Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya – Yala


Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya is Situated near Yala in Hambanthota District, has also being called Chiththala Pabbatha in the early syllabi. Stone Inscriptions has recognised this location as “Chithala Paawatha Vehera”. This temple network is credited to King Kavanthissa, who controlled the southern area of the country.
Sithulpawwa is recognised as a place where thousands of Arhaths breathed at one time. According to legends, it is said that a postulant monk named Thissa, who has given the state of Arhat, lived here and later, a stupa was built encasing his remains; thus, this also has been recognised as Tissa Thera Chetiya.
Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya includes several stupas, cave temples, Buddha statues, a stupa house and image houses scattered among a vast land space. Amongst these is a cave temple with ancient arts thought to belong to the 3rd century BC.

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The Magnificent Architecture of Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya

The temple complex of Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya encompasses a vast area and showcases a remarkable display of architecture. It consists of numerous stupas, cave temples, Buddha statues, a stupa house, and image houses. One of the most fascinating features is the cave temple that houses ancient paintings believed to date back to the 3rd century BC. These intricate drawings, adorned with red and yellow, are meticulously painted on a thin layer of plaster on the rock surface.

The Main Stupa and Its Surroundings

The main stupa at Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya is a marvel of construction. It is built atop a rocky mountain, with two south and north approaches. Stone steps have been cut into the hill, allowing devotees and visitors to ascend towards the stupa. The boundary walls surrounding the maluwa area, or the courtyard, are constructed using large rocks. Exploring the stupa's northern side reveals several buildings' remains, providing a glimpse into the ancient architectural grandeur.

Small Sithulpawwa: A Hidden Gem

In addition to the main stupa, Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya boasts another hill called "Small Sithulpawwa," which harbours a similar stupa and buildings. This rocky mountain range features stupas constructed on each peak, all built during the Pre-Christian Era. Excavations at this site have yielded a treasure trove of valuable items, including a uniquely crafted seated image of goddess Thara and numerous Buddha statues. Notably, the main cave temple houses two statues of the Awalokeswara Bodhisattva, one dressed as a royal and the other as a sage.

Rock Inscriptions and Local History

The Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya temple complex is adorned with many rock inscriptions, each with its own historical significance. These inscriptions primarily belong to the pre-Christian era and showcase distinctive localized effects compared to descriptions found in Anuradhapura from the same period. Some of these inscriptions mention two of the "Dasamaha Yodhayan" (the ten giants in the army of King Dutugemunu), namely Nandimithra and Welusumana. Another giant, Pussadeva, also hails from this area.

Contributions by Kings and Local Leaders

According to the extraordinary chronicle Mahavansa, King Vasaba built ten stupas in Sithulpawwa (then known as Chiththala Pabbatha). Stone inscriptions further reveal that King Mahallaka Naga (134-146) made significant contributions, including the construction of stupas and donations of land to the temple. The regional King Dappula of Rohana also played a pivotal role by donating the village known as Gonmitigama in 659 AC. Presently, this village has been identified as Gonagala.

Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya is a testament to Sri Lanka's rich cultural and religious heritage. This ancient Buddhist temple complex, with its remarkable architecture, intricate cave paintings, and valuable artifacts, offers a captivating glimpse into the past. It serves as a place of reverence and attracts numerous visitors seeking spiritual solace and a deeper understanding of Sri Lanka's history. Exploring Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya is a journey through time, unveiling the legacy left by kings, monks, and artisans of ancient Sri Lanka.

FAQs about Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya

1. What is the best time to visit Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya?

The best time to visit Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya is during the early morning or late afternoon when the temperature is more relaxed, and the lighting enhances the beauty of the temple complex.

2. Are there any guided tours available for visitors?

Yes, guided tours are available at Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya. Knowledgeable guides can provide valuable insights into the temple complex's history, architecture, and cultural significance.

3. Can tourists participate in religious ceremonies at the temple?

Yes, tourists can participate in religious ceremonies at Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya. It is advisable to dress modestly and observe the customs and traditions of the temple.

4. Is there an entrance fee for the temple complex?

Yes, there is usually a nominal entrance fee for visitors to Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya. The cost contributes to the maintenance and preservation of the site.

5. Are there any accommodations available near Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya?

Several capacities are available near Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya, ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts. It is recommended to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.



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