After a bust night in the eerily quiet beach town of Tangalle (we drove down during off-season and there was nobody around and nothing to do but eat and watch the waves roll in—okay, it wasn’t a total bust!!) our group took one last stab at making the best of our weekend by visiting a nearby rock temple called Mulgirigala. We had no idea what to expect.
An operational Buddhist place of worship, this temple is an incredible place to visit to learn about Buddhism and see some mind-blowing ancient art. With seven giant statues of Buddha lying down and hundreds more tiny relics, paintings, and sculptures, Mulgirigala exceeded anything I might have expected. We had to climb over 500 uneven, rugged, and sometimes shockingly narrow steps to reach the top, but the view would have been worth 5000 steps. It was breathtaking.
As soon as we stepped out of the van, a woman approached us with beautiful white flowers that we would give to Buddha as an offering. After we paid the 500 LKR entry fee (approximately $4.75 CAD), a guide approached us and showed us around the temple. He was incredibly knowledgeable and spoke very good English. He showed us how to offer the flowers to Buddha, said a prayer, and told us about the meanings of the different statues and paintings.
When we reached the top of the temple, an old man blessed each of us individually by saying a prayer, rubbing ointment on our forehead, and tying a string bracelet on our wrist. The meaning behind the bracelet was that our blessing would remain until the bracelet fell off. Mine lasted the whole trip. This was a humbling experience for me. As a person who is generally not very spiritual, I was honored to be welcomed into his place of worship and blessed by this man. I really appreciate learning about religions from an unbiased perspective.
Behind the small temple where I received the blessing was a small trail that tourists without a guide probably would not know about. After skidding down a short but steep hill, I broke out of the trees to a sight that literally made me gasp. The landscape rolled on for miles, nothing but treetops and open sky. If the blessing hadn’t made me more humble—this view certainly did. I felt so small but in a good way. I realized the vastness and beauty of the land all around me and the spiritual importance of the temple just behind me.
I learned so much that day. It was such a beautiful, spiritual experience. Have you visited anywhere like this before? We love to hear about our readers’ travel experiences. Please send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave us a comment on social media (@twowildtides) and share your story with us.