Posted on July 9th, 2024


The intelligentsia viewed the Ramayana trail with great concern. Ramayana trail is a deliberate distortion of Sri Lanka‘s history. There is a political purpose behind it, charged the intelligentsia.  

The Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka 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.  Kiriella’s paper w as titled, ‘Historical evidence of Ramayana and Ravana in Sri Lanka.” His paper contained many errors including misinterpretations of early brahmi inscriptions, said Malini and gave examples.

Sigiriya has been described as Chitrakoota palace of Ravana’s brother Kuvera in Kiriella’s talk. Isurumuniya   is turned into a temple for Ravana’s parents, Visravasamuni and Kaikali. The word Kubakara has been misinterpreted as Kubakana.

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 and translated 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. The name Dutaka is translated as pilot. 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. The lack of tree cover on top of mountain ridges in several central hills is due to the climatic and geological conditions and not due to any link to Ramayana story.

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, continued Danesh. 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.

The next speaker at the RASSL symposium, Ven. Hegoda Vipassi said he considered the Ramayana trail     distortions as   part of a much deeper anti-Buddhist programme. ‘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. The distortions connected to Ravana in only part of larger project of distorting the history and Buddhism.

 Scholars ignore these, saying they are not  academic. However I received a large number of phone calls and letter of the public inquiring about these matters and this indicate that some members of the public have   accepted these distorted ideas.

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 Suriya said was based on information from ‘Dakunu Budu siripathula pihiti makkam saha ravana rajuge sel lipi’ by Jayantha Pathiraarachchi. Pathiraarachchi’s book is selling well, about 15,000 copies have sold, said Vipassi.

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 is seen as gamga. Jayantha Pathiraarachchi has also written, ‘Lanka ravana ithihasaya’ and Ravana sell lipi”. Public interest in the matter has been aroused. I received a large number of phone calls and letters from the public inquiring about these books.

When I started taking action against this, 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. Bandu de Silva spoke on the Foreign policy implications of Ramayana trail in Sri Lanka This is a move to subvert traditional history  and focus attention on the pre Buddhist and pre Sinhala era in Sri Lanka. The 50 sites found in Sri Lanka are probably more than even in India, he said.


Why is the Ramayana remembered now, he asked. Why is the Ramayana epic, which was not accepted in Sri Lanka for two millennia, making inroads now.  Why is the Ministry of Tourism  marketing Sri Lanka as the abode of Ravana. The   government of Sri Lanka  was supporting the venture.

There is Indian sponsorship of the Ramayana cult in Sri Lanka. ICC Colombo had a seminar on the  Ramayan trail.   BJP Madhya Pradesh chief Minister  Chauhan  laid  the foundation stone for Sita temple    at Divurumpola and offered a crore of rupees for its construction.

The tourists participating in the Ramayana trail will not be ordinary tourists but Hindus obsessed with the idea of the supremacy of Rama and Sita. Such pilgrimages can lead to violence. A confrontational situation can be created by Ramayana Trail  because in the Ramayana,  Rama ( India) invades Ravana’s kingdom ( Sri Lanka ).The Tamil issue was bad enough, a Hinduised intervention would be worse,  concluded  Bandu de Silva.

Susantha Goonatilake speaking at the   RASSL symposium said the Archaeology Department has strict rules and laws against the destruction of archaeological sites. But there are no laws for the opposite, the  creation of bogus sites and artifacts.

Government of Sri Lanka is supporting the Ramayana venture. An article titled Sri Lanka government approves Ravana a part of their history” is revealing.  Sri Lankan government has declared “Ramayana no more a Myth – Now Authenticated” and has “recognized & authenticated Ravana’s existence”.

Susantha summarized the matter. The Ministry of Tourism is marketing Sri Lanka as the abode of Ravana. They have invented a series of mythical sites which have no historical basis. The Tourist Board’s ramayanaresearch” gives details while a series of videos titled Following the Trail of Ramayana in Sri Lanka” gives fictional sites.

They have established  a committee called ‘Ramayana Trail executive committee’ chaired by Neil Kiriella. One of its members, Subash Chawla, is  a  Pettah shopkeeper, who is  also chairman of a  Hindu fundamentalist ‘Krishna consciousness” sect.

Susantha  lists some of the observations made by Kiriella. Kiriella  claims that there are rock edicts pertaining to Ravana and his dynasty in Sri Lanka.  Kiriella says that at Sigiriya, there is “an inscription which confirms that Seetha was held in captivity” there.  The Vessagiriya Man and Horse” sculpture is from the Ramayana. Lakegala is an abode of Ravana. Kiriella also said that Ravana “ruled over seven continents from Lanka.” A tsunami removed evidence of Ravana’s kingdom.

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, said Gaston, at the end of the RASSL seminar of October 2010. ( Continued)

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