Demon lady eating neck
Mulkirigala is an ancient rock temple about 20km north of Tangalle. It has these amazing cave paintings depicting various sins and demons eating people. I could have spent forever in there just looking at all the detail. The caves are in different stages of restoration, the lower being basically repainted, one room which is pretty much original Kandyan style red/white/black, and then some hideous colonial era reconstructions. Then there is a stunning view from the top. The original designs make the whole thing worth visiting, and Mulkirigala was also the site where the ‘Rosetta Stone’ was discovered, enabling the translation of ancient Sri Lankan texts.
There are over 500 stairs and it’s a bit of a climb. At the top there’s a Bo tree, and to get the best view you kinda step off the platform and go through the underbrush to the right. I guess I’d recommend a guide, the one we had was quite nice. His description of the murals basically amounted to ‘a wicked woman came and ate people’, and I suspect there’s more to it. I got a pirith noola (white thread around the wrist) at the top, which I like having. However, once he finished chanting the first word the guy said was ‘donation’, which was a bit of a buzzkill. On the way out I gave a donation to the albino clerk to support the place. As I was leaving I was shocked to hear my name over the loudspeaker as they chanted thanks. That is just a side note on the creepy commercialization of some of these sites.
That said, however, the place is worth preserving and is a wonder of art. Some of the work on the ceilings and Dutch era tiles are exquisite. The parts of the message I could understand were also powerful and compelling. If you are ever in the Deep South I recommend giving the place a visit. At the Tangalle clock tower (now Mahinda) junction just turn left and go inland, towards Beliatta. After about 20km you’ll see the sign, a turn to your right. After the trek up you can drink herbal tea and eat corn and mango achcharu.
A Bodhisattva (prior incarnation of the Buddha) donating an eye to the needy
The view from the top