Haththikuchchi Temple is found about 3.5 km west of Mahagalkadawala on the Anuradhapura-Kurunegala-Padeniya road, Rajanganaya and Giribawa Divisional in Anuradhapura District. This stone pagoda network was built during King Devanam Piyatissa, and it can be observed amidst beautiful ponds and flora and lush greenery and natural rocks. It is now accepted as King Sirisangabo, who governed in Anuradhapura, gave his head. Several archaeological studies of evidence associated with it have been found in this area. King Sirisangabo, who controlled Anuradhapura, left the kingdom and meditated at this place. The story has it that the king gave his head to the poor man who came beyond, and he took the lead to the king's brother Gotabhaya. According to Records, after the king came to this area and confirmed that a Stupa with a Vatadage and a Bodhi tree was established. There are many corresponding factors and sign on this site to prove it from the third century BC. Archaeological proof suggests that the site was a successful Buddhist site till the tenth century. The pond on a rock that is nevermore affected by the sun or the moon, the reserved pavva like a stone trap, the temple, the Bodhi Ghara are the most evident archaeological miracles in this place. The Department of Archeology of Sri Lanka crew should also be recommended for their constant attempts to protect and manage this site.
The Exiled King Sirisangabo
In the annals of Sri Lankan history, King Sirisangabo holds a unique place. Following the demise of King Sanghatissa, Sirisangabo ascended to the throne, while his ambitious brother, Gothabaya, assumed the role of treasurer. Many doubted Sirisangabo's capabilities as a ruler due to his ascetic lifestyle resembling a bodhisattva. However, recognising his brother's gentle nature, Gothabaya patiently awaited an opportunity to overthrow him.
However, to everyone's surprise, Sirisangabo proved an exceptionally successful king. Impressed by his reign, Gothabaya's patience wore thin, leading him to gather an armed rebel group and march towards the capital to seize power by force.
Retreat to Hatthikuchchi
Upon hearing of Gothabaya's rebellion, King Sirisangabo decided to spare his kingdom from the horrors of war. Disguised and unnoticed, he left the kingdom behind, carrying only a cloth for water filtration. His journey eventually brought him to the serene and secluded region now known as Hatthikuchchi, where he embarked on solitude and meditation.
Meanwhile, Gothabaya, believing his victory was assured, assumed the throne uncontested. However, haunted by the fear that his brother still posed a threat, he announced a generous reward for anyone who could bring him Sirisangabo's head. Unfortunately, this proclamation led to killings as individuals sought to claim the prize.
The Rewards and the Pheasant
Amidst the chaos, a humble pheasant encountered Sirisangabo in his hermitage and instantly recognized him as the exiled king. Aware of the pheasant's desperate need for the reward money to support his family, Sirisangabo empathetically understood the creature's burden. In a remarkable act of selflessness, he unsheathed his sword and severed his head, offering it to the pheasant.
The pheasant dutifully carried the severed head to Gothabaya, claiming the reward. This selfless sacrifice by Sirisangabo showcased the depth of his compassion and the strength of his character.
Hatthikuchchi: The True Location
For many years, the exact location where Sirisangabo offered his head remained a subject of debate. Initially, the site was believed to be Attanagalla Temple in the Gampaha District. However, as evidence and research accumulated, it became widely accepted that Hatthikuchchi was indeed the place of this significant event.
Formerly known as the Rajangana Ruins, the Department of Archaeology officially identified this area as Hatthikuchchi in 1979. The name derives from the inscription of the word "Atti-Kucch", found on a rock. Scholars now believe that historical references to Attanagalla refer to Hatthikuchchi due to the location's evidence and context.
Historical Significance and Buddhist Heritage
The ruins and stone inscriptions discovered at Hatthikuchchi Temple provide invaluable insights into the rich history of Sri Lanka. These remnants, dating from the 3rd century BC to the 10th century, coincide with the arrival of Buddhism in the country, brought by Mahinda Maha Thero. Chronicles reveal that during the early stages of Buddhism, four main Buddhist monasteries flourished: Mihinthale, Sithulpavwa, Dakshinagiri, and Hatthikuchchi. Despite its existence as a thriving Buddhist centre for over 1300 years, Hatthikuchchi's association with King Sirisangabo has propelled it to prominence.
Architectural Marvels of Hatthikuchchi
Within the expansive complex of Hatthikuchchi, several remarkable structures have been identified. One of the main highlights is the Vatadage, a stupa house adorned with historical significance. Although the stupa within the Vatadage is dilapidated, the remnants of this architectural marvel, including two impressive stone doorways, still inspire awe.
An image house constructed within a natural cave showcases a reclining Buddha statue believed to have been created during the Kandy period. The Zoya house, stupas, alms hall, and semicircular building further exemplify the architectural prowess of the ancient artisans. Additionally, the complex boasts numerous stone inscriptions, meditative chambers, and cave dwellings utilized by practising monks in the early stages of Buddhism.
Meditative Chambers and Cave Dwellings
Hatthikuchchi Temple provides a glimpse into the early practices of Buddhism through its meditation chambers and cave dwellings. Hewn out of three rock slabs, these chambers hold great historical and spiritual significance. Imagine the devoted monks seeking solace and enlightenment within these serene spaces, harnessing the power of meditation to deepen their spiritual journeys.
The Mountain Summit and Scenic Views
Ascending the mountain summit of Hatthikuchchi Temple rewards visitors with breathtaking vistas and natural wonders. Atop the mountain, the oldest stupa in the complex stands proudly, connecting the present to the distant past. Near the dilapidated stupa, a fascinating carving depicts a man in motion, carrying an object in his hand, likely representing the pheasant's journey with Sirisangabo's head to claim the reward.
From this elevated vantage point, visitors can behold the captivating beauty of the jungle below, adorned with numerous peculiarly shaped boulders. Among these marvels is the awe-inspiring sight of a hanging rock balancing delicately on the edge of another rock—a testament to nature's astonishing craftsmanship.