The Mountain that takes the shape of an open book!
A key landmark on the way to Kandy, the capital of the central highlands, Bible rock or ‘Batalegala’ as it’s known in Sinhalese is a fascinating marvel. Some of the best views of the Bible rock can be captured from the hilly slopes of Kadugannawa. The rock emerges in all its glory through its surrounding landscape, which is a treat to the eyes and the soul.
You wouldn’t miss the site of this giant structure even if you wanted to! It promises wonderful one-day hikes, surrounding lush vegetation and some beautiful scenes at the summit to top it off.
Where is it at?
The rock belongs to Mawanella, a town in the Kegalle district, which is also famous for many other such mountainous rocks. A flat peak is what makes this rock stand out from its counterparts such as Uthuwankanda and Ura Kanda, yet a few more mountains.
A background check
So, what’s actually so special about this giant rock? Firstly, it sits at an astounding height of 1688 metres! That’s massive! Apart from that, the rock is known to look a lot like an ‘open book’ as described by Westerners, hence the name, ‘Bible Rock’. It resembles the Sigiriya rock by large, and was named during the British era.
Another very intriguing fact is that the Bathalegala rock attracts rain even without the presence of clouds. So, if you are lucky enough, even on a cloud-free day, you’ll see rain come down while you stare into the skies in awe.
The mountain shares much of its history with the Portuguese, who were a threat to the Kandyan Kingdom at the time. During the 16th and 17th century, the Portuguese who were in control of the Maritime provinces of the country were often watched by the Kandyan Kingdom. The Sinhalese would set watchtowers of which Batalegala was the very first. The Sinhalese would also have an ‘alarm system’ in the form of a bonfire, which would be followed by guards stationed at neighbouring mountains and the last being the Bahirawakanda, the closest to Kandy.
Its flat surface and easy climb was ideal for anyone to seek refuge as well as to watch out for its enemies.
How do you get there?
The nearest town to Bible rock is Mawanella, which can be reached via public transport. There are quite many buses you can hop onto from Pettah bus station. Depending on what time you reach Mawanella town, you have two options of getting to Hathgampala, the closest stop to the mountain. First is to hop on the Debathgama bus which is rarely available and then 2.5 kilometres to reach the trail, or take a Aranayaka bus to Gewilipitiya, and then a three-wheeler to Hathgampala. There’s a small board installed at Hathgampala showing the road to the mountain. There onwards, upto 01 kilometre is a concreted path with little houses on either side and even a small shop. A tiny foot path which marks the beginning of your climb and takes you through a forest. The whole climb takes you close to a good 2 hours at medium pace.
The climb and what you will see
Apart from the thick foliage, the mountain also houses a little shrine, which is seldom inhabited, thanks to a Bo tree. A sunny day promises uninterrupted views of the surroundings lined with many other
picturesque mountains in the vicinity. Bathalegala is also famous for bird watching, where some beautiful varieties of birds are seeing flying about from one mountain to another.
Good weather conditions allow for the viewing of nearby mountain peaks such as the renowned Knuckles Mountain range to the North-East and the Ambuluwaweva Peak. Satellite peaks include Devanagala Kanda to the North-East, and Uthuwan Kanda to the North. To the south is the Ura Kanda, that brings back grim memories of MP M.H.M Ashraff’s (Founder and Leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) helicopter crash.
The summit has a dagoba, a place of worship for monks, although it’s hardly inhabited. There are plans in place to install a dagoba dome at a size equal to that of the Kalutara Chaitya. While we await such plans to realize, let’s not forget to enjoy this gift of nature.
What you need to remember
Bathalegala mountain is known to be struck by lightning quite often. That being said, you needn’t scare-off and take it off your list, instead, avoid rainy weather and choose the mornings, where you can enjoy the rest of the day relaxing atop the mountain.
A trek always calls for casual yet comfortable clothing, and this case a good pair of sneakers, cotton clothing, some sun screen, a hat and a pair of sunglasses would do. Carry a few bottles of water to keep yourself hydrated at all times.
You may also have a snack or your lunch while enjoying the views, but do make sure you don’t leave anything behind except your foot prints.
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