Kudumbigala Monastery
Sri Lanka, Ampara

Kudumbigala Monastery is located on the southeastern coast of the island of Sri Lanka, in the Eastern Province, 100 kilometers from the city of Ampara and 15 kilometers from the village of Panama. The monastery was built in 246 BC, during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. The monastery is located on top of a granite rock and is surrounded on all sides by impenetrable jungle. It was originally built as a refuge for Buddhist monks seeking to escape the bustling cities and find a secluded, quiet place to meditate. The monastery reached its greatest prosperity during the reign of King Dutthagamani, at which time it occupied an area of ​​600 acres, on which artificial ponds, stone stairs were equipped, and many stupas and sanctuaries were built. The monastery consisted of more than 200 rock caves, on the plastered walls of which archaeologists found the remains of frescoes on Buddhist themes and many inscriptions. The largest cave, called Maha Sudharshana Lena, has a well-preserved inscription which states that this cave was built and gifted to the monks by Nandimitra, one of the ten great generals of King Dutthagamani. The second largest Giant Cave is a gift to the monastery from General Deva, the king's personal bodyguard. Why and when the monastery was abandoned has not been precisely established; thanks to archaeological excavations, it became known that in the 17th century only a few hermits lived in the caves. Over time, the buildings collapsed, and the once thriving monastery was completely swallowed up by the jungle. In 1954, the monastery was discovered by Upasaka Maitreya, a Catholic from Negombo who was working on railway construction in eastern Sri Lanka. This event completely changed his life. Upasaka Maitreya settled as a hermit in a monastery, built a hermitage and cleared most of the caves and monastery buildings from the jungle. He lived completely alone in a monastery for 17 years, where he died in 1971. His remains were buried in a glass coffin in one of the caves of the monastery, where they rested until 1994, when LTTE militants were thrown into the jungle. The monastery itself was also damaged during the fighting that took place in this area during the civil war in Sri Lanka, which lasted from 1983 to 2009. After its completion, a stupa was built on the territory of the monastery and statues of Buddha were installed. Nowadays, Kudumbigala Monastery is accessible to tourists, however, most of it is still hidden by the jungle.

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Kumana National Park (formerly East Yala National Park)
Kumana National Park (formerly East Yala National Park)
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