Juliet Coombe discovers Rakkithakanda Raja Maha Vihara in rural Ella while staying at Jetwing Kaduruketha, where historically important paintings created during British rule in 1886 can be found in the fascinating temple cave complex
If you haven’t yet been to Jetwing Kaduruketha then you’re in for a treat. You are probably imagining five star rural accommodation, views to die for, solitude and peace, imaginative activities, infinite pooling and awesome trees, flora, fauna and insects. Well, you do get all that only you wouldn’t have hit on the best thing yet. The butler service and in our case Eranda, was the icing on the cake.
If you want a special adventure ask Eranda to take you to Rakkithakanda Raja Maha Vihara a couple of kms off the main road from Wellawaya, in a little known part of Ella, where there is an amazing ancient rock temple, which is protected by a giant cobra carving, filling me with both fear and awe.
Walking up to this Jurassic-like setting of mysterious caves, waterfalls and rocks would only be possible with a local expert, I am even so relieved to find life, after the dramatic mountain journey to get here. The car journey was a rollercoaster ride in which we turned so many corners, I felt like a spinning top on the endless winding mountain bends, with begrudging passing places.
Calm returns as I explore this perfect place to meditate with my trusty Kaduruketha hotel guide Eranda a sacred site where you can totally disconnect from modern busy life and be at one with nature. So, taking it from that point of view, I am no longer that upset about finding myself lost in a time locked world like Brigadoon where for centuries people have been coming to discover their inner selves. One monk sits cross-legged at the entrance like an ancient guardian assessing the situation and seeing how tired I look offers me sweet bananas and water. After some enlightening conversations he chooses to take me to see his temple of paintings and special meditating spots.
Inside this fascinating cave complex, which twists and turns along a mountain ridge, we look up to a mysterious mountain Kurulangala, with rocks jutting out in precarious directions from a swirling mist. The temple guardian talks about the small prayer rooms, unique resting spots and magnificent cave like chambers, one of which exudes attitude, sitting next to a rock escarpment in the shape of a giant cobra. Here hell is depicted with fire licking upwards from the bottom section of the stucco white painting and above incredible paintings depicting the British colonial period and its social effects on the culture of the island. They amazingly painted Queen Victoria’s portrait over the doorway of a huge cavernous space, indicating the respect they had for the British throne in 1886, which, along with other images of colonial times, dominate one whole rock facade and interior. At the front it opens to the sky but the paintings have sadly faded over a hundred and fifty years, being exposed to the bright tropical sunshine. The images include the local artists interpretation of British travel by horse and carriage, military dress of the time and the double-headed lions face on the drip ledge, the last of which is perhaps a comment about the two faces of colonial rule. The locals joke that Great Britain ruled the waves and waved the rules and looking at these paintings one feels an attitude both of fascination and fear that existed during British Colonial rule, which united the island after removing the King of Kandy and sending him to India in 1815.
So if adventure and exploration is your thing book a week at Jetwing Kaduruketha, an agro tourism hotel specializing in unique experiences.