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Myths and Legends


The links between the Sinharaja Forest and the Sinhala peoples of Sri Lanka are lost in the mists of legend and lore. Both the forest and the people derive their names from the word "Sinha" lion, and according to legend, the race is the result of the union between a King's daughter and a mighty lion who lived in the forest. The Sinharaja Adaviya i.e. forest, therefore lies embedded in the national consciousness of the Sri Lanka people and occupies a special position of importance. Legend also claims that the forest was royal territory belonging to the ancient Kings (rajas) of the country and in some early colonial records the forest is referred to as the "Rajasinghe Forest". Yet another states that the forest was the last refuge of the lion, no longer found on the island.

Like all myths, these legends do not state the exact boundaries or location of the forest, and the name seems to have been loosely applied to a group of forest that existed in the south-western section of the island, stretching south form Ratnapura and north form Galle. In fact, taken literally, the name may refer more simply to the "king-sized forest" of the Sinhala people, which perhaps reflects the perception that the local communities had of the forest which seemed to have stretched on all sides around them. However, though precise boundaries were not marked in ancient times, it seems very probable that the forest which lies on the route from Galle to the sacred mountain of Adam's Peak was well known and traversed often. In the past, Galle was the premier port of call for foreign ships and travelers. All pilgrims to the Peak therefore would have disembarked at Galle and made their way through sections of the forest to Ratnapura to begin their ascent of Adam's Peak. Such a journey is in fact described by the famed Arab traveler Ibn Batuta in the 14th century.