A soothing balm for mind and body | Sunday Observer
Batadombalena forest:

A soothing balm for mind and body

16 July, 2023
The rock of Batadombalena cave, a home of ‘Balangoda Man’
The rock of Batadombalena cave, a home of ‘Balangoda Man’

The mountains beckon. Anyone who has witnessed the resplendence of the Sinharaja rainforest would know the feeling. Just the thought of laying eyes on that brilliant shade of green, found only outside the confines of concrete jungles, raindrops falling unrestrained on your body that strangely rejuvenates your being, and the sight of innumerable small waterfalls, are enough to lure a connoisseur of nature out of his or her comfort zone and send him or her charging into the wilderness.

Armed with Nikon camera and the requisite umbrellas, my two sons and I set out to the Batadombalena Forest Reserve - a trekkers’ heaven - located five kilometres from Kuruwita on the Colombo-Ratnapura (A4) road. The Batadombalena mountain range, 460m above sea level, was an intrinsic part of pre-historic Sri Lanka. The massive cave found here has been firmly established as a shelter of a pre-historic human habitation, with archaeologists uncovering evidence of ancient stone tools and skeletal remains inside the cave.

The Archaeological Department’s signboard in the centre of the Kuruwita town shows visitors the way to the ancient cave and forest reserve. The road is motorable up to four kilometres and the rest is a jungle path leading to the cave, around one kilometre away. The trek to the summit is long and adventurous. It is a steep footpath that runs through a leech-infested jungle, with a canopy of trees providing cool shade.

Archaeological reserve

The pre-historic era is generally a lost territory for many of us. But not so in Batadombalena, where the surrounding areas have been declared an archaeological reserve, ensuring the environment has remained unchanged for 30,000 years, or as close as it could get.

Archaeologists uncovered evidence of ancient stone tools used by ancient inhabitants in the Batadombalena cave. When there were no houses in the forest, this cave must have sheltered the ancient people from rain and sun. They may have lived amicably, feeding themselves and their young on the fruits and meat gathered and hunted in the forest. Even 500 people could, at a time, find shelter in this massive Batadombalena cave, which comprises a cluster of small caves. It is a rock that stands testimony to one of the world’s oldest human civilisations.

The dense foliage with its towering trees and the cool cascading streams that dampen the air, provide a contrasting reality of silence and sound, making one wonder if this is how it was in the early day. The forest played an important role in guarding the per-historic cave, and maintaining that sanctuary that is Batadombalena.

Before starting the hike, we applied soap on our lower legs to keep the leeches away as it is widely regarded by the locals as the best repellent for leeches. We started our trek from the village of Waladura, at the foot of the hill. Life in this charming village, with around two hundred inhabitants is not easy, with many of them eking out a living working in small tea and rubber lands. A few villagers operate roadside boutiques that sell beverages and snack items to visitors to the Batadombalena forest reserve.

The path leading to the summit winds through a small thicket leading to a robust full-grown forest and to rock patches without support railing and finally to the historic Batadombalena cave. But the cave proper is still some distance away, and in any case, there is too much happening around us to think about anything else.


A strange buzz in the distance makes me stand and ponder. It is not a sound city dwellers are familiar with, but standing still, taking in the absolute calm of the surrounding I began to understand what the sound was. It had rained heavily a few hours earlier and the sound comes from the constant rumble of the numerous small waterfalls that dot the route, acting like therapy for mind and body. It is only during the rainy season that these wonders come alive, forming little streams that wind through the trees and the creepers found all over the forest.

After trekking for about a half an hour, we reached a plateau of sorts. Actually it is a valley. The rest of the journey is simple but long. Climbing the rocky face, especially during the rainy days, can be very risky, as the rocks get slippery and are hard to get a grip on. After braving this patch and a couple of unintentional slips, mainly due to our impatience, we finally reached the plateau, and were more than welrewarded for our efforts. The view of the valley from this point is simple and breathtaking.

We couldn’t even see the Waladura village in the middle of the vast green ocean as the cool stream started its journey from the top of the cave, swollen to its limits, and shimmered its way across the plains.

The summit of the Batadombalena Mountain stood in the distance, looking down majestically at the forest that is home to a rich biodiversity including, the rare endemic Vesak Orchid, which grows only in tropical rainforests in the Sabaragamuwa province.

The one kilometre trek to the Batabombalena cave was quite pleasant. The entire route was filled with dark green forest canopy infested with leeches and mosquitoes.

However, in 1969, the cave was used as a Buddhist hermitage by a monastic bhikkhu who converted a smaller cave named ‘Ananda Lena’ into an ascetic dwelling by enclosing the mouth with a stone wall with two doors and three windows. What remains inside this cave today, is only a decayed cement bed and a meditating platform made of clay. A beautiful but discoloured Buddha statue still stands in a small shrine built into the cave along with this abode when the hermitage was in use.

Some of the visitors to the place had marred the walls with unbecoming scribbles. Fortunately, visitors are still spars to this forest reserve, enabling it to retain its immaculate condition. The pristine conditions also remind us of the need to preserve and protect this oasis of beauty, so that the future generation too bask in the glory what it means when history and nature complement each other in a beautiful show of mountain and forest cover.

Even though the Batadombalena cave itself is small, the rock boulder is massive. Towering overhead, it rises before us like a huge wall. A high waterfall cascaded from the peak of the rock like a long white bridal veil. From far above, the water trickles down, dripping in tiny drops along the blackened stone. During the rainy season, the stream rushes down the mountainside.


Everyone who hopes to visit this forest reserve must protect its beauty for future generations. An unpleasant sight in this pleasant environs is rapid deforestation in and around the forest reserve.

The villagers living along the slope of the mountain have cleared the jungle to make way for tea and rubber plantations. The plantations are a great threat to the fauna and flora of the Batadombalena forest reserve. It is imperative that the forest rangers take urgent action to halt the deforestation that would result in the desecration of an ancient historical treasure. Here it is easy to forget who you are and where you are from.

Your menial everyday problems - differences with your boss, rebellion against family and bickering among colleagues, all but melt away into oblivion, in the wake of the divine beauty that unfolds in front of you, leaving a sense of oneness with nature.