabaya’s to fight in his battles.
Ritigala appears to have also been used by Kings Dutugemunu (72 – 101 BC) and by Jetta Thissa in the 7th century in their wars against Indian invaders. There are some rock inscriptions indicating that this beautiful mountain became a monastic retreat for hermits (Pansakulika) monks and thereby, a place of religious importance. It seems that by the 10th – 12th Century AD, Ritigala was abandoned by the hermit-monks and thereafter was overrun by jungle, slipping into historic oblivion as it were.