Mulkirigala Rock Temple

Believed to have been built in the 3rd century BC, the Mulkirigala Rock Temple, aptly named ‘Little Sigiriya’ due to the resemblance of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, is a unique temple in the Hambantota District that has an eclectic blend of exquisite natural features along with a rich heritage and art, which showcases the unique culture and heritage of the country. Thus making it perfect for the history buff to explore, while journeying down the southern coast of the country.

Best Known For

  • The ancient Mulkirigala Rock Temple is famed for its unique architecture that blends its natural features, along with its predominantly exquisite Kandyan era designs, complete with exemplary arts and crafts of the era.
  • Due to the temple being constructed on a 205 metre high rocky outcrop, surrounded by 4 other natural rocks, namely; the Benagala, Kondagala, Bisogala, Seelawathiegala, the temple boasts of marvellous views of the countryside’s green landscapes, making it a place for the nature lover to revel in too.

Interesting Facts

  • Mulkirigala Rock Temple has its beginnings in the 3rd century BC, under the reign of King Saddhatissa, according to the Mahavamsa chronicle (a chronicle that explains the country’s beginnings).
  • Ever since its inception, the temple has received royal patronage under numerous kings.
  • It was during the reign of King Dhatusena during the 5th century AC that a stupa was built in the temple complex.
  • Further development of the temple by King Kirti Sri Rajasingha in the 18th century AC saw it being embellished with intricately sculptured statues and paintings from the Kandyan era, further accentuating the temples unique beauty.
  • Due to its similar architecture to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the temple has been aptly called ‘Punchi Sigiriya’ or ‘Little Sigiriya’ by the locals.
  • Although likened to the Lion Rock Fortress in Sigiriya, the temple has similar elements, when compared to the Dambulla Cave Temples too, making it all the more unique.
  • The rock temple consists of 5 compounds, namely; the Siyambalamaluwa, Lower Vihara compound, Bomaluwa, Rajamaha Vihara compound and the Upper Vihara compound.
  • One of the intriguing features of the temple is the Siyambalamaluwa that houses the monastery’s library and proved to be vital to the Western world, as the Pali Manuscripts in the library were used for the first translation of the Mahavamsa, unlocking the Sri Lanka’s early history to the Europeans.
  • The other compounds have shown to be exemplary image houses that include a great many sculptures of Lord Buddha, along with numerous murals depicting the tales of Lord Buddha in the Kandyanesque style.
  • Moreover, the upper vihara has proven to be a great observation deck, in addition to being an image house, to witness the natural splendour of the countryside with all its greenery and backdrop of the distant mountains. Thereby making it place of solitude and splendid views too.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The Buddhist temple in Mulkirigala is open for visitors daily from dawn to dusk. The best time to visit the temple is during the wee hours of the morning or the late evening, so you can experience the majestic sunrise or sunset.
  • There is no season for visitation, however, the months from May to August have shown a high influx of visitors due to the favourable weather conditions of the area.
  • Do keep in mind that Mulkirigala Rock Temple is a historical, sacred and one of the more important archaeological sites in Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is imperative to dress accordingly and respect the Buddhist traditions at all times.
  • Climbing up the 500 or so steps to the temple will definitely work up quite the sweat, therefore it is best to carry water and some snacks just in case.
  • It is also important to note that photography of the Kandyan era arts and crafts within the rock temple is a very strict affair, as it is prohibited to take any photograph with a flash, since the paintings can be easily tarnished.
  • Please keep the surroundings of the temple clean and give way to the devotees that come to perform rituals and prayers.

In conclusion, the Mulkirigala Rock Temple may be overshadowed by the much larger and popular Rock Fortress of Sigiriya, however, something that makes Mulkirigala all the more enticing to the wide eyed traveller is its ‘off the beaten’ location that is shrouded in a kaleidoscope of history and nature.

Title image by: KNOWSL The information displayed is provided by Mulkirigala Rock Temple


LKR 500
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