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Updated by Joanna James on Mar 16, 2024
Headline for Things to Know Before you Visit Fahien Caves – Treasured Historical Site
Joanna James Joanna James
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Things to Know Before you Visit Fahien Caves – Treasured Historical Site

Legendary home to travelling monk of the 5th century AD, Faxian, the Fahien Caves is located in the sleepy coastal town of Kalutara, one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka for sun, sea, sand, and greenery. While you have plenty of excuses for visiting the caves here are some handy facts.


The Discovery

The caves were discovered by Siran Upendra Deraniyagala; an archaeologist who went on to explore the caves in 1968. Located just a few hours from the commercial capital Colombo, the caves are easy to access. A rather fine location to spend time enjoying island vibes and salt in your hair, as some hotels in Kalutara, similar to those the likes of Anantara Kalutara Resort are located where river meets sea, for the best of both worlds. The archaeologist who remembered the caves named after the monk, set about trying to unearth the truth behind the legend of the Fahien caves.


The Legend Behind the Discovery

Fahien, also known as Fa-hsien and Faxian; is a famous Chinese monk, noted for his travels. The monk who is from the 5th century BC is believed to have visited Sri Lanka, or Ceylon, and lived around this area for over 2 years; the caves are believed to have served as his refuge. According to ancient scripts, the monk had recorded, the islands initial inhabitants had been dragons and demons; a fact that the archaeologist Deraniyagala wanted to establish; however no amount of excavation work substantiated the presence of the monk in the caves. What he found though, was a whole new and fascinating discovery.


What Did the Excavations Reveal

Extensive excavation work carried out in the Fahien caves uncovered 37,000-year-old remains of prehistoric humans and the tools they used. The findings were quite enlightening and proved to be a substantial link to the islands first occupants. The findings comprising of miniature stone tools remains of primeval fireplaces, animal and floral remains point to a hunter and gatherer type way of living amongst the prehistoric humans. This finding debunked paleontologist beliefs, in the 1960s, that prehistoric man lived on the island 10,000 or 20,000 years ago. The bones were the oldest human remains to be discovered and comprised of youth, 2 adults and 3 children. Further excavation work was carried out in both the 1980s and last in 2013, revealing more skeletal remains, which tested to be around 5400 to 6850 years old; which means the caves have been used throughout the ages, and archives findings from numerous timelines.


Visiting the Fahien Caves

You can easily organise an expedition to the caves via your resort in Kalutara. Located on the cliff side of a rather steep and rocky mound, there are modern-day cement steps carved into the hill for easy access, although ancient man probably chose the steep location as a form of protection. There are 2 routes, one consists of modern stairs, 500 to be precise and is rather a long route, but ideal if you have the stamina; the second is the original route used by the monks and consists of a path with hewn in steps. This route, although more laborious to endure is the most scenic and enjoyable as it passes through a lush jungle. Inside the caves are stairs helping you climb to the upper levels, visitors are not allowed to climb down to the excavation points in order to avoid contamination. Take along a guide for a comprehensive tour of the place.