Sankapala Temple – Pallebadda


Sankapala Temple consists of ancestral dens, caves, as well as recently built shrines and structures. The history of this temple is proofed back to the period of 161-131 B.C. According to the legendary stories, there had been ten Hercules in king Dutugemunu’s troops. Giant Pussadeva held one of them whose duty was to inform the king’s battle victories to the subjects by blowing a conch shell. Furthermore, his symbol was the conch shell itself. Following above, he had built this great sacred place and became a Buddhist monk there. Having won the Vijithapura war, this area had been offered to Pussadeva by king Dutugemunu to prioritise the war. According to legends, the conch shell he used at “Vijithapura war” has been interred in a Hakgedi Gala (Conch shell rock) found on the top of the mountain. As a result, this temple has been listed the Sankapala temple. (Temple of conch shell) Regarding our excavations, the Archaeological departments of Sri Lanka have recognised many ruins with historical value, such as dens with inscriptions, stone pillars and shrines from the temple premises.

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Historical Background

The history of Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya dates back to the Anuradhapura era, during the reign of King Dutugemunu. It is said that the giant Pussadeva, one of the ten great giants (Dasamahayodayo) who the king gave a village after the war, built this Temple in Pallebedda. Later, Pussadeva offered it to the Sankapala temple and the Buddha Sasana. This history is revealed by a stone pillar built in the Temple.

Construction of the Temple

The Temple was built on a rock, which stands majestically as sufficient proof to prove that this Temple has been blessed by the enlightened monks who spent their time peacefully meditating. The Temple was further developed during the Kandyan period, during the reign of King Rajadhi Rajasinghe, who offered the Temple to a Buddhist monk named Karathota Dhammarama.

The architecture of the Temple

The Temple is a remarkable example of ancient Sri Lankan architecture. It is built on a rock and has a unique design that reflects the cultural and historical influences of Sri Lanka. The Temple has several structures, including the Sathsathi Vihara Mandir and the Maha Vihara Devalaya.

The Sathsathi Vihara Mandir

The Sathsathi Vihara Mandir is a significant structure in the Temple, with two Buddha statues sitting and an ancient Buddha statue standing. All these statues bear a resemblance to the statues of the Kandyan period. In addition, the temple walls are adorned with paintings made of indigenous materials, similar to the Kandyan period.

The Maha Vihara Devalaya

The Maha Vihara Devalaya is another significant structure in the Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya. It is situated in the middle of the Temple and is considered one of the main attractions of the Temple. This structure is believed to have been built during the Kandyan period.

The Maha Vihara Devalaya houses several statues of Buddha in different postures, including standing, sitting, and reclining. There are also two statues of Hindu gods, Kataragama and Lord Vishnu, located in this room.

The statues in the Maha Vihara Devalaya are believed to be of the Kandyan period and bear a close resemblance to the other statues found in the Temple. The paintings on the walls of this temple room are also made of indigenous materials and are similar in style to the paintings of the Kandyan period.

The Maha Vihara Devalaya is a place of great spiritual significance to the devotees who visit this Temple. It is a serene and peaceful space that provides a perfect environment for meditation and reflection.

Tourists visiting the Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya should make it a point to visit the Maha Vihara Devalaya and experience the tranquil ambience of this sacred space.

Recent Excavations

The Department of Archaeology has conducted recent excavations around the Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya and the surrounding area, revealing new insights into the Temple's history. The excavations uncovered 14 caves scattered around the Temple, each of which has been numbered for ease of explanation purposes.

The excavation findings have yet to be fully released to the public, but steps have been taken to submit a report on the discoveries. These excavations have shed light on the Temple's ancient origins and provided valuable information about the people there.

Tourists visiting the Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya can now witness the ongoing archaeological excavations and see their latest findings. These excavations are essential to preserving Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage, and they continue to reveal new insights into the country's fascinating past.

How to Reach Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya

Reaching the Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya is relatively easy as it is located near the 24th-mile post on the Ratnapura - Embilipitiya main road in the Pallebedda area of the Ratnapura district. Visitors can take a bus from Ratnapura town to Pallebedda; from there, it is just a short walk to the Temple.

Alternatively, visitors can take a taxi or hire a vehicle from Ratnapura to reach the Temple. The journey takes around 45 minutes and offers scenic views of the surrounding countryside. However, visitors should know that the road leading up to the Temple is quite steep and winding, so it's best to hire a skilled driver if you're uncomfortable navigating these types of roads.

Once you arrive at the Temple, you can explore the various historical and archaeological sites, including the Sathsathi Vihara Mandir, the Maha Vihara Devalaya, and the numerous caves excavated in recent years. The Temple is open to visitors throughout the day, and admission is free.


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