“Punchi Nuwaragala”, also known as Kiribathgala by the locals, is a rock cave hidden amidst the Kiribathgala Mountain in Kurunegala. The rock cave is known to have been one of the hiding places of King Valagamba of the Anuradhapura Kingdom.
The locals tell the story of how five months after becoming king, King Valagamba was overthrown by a rebellion and an invasion from South India, and before his return to rule and regaining the throne by defeating the invaders after 14 years, there was a time when he took refuge in this rock cave.
Adventure travel guide and avid explorer Nadun Tennakoon took a trip to Punchi Nuwaragala with a crew of eight others.
Nadun shared that he was originally hesitant to share the location of the venue, especially considering that the rock cave is accessed through the temple grounds that lead to the Kuda Galgamuwa road. He shared that if there are any travel enthusiasts who wish to visit Punchi Nuwaragala, then he urges that they kindly speak with the head monk at the temple and take permission or ask for some instructions before they head out.
He noted that the rock cave itself is situated in such a way that you cannot immediately notice it even upon first glance. “The rock cave really doesn’t look like a cave; this is most definitely why King Valagamba sought refuge here, because unless you are specifically looking for the cave and have an idea of where it is, you will really struggle to find it – it is that well hidden.” he said.
Nadun said that their climb wasn’t all that difficult; the real challenge came in spotting the cave itself as it blended in so well with all the surrounding rocky structures. He said that it took them just over two-and-a-half hours to get to the cave, mostly due to some wrong turns. However, when it was time to climb down, they were able to do it in under an hour. He said: “Once we found the cave, we realised that it wasn’t that difficult to climb down; the challenge was finding the cave itself.”
He noted that it was quite disheartening to see some pollution that was there at the location, with discarded bits of garbage scattered here and there. “I really want to reiterate to anyone who visits the place to please take care and bring back everything you take with you. It is important that we take care of these places so that travellers like us can keep going back,” he said.
Nadun also cautioned that there is no place to get water on the way to the top and so it is very important that you take enough water with you. “We had a pre-packed lunch and we didn’t even wash our hands because we were conserving the little water we had,” he said, adding: “When we got to the top we were able to do a spit-roast, even then we were very careful with our water,” he said.
“Because we visited during the drought season there were absolutely no water holes, but you can see that had it been during the rainy season, there were potholes that would have collected some water,” he said.
Nadun shared that if those keen on it are to ever visit Punchi Nuwaragala, he hopes that they take care of the environment and be sure to take in the magical experience to its fullest.
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