Mulgirigala dates its foundation to the 2nd century BC and was renowned through the centuries for its magnificent library. It was the proud boasts of its monks that a copy of every book written in Lanka religious or secular, during the 2000 years of the reign of its kings, including many rare originals, reposed in their library. Tradition has it that from all over the island, scholars, savants and scribes came to Mulgirigala to make copies of these books; to stay for long periods studying and meditating in the caves below the great rock. The library itself was housed in some of these caves, so cool and so salubrious to read and work in, a ‘climate’ and environment so kind to Ola manuscripts, to keep them fresh and intact, free from decay through countless decades.
Its summit; scrub-jungle-covered, the small white stupa restored in recent years, seemingly floats in the clouds, looking gentle enough through the trees and then sharply, suddenly one is at the end of the cart-road and there is Mulgirigala: an awesome, steep-sided, even slightly daunting; a tall, jagged mass of rock, sombre in the indigo evening, gaunt like an etching of ageless age. Heavily, because one is more accustomed to treading dull, smooth, straight, horizontal roads, the climb is undertaken; step over steep, straight-sided step climbed, spirit flying far ahead of clumsy feet; the rough, rock-platform reached, where the temple is sited along with the devale-shrines. And the small, scooped-out pool of freshwater at the edge of the rock, which, they tell you has never run dry, not even in the deepest, most searing drought.
Seated on the stone, an old monk lost in thought, contemplating all over again- maybe for the thousandth time the stupendous scene unfolding below him. Softly one tiptoed to his side, loath to disturb him but eager to see the country spread out below in tiers of variegated green; each tier is broken into uneven-edge ‘handkerchieves’ of brown and yellow, gold and green. One could only marvel. For mile upon mile, in fettered, the eye was free to roam over those endless acres.
The view is superb from the top of the site; to the south as far as the eye can see are the waters of the Indian Ocean. In the distance, the view takes in the magnificent range of mountain-land from the classic hills of Kataragama, the Uva range, the lofty tableland of the Horton Plains and Adam’s peak to the nearer heights and the lesser Morawak Korale hills. Mulgirigala great rock and the caves below used as a meditation centre in the ancient time.
In the ancient time, men in search of that elusive, inner serenity had come to live in the caves, forsaking the world to find the peace and delusion they so intensely desired there in the rock’s dark core. With the progress of Buddhist civilization, a monastic foundation was established at Mulgirigala. It was a natural site for those who desired to choose the “blessed state” and achieves the “highest bliss”, History ascribes the Buddhist foundation to Saddhatissa, appointed ruler of Ruhuna after his brother King Dutugemunu had regained Lanka’s throne and united the country, and the date is given as 137 BC. Military exploits have been on a heroic scale in the environs of Mulgirigala and are enshrined in our history, but it is not for that reason the place is renowned, according to the monks.