Built in the second century BC enshrining the remaining of the Arhant Mahanida and Arhant Ittiya Theras, the envoys of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, Rajagala had been a flourishing monastery under the sponsorship of the Royals of East.
Built by the Kings of Anuradhapura and having flourished under the sponsorship of Kings of Digamadulla, the Eastern kingdom of Lanka, Rajagala was known as ‘Girikibalaw thisa’ in the ancient times. Standing 1030 feet tall the Rajagala mount is covered in thick jungle today. Yet the climb upwards, through an elegant rock steps formed in a gentle curve, along what once was a paved roadway, is scattered with the ruins of rock structures and moon stones, silent testimonies of a glorious age gone by.
The Western slope of the mountain holds most of the rains, although the monastic village was scattered all over Rajagala. Two rock pools built in the vicinity of two ruined stupas have now become the watering holes of the elephants while the rock plateau around the pools are scattered with intricately carved rock pillars, parts of a sophisticated structure also complete with urinals and toilets.
A broad path, which would have been an elegant roadway, leads down the plateau passing chaityas, viharas, dwellings, dining halls and ancient sculptures scattered into pieces. Among the ruins are the unique rice and water bowls, which were used to store water for the use of pilgrims and offer the first harvest of the farmers who lived nearby to Lord Buddha. The bowls giant in proportions and beautifully carved lies lost, dislodged but in full form waiting to be established and reformed. The water spouts, which carried water to the water bowls known as ‘pinthaliya’ too lay scattered broken, while one water bowls had been broken into four by treasure hunters.
Hidden away in the thick jungle is a huge block of stone 16 feet long with a half-finished Buddha image carved on it. The line of the statue are straight and are in right angles yet lack the detailed touch of a master, who after the first initiation of his apprentice had failed to finish the sculptor, which was forgotten to the thick jungle.
Above the main structure of the temple lies hundreds of caves carved with the drip ledges and modelled and decorated to house the meditating arhants of the monastery. Each cave carries the inscription detailing the donor, the time and the procedures, witnesses of the compound administration structure, which prevailed in the Kingdom.
Untouched by time, many of the walls, doorways and interior structures of these caves are still in place. Some had been refashioned with brick while others are adorned in stone. The walls inside are covered with plaster and would have been full of murals. Each cave had been built to catch the wind and is cooled by internal draughts.
Although they are yet be excavated and examined by archaeologists proper; the cave had stood perfect form for the last two thousand years as if its inhabitants have just left. Yet one or two are still in use, the preserve of the leopards, whose home they have become.