View of Dafther Jailany Rock Cave Mosque, Sri Lanka
View of Dafther Jailany Rock Cave Mosque
Dafther Jailany Rock Cave Mosque, Sri Lanka
Dafther Jailany Rock Cave Mosque
Salaat by Refai faqirs
Left: Steps leading to Dafthar Jailani. Right: View of the Kaltota Plains.
Pilgrims during the flag-hoisting
Inscription: Darvesh Mohiyadeen 715 (AH)
Inscription: Rookeetam Roohullah 883 (AH) 'Spirit of Allah' a distinctly Shia saying

Dafter Jailani

From Muslim Mosaics by M.M. Thawfeeq (late 1960's or 1970's) pp. 112-115

Dafter Jailani, or Kurugala (15 miles off Balangoda) towering thousands of feet above land level, covered with dense jungle growth, was the meditation centre of Islam's greatest saint Qutub Mohiyaddin Abdul Cader Jailani.

Thanks to the Muslim laird of Balangoda, Mr. Cassim Lebbe Marikkar Hadjiar, J.P. (popularly called "Balangoda Hadjiar" by the Sinhalese and Muslim population there) much of the jungle has been cleared, and the shrine has been maintained with some claim to orderliness. During the saint's sojourn of twelve years in this spot, centuries ago the area was close-set mountainous jungle.

When I visited Dafter Jailani near a decade ago I still found spoors of the wild buffalo whose tell-tale hoof marks showed that they have stamped the hard ground and gored the tree-trunks with their large, powerful horns. Watch-huts atop trees in the chena cultivations nearby also indicated that wild elephants were about. But I was told that due to the pious influence of the saint no pilgrim has ever been mauled by any of these beasts.

The only damage, done, I hear, was to an abandoned car by a wild buffalo, who had charged in a frenzy. Leopards and reptiles abound in the neighborhood, but they too have kept out of the pilgrim's path.

It is rough going in the last two miles of the 14 miles drive from Balangoda as the road is bad—one comes across wild elephants at dusk, in this section. A flag indicates where the pilgrimage begins.

After a half-hour walk through jungle-land one comes to a stream which can be waded provided one can avoid stepping on the jagged rocks. The water is soothingly cool and the stream is a favourite bathing resort of the pilgrims. I never felt its coolth more than when I returned after the tortuous climb to the cliff. It was balm to my aching feet.

The climb up the mountain covers one and half miles. Mercifully there is a large slice of rock in the shape of an immense mushroom on which one could rest half-way. I finally reached Hituwangala, which is called by the Muslims "Kal-adi Malai" (palm-print mountain) because the palm-print of the saint is seen on the overhanging rock. Marikar Hadjiar has built a mosque under the rock. It needed no roof, the rock serving as a shelter from the sun and the rain.

It is a sad commentary on the Muslims of Ceylon that they should have succumbed to personal vanity even in this sanctum. For on almost every available space on the rock has been written with chunam or paint the names of some of the pilgrims who visited the shrine—complete with dates!  It was puerile as the prank of school boys who write their names on the whale's skeleton at the Colombo Museum or on the leathered backs of the seats of double-decker buses, or of trains.

It is unpardonable sacrilege. I should think that these "devotees" did not make the pilgrimage in humility.

A water-hose trained on the rock might delete many of the names and restore its antiquity value. But it will be a tremendous task, for the names appear even high up on the rock—obviously ladders have been used—and almost entirely cover the rock front.

They have not even spared the palm-print of the saint, for base imitations of it appear below it, all over the face of the rook. There is, I was told, a mistaken belief that it was obligatory for every pilgrim to make a palm impression on the rock.

On the right side of the rook was a round stony "stairway" leading up to the rock, where perched in an alcove was the Mastan Sahib, the curator of the Shrine. His full name was M. B. Abdul Gaffoor Sahib. He told me the story of the saint, while seated on a deerskin, while I sat on a mat beside him:

His Holiness Qutub Mohiyadeen Abdul Quadir Jailani and his companions sought asylum here for meditation after a pilgrimage to Adam's Peak. In that mountainous region, there was hardly a stream. But when the saint and his companions felt thirsty he had only to scoop up the earth with his hands and—there was water!

It is said that even in times of severe drought, the wells and the little pond near the shrine never dry up —and are a big boon to the pilgrims.

After some tune the saint obtained, a divine command to go alone to the ‘Kal-adi Malai" (footprint mountain) or "Soranga Malai" (Tunnel Mountain). This is a huge cliff with an outsize boulder perched precariously on the edge of the cliff.

Here he meditated for over a decade, after which he left by divine power.

Mastan Sahid told me that when two Muslim divines, Meera Sahib and Hayat Nabi, visited the Dafter Jailani Shrine rose-water-perfumed sandalwood paste dropped in a container from above and a mysterious voice commanded them to make a palm impression with the paste on the face of the rock—just below the saint's palm-print.

The three prints can be seen high up on the rock with some faint impressions, which none have so far deciphered.

Ascent up to the steep side of Kal-adi Malai or Soranga malai was very trying. When I reached the top, however the breeze was reviviscent. On the underside of the huge boulder at the edge of the cliff is a huge footprint, which can be viewed with ease if one lies fully stretched under the rock. Even this boulder at such a height has not been spared by the name-writing vandals.

A few yards away is a cave-like tunnel, which can be investigated with the help of a flashlight. It forks into two passages. One is said to contain a mysterious light in the far end. But this, I believe, is only the sunlight seeping through a cleavage in the rocks. The other is supposed to lead to Mecca—a pilgrim's fantasy?

According to Mr. M. L. M. Aboosally, eldest son of Marikar and President of the Balangoda Islamic Association "there is a cave also in this rock with its underground labyrinths leading to a good 400 yards. After which there is a sudden drop which is difficult to negotiate.

"Various stories exist about this dark cave where bats are plentiful and snakes may exist. No man has yet come out alive from this cave to tell the tale. But there is no doubt whatsoever that this passage (if it can be negotiated) will end at the foot of the rock about a thousand feet below in the Bintenna plains.

"It is in this cave that a small child fell in 1961 and was miraculously rescued from death by two youths, Hand and Muthalif of Dehigastalawa, Balangoda. The child was brought up on the second day after great effort. This was the first time in living memory that any man had gone down this cave and returned to tell the tale.

"The seven-old child had dropped more than three hundred feet and was found resting perilously on the edge of a rock—fast asleep and unharmed.

"The two boys brought with them a few souvenirs—gold rings and ear studs at different levels of the cave."   

Descending near the entrance through a narrow passage one comes to the rock where the saint meditated; A huge boulder makes a, natural roof overhead. Viewed from here is a lovely panorama. One looks towards" Hambantota to the right, the Bintenna wilds below and Haputale to the left. Through this pattern of greenery can be; see the blue waters of the Walawe Ganga as they make their way towards the sea.

A sheer drop from this precipitous retreat, one comes to the "Uppu Kulam" (salt-pond) whose water is supposed to give five tastes and has miraculous healing powers. It can be reached only .through a circuitous one and half mile route from Hituwangala.

According to Mr. Aboosally, who is also Trustee of the Dafter Jailani Muhiyaddm Masjid a later saint, Sheikh Zinda Madara Shah voliullah, who had visited the shrine cast away his "miswak" (chewed twig of a tree used as a toothbrush) from the top of the Meditation Eiook.        

From this tree is said to have grown the historic Mal Madora tree, whose wood keeps away elephants and serpents.