Posted on June 4th, 2019


Sri Lanka planned to use the Ramayana trail extensively in India to promote visits by Indian tourists.  A team commissioned by Zee TV had toured Sri Lanka in 2007, to find places connected to Ramayana. They went to Sita Eliya where there were statues of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman. They said that these statues had been there for 5000 years. They said that close to Sita Eliya they had seen a mountain which looked like Hanuman.

Zee TV said the Chinmaya statue of Hanuman was a copy of the mountain, except that it was in a vertical position. They reported that hundreds come every day to worship there. They also spotted black rocks which looked like monkeys with black lips and ears. They saw Rummassala which was brought here by Hanuman. It contains trees only found in the Himalayas.  There is a statue of Hanuman there as well. They were delighted to find a board saying Ravana Ella falls. But they reported that the public only came to Sita Eliya to   picnic and that few knew about Rama or Ravana.

It was reported in 2008 that the Ramayana tourist package is gaining popularity in India. Hindustan Times stated that the Ramayana trail was a hit with Indian tourists. Batches of 50 to 120 visitors had already toured these sites.  Middle aged and elderly persons like the package.  Several swamis from North India have visited with 50 visitors each. One swami was planning to bring      400 of his students to go on the trail.  School principals are bringing students as Ramayana is a part of the curriculum in India.   There was an agreement with Andhra Pradesh regarding these tours as well, they reported.

 In 2014, high profile ministers from India came as part of a group 150 pilgrims from India, on a 8 day Ramayana trail . This is the first time that an Indian VVIP group came to Sri Lanka on a pilgrimage of the Ramayana trail, reported the media. In 2015 Sri Lanka had re-launched the Ramayana trail from Bangalore.

In 2017, Yahapalana government reported that Sri Lanka is preparing to be part of the Ramayana circuit of India. The Indian government is identifying places connected with the Ramayana. Sri Lanka has already identified 71 locations across the island nation for inclusion in the circuit  and has appointed a committee to identify more places. We look at Sri Lanka and all south Indian states as one unique unit, housing the maximum Ramayana spots,”   said  John Amaratunga, Tourism Development Minister. 

In 2018 it was reported that Indian and Sri Lankan governments have entered into an agreement to boost the Ramayana trail. This trail was lately gaining momentum with a number of operators offering travel plans. There have been 206,337 Indian visitors to Sri Lanka up to June this year and it is believed that about one per cent of the traffic would be visiting the country solely as pilgrims on the Ramayana trail.

A press release issued on the occasions, by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau stated that in Sri Lanka according to popular belief the Ramayana story is indeed a true account of what took place many millenniums ago. This belief has been supported by research, analysis and reasoning.

Sri Lanka has identified over 50 sites in and around its territory due to accessibility issues, only around 20 sites are currently being recommended for visitors. Sri Lanka is working towards identifying many other locations and also making these locations accessible to visitors. It has been estimated that a travel period of around 9 to 14 days will be required to visit all 20 sites, the press release concluded.

Indians are puzzled over the popularity of the Ramayana trail. Ravana is held in high contempt by the large majority of Indian populace, said Kuldeep Kumar. Ravana is hated in India said Bandu de Silva. To a Hindu, Rama is a living hero and Ravana is a villain. Effigies of Ravana, placed on maps of Sri Lanka, are burnt each year in India during the Ramayana celebrations. At the October 2010   NDTV celebrations, in Delhi, two large effigies of Ravana and Vibhishana were carried in by revellers and placed before the Prime Minister. A bow and arrow was given to Prime Minister who shot an arrow at Ravana. The effigies were then stoned and set on fire.

Ruchir Sharma, a leading business man visiting Sri Lanka, said ‘I was surprised to see Tamils in Trincomalee working to attract Indian tourists to the Ravana trail. Locals say that as long as the Ravana trail is drawing tourists, the rest don’t matter.

The intelligentsia viewed the Ramayana trail with great concern. The Ramayana trail has been criticised on for its historical inaccuracies. These are not accidental, they are deliberate distortion of Sri Lanka‘s history and there was a political purpose behind it, charged the intelligentsia. The Royal Asiatic Socieyt of Sri Lanka therefore held a symposium on the subject in   October 2010. (Papers presented at this symposium can be downloaded at http://www.royalasiaticsociety.lk/research-projects/symposium-on-the-tourist-authorities-ramayana-trail/isl)

At this symposium    Malini Dias, the  respected epigraphist,  commented on a paper presented by N.C.K. Kiriella, chairman of the Ramayana Trail, Ministry of Tourism, at a symposium held at the Indian Cultural Centre.  His topic was ‘Historical evidence of Ramayana and Ravana in Sri Lanka.” His paper contained many inaccuracies, she said, listing some of them.

The cave inscription from Alulena (Rahalgala) in Aranayake in Kegalle District has had   white ink put on the letters in the inscription to change the appearance of the letters and then photographed, said Malini. A new phrase ‘Maha Rakdhaha rawana puta’ has been surreptitiously added at the beginning of the inscription. This translates as Ravana’s son. The Archeological Department takes ink impressions from the inscriptions. The ink impression is in black and white and is clear for reading, she said.

Cave inscriptions from Wegiriya devale have also been distorted with white ink  and translated to suit the Ramayana. The Brahmi cave inscription of Molagoda Vihara in Kandy District has been misinterpreted. ‘Bamana’ has been read as ‘Bimana’ to show that it refers to the pilot of an airplane.

Sigiriya has been described as Chitrakoota palace of Ravana’s brother Kuvera. Isurumuniya Vihara is considered the temple of Ravana’s parents, Visravasumi and Kaikali.   The word Kubakara has been misinterpreted as Kubakana. Cave inscriptions at Vessagiriya were also misinterpreted.  One inscription has been taken by Kiriella from the book ‘Sri Lanka Rawana rajadhaniya’ by Ariyadasa Seneviratne. Participants at the RASSL symposium wanted to know whether legal action cannot be taken if inscriptions have been tempered with.

Kiriella later responded through the newspapers. The ink impression of a rock inscription is fine, he said, but standing before the entrance to the cave, following the letters carefully and taking photographs is always better than ink impressions. That’s the method I applied.

Danesh Wisumperuma speaking at the RASSL symposium said that there is no historical evidence to show that Rumassala, Ritigala, Dolukanda are remnants of rock brought here by Hanuman. Geologically they were formed around 542-4500 million years ago. Scientific evidence shows that the flora there are not Himalayan flora. They are Sri Lanka flora Ussangoda, according to the Ramayana trail, was the landing place of Ravana’s plane before it was burned by Hanuman. Geologically, this is a serpentine rock formation and the surface is covered with Red Earth. This soil contains a high concentration of heavy metal. That is why the diversity of vegetation is low in such sites, Wisumperuma explained.

The Ramayana trail contained howlers   as well. The Asoka flower said to be a rare Sita flower is a common plant in the upcountry and is found in many forests and Patna lands. They said the Bovitiya is also a rare Sita flower. Seetha gangula is not about Sita. There were other absurdities. I attended a talk by Ramayana trail supporters where they said that the letters ‘ra-ma’ or ‘ra-va-na’ were plentiful in the inscriptions. It was the silliest talk I have ever listened to.

At the RASSL symposium, Ven Hegoda Vipassi    spoke about the   Ravana literature that had sprouted along with the Ramayana trail. This is done methodically, he said. One person provides distorted inscriptions and others write books and essays based on these distorted inscriptions.  Historians are silent. Some have written introductions to these works.

Suriya Goonesekera had written an article on Ravana, which he said was based on information from ‘Dakkunu Budu siripathula pihiti makkam saha ravana rajuge sel lipi’ by Jayantha Pathiraarachchi.  Pathiraarachchi is busy fabricating and distorting inscriptions, said Ven Vipassi. Inscriptions have had lime put on it and new letters put in. Words are given new meanings. Gam and Ganga makes gamga. Pathiraarachchi’s book is selling well, about 15,000 copies have sold.

Ven Vipassi considered the distorted Ramayana trail interpretations as   part of a much deeper anti-Buddhist programme. The Ravana distortions are only a portion of the project of distorting the history and Buddhism, he said.  ‘I have found that an organized group is involved in publishing articles in the newspapers and books, which distort the history of Sri Lanka and also Buddhism. Scholars ignore these, saying they are un- academic.

However, I received a large number of phone calls and letters from the public inquiring about these books. When I started taking action I got obscene and threatening phone calls, also death threats.One letter disparaged Mahinda and Sanghamitta. I lodged a complaint at the Mt Lavinia Police station and am awaiting leave to proceed. This is a well organized campaign.  The Hindu akramanaya is starting, he concluded.

The Ramayana trail has come under fire for its political implications as well. Someone must look into the matter of the Ramayana trail, said alarmed observers. This is no laughing matter. Ravana and Rama sites are now found in places of historical significance, such as Yudaganawa. Why the Ramayana is remembered now, critics asked. Why is the Ramayana epic, which was not accepted in Sri Lanka for two millennia, making inroads now. 

The intelligentsia had no difficulty in explaining why. Ministry of Tourism is marketing Sri Lanka as the abode of Ravana. This is a move to subvert traditional history  and focus attention on the pre Buddhist and pre Sinhala era in Sri Lanka, they said. The 50 sites found in Sri Lanka are probably more than even in India, said critics.   The Ramayana trail also indicates a plan to present Sri Lanka as a Hindu country. Ramayana trail is not a venture to lure tourists but part of a bigger agenda to   present Sri Lanka as a Hindu country, said critics.

India is supporting this. Indian Express of 29.6.2010 reported that Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, was present at the bhumi puja, of a new Sita Matha temple at Divurumpola where Sita is supposed to have performed Agni puja. He had offered one crore of rupees for its construction.

The Ramayana trail aims to destabilize the country, charged the intelligentsia. Gaston Perera noted that Sri Lanka is using an epic from a foreign country to attract Indian tourists into this country. This epic has political implications.  The triumph of Rama over Ravana equals India over Sri Lanka.

A confrontational situation can be created by Ramayana Trail, critics observed. The tourists will not be ordinary tourists but Hindu tourists obsessed with the idea of the supremacy of Rama and Sita. Such pilgrimages can lead to violence. The Tamil issue was bad enough, a Hinduised intervention would be worse, said Bandu de Silva. The Hindu population in India has nationalist and religious impulses which could be used as a pretext for war if the sites become threatened.

Concerned Sri Lankans therefore want to know on what evidence the Tourist Board is arranging Ramayana trails in Sri Lanka.   They say that before this myth gets crystallized, the validity of these sites should be examined. Sri Lanka’s past cannot be distorted merely to attract Indian tourists. Tourist Board replied, ‘it is not our job to verify historical accuracy but to encourage tourism which is what we are doing by promoting the Ramayana trails’.

Some observers took a milder line. Haris de Silva said need we go to great lengths to debunk the Rama- Ravana connection with Sri Lanka. There is no danger that all this will threaten Buddhism. Also, every Buddhist temple ha separate annexes for Siva and Vishnu within the temple complex.   There is no threat to Buddhism from Ramayana trail. Why should not the Tourist Board make a quick buck out of it. They should be allowed to embellish the material, Haris said. Haris de Silva is former Director, National archives.

Tissa Devendra  suggested that the Ramayana trail could be presented as a fictitious  one. There is a tradition of fictional tourism, such as the Baker Street tours in London,  of the places where Sherlock Holmes lived in London.

 Columnist Nan” said in her column if money could be made from the Ramayana trail why not make it. There is no point in making such a fuss over the fact that Ramayana has been debunked as historical in India. We believe in legends myths about the origin of the Sinhala race and believe that the Buddha visited our island.

Nan though the RASSL symposium was tilting at windmills, seeing dangers where they do not really exist. Paranoid fears were expressed at the RASSL symposium, she said. Apprehensions were exaggerated. Since we believe in the coming of the Buddha and Vijaya without proof why not Ravana.

 She says that this segment of tourism came to be when tourism as in the doldrums. The idea of Ramayana trial was developed parallel to the Buddhist circuit in India and was approved by Milinda Moragoda, when he was Minister of Tourism. Don’t attempt to kill the golden goose which lays the golden egg of this arm of religious tourism. Ravana was a great king, she said. (CONCLUDED)

2 Responses to “RAMAYANA AND SRI LANKA Part 4”

  1. Christie Says:

    It is all beliefs; billions of Hindus believe purity of Sita while millions of like me believe Sita ran away with Rama and had a good time.

  2. Christie Says:


    It is all beliefs; billions of Hindus believe purity of Sita while millions of like me believe Sita ran away with Rawana and had a good time.

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