as Arankele are rare worldwide
and pix by W.A.M. Wijesinghe
Kurunegala or Hasthihaliyapura was a
royal capital for over half a century in Sri Lanka.
There lies number of historic places which were
venerated by generations of Buddhists, built by
ancient Kings. These magnificent monuments are our
proud ancient grandeur, our historical artistic and
Twenty –four kilometers north of Kurunegala lies
a fascinating 6th century forest monastery called
Arankele in a thick forest mountain. Approaching the
place thorough Ibbagamuwa- Moragollagama road, I
turned right from Hiripitiya junction and that road
lead to Kumbukgete. On this road, I came across a
signboard indicating the road to Arankele monastery.
After ten minutes drive from that signboard Arankele
could be reached easily. Calm and quite, Arankele
was the abode to a most famed Buddhist monk Arahat
Maliyadeva who, along with other monastic monks
lived nearly 2,000 years ago.
The sylvan environment of this monastery is also
home to archeological findings. Stretching out on
many acres of a forest canopy, there are stone
carved caves used for meditation, long pathways
across the dense forest, alms-giving halls, bathing
ponds and drip-ledged caves where hermit monks
resided, display the excellent craftsmanship of
The 6th century cave monastery is up a forested
mountain. Ancient Brahmin inscriptions found here
revealed meditation halls, stone-faced double
platform structures and ambulatories for the hermit
monks. The platforms, aligned east-west with the
entrance porch to the east would be bridged by large
monolith. The smaller of the double-platform
structures here was divided into nine cells, the
roof being supported on columns. The rest of other
ruins to be found were, such as the Bodhigara,
pathways, urinal stones and a flight of steps made
of polished stone slabs.
Arankele is famous for the longest meditation
pathway in Sri Lanka. It is 250 feet long and was
discovered during excavations by the archeological
department more than 20 years ago. According to the
department Arankele is a monastery in the Padanagara
style for the monastic monks who completely devote
themselves to meditation. The origin of the
monastery belongs to the early Anuradhapura period.
Remains of the ancient ruins date back to 8th or 9th
There are numerous natural caves lying on the slope
of the mountain that were once used by monastic
monks for shelter and meditation. Interesting
features in these caves are the interior walls that
are carefully plastered with lime, the stone
doorways at certain entrances, and stone walls being
cut in order to divert rainwater getting inside.
Walking under the green canopy of wooded trees is
a balm to stressed nerves. Huge trees add to the
feeling of being in the thick of the forest, while
the whisper of leaves rustling in the breeze adds to
the bird song. During my stay at Arankele, I
experienced the salubrious and serene atmosphere
which was truly breathtaking.
Today, many monastic monks take shelter at this
monastery, meditating and fulfilling religious
rites. Throughout the year, devout Buddhists offer
alms to these monks and invoke blessings from them.
The monks who meditate in the monastery are in the
dense forest where lay people do not tread for fear
of disturbing them, the forest surroundings
affording them complete privacy for their daily
routine of meditation. For meals, the monks do
Pindapatha and lay men prepare alms in the building
which is in the foot hill of the forest.
Arankele has been declared a protected area by
the Department of Archeology with the primary
objective of preserving its pristine forest and
intricate workmanship of the ruins.
Dr. Senarath Paranavithana, renowned archeologist
has explained that monasteries such as Arankele are
rare worldwide, especially those that reflect the
skilled work of ancient Buddhist civilisation.