Siththamgallena Temple

ඓතිහාසික සිත්තම්ගල්ලෙන රාජ මහා විහාරය


Siththamgallena Raja Maha Vihara is an ancient cave temple located in a picturesque backdrop in the remote village of Warapitiya in Walasmulla nestled at the foot of the Rammala mountain range. This temple has been called Sitiyan Gallen in ancient texts and has a history going far back to King Wattagamini Abaya popularly known as King Walagamba (89-77 BC).

This is a reverential place where the most respectful Sacred Tooth Relic that of now a day takes a place in Kandy, was hidden for protection from foreign invaders, as written in the ancient copper made document "Kolawenigama Sannasa".

The temple comes to prominence in the 11th century when invaders from Cholas, and whilst trying to capture the capital of Anuradhapura against the King Mahinda V and then moving the administrative capital to Polonnaruwa which ending era of 1500 year old capital.

The Cholas kept destroying valuable and historic culture of north-central part of the country for 53 years until a prince from the Southern where the place located near this temple rose against the invaders and took power in Polonnaruwa in 1070. This prince of hero Vijayabahu is said to have lived in Siththamgallena vicinity region since he was 18 till 36 consolidating power in the south and recruiting and building an army to fight the invaders. After defeat of the Cholas he was consecrated as King Vijayabahu I in Anuradhapura as his forefathers but ruled from Polonnaruwa.

The Siththamgallena Temple consists of two rock caves with 18 riyan Lord Buddha statue, and a historical stupa at the summit of the rock. The devalaya that is a place of worship dedicated to Deity Rajjuru Bandara has been constructed at the Uda Maluwa at a later date. This temple which had forgotten with time was revived in 1920 when Ven. Agalabada Sobitha Anunayaka thero started developing this temple again. Current Chief Incumbent is Keerthi Sri Ven. Agalaboda Piyasiri thero, deputy incumbent monk (anunayaka) for the Sri Lankan southern sector of the Siyam nikaya of Sri Dalada Maligawa.

Today the temple is most popular for the annual Randoli Perahara for deity Rajjuru Bandara which has become a national event. The cultural parade was started with one elephant 48 years ago and finally it has now grown to a national level with state patronization with the headed by the chief incumbent professional of the Sacred area and the annual festival, Chief Basnayaka Nilame, Prof Mahinda Pathegama. Now a day, this government approved national event known as 'Historic Siththamgallena Esala Perahara Mangallaya', (ඓතිහාසික සිත්තම්ගල්ලෙන ඇසල පෙරහැර මංගල්‍යය) takes a place in October every year and becomes popular as the Southern Sri Lanka's historic cultural parade which seconded only to the Kandy Perahara. This is a most stunning parade which consists of hundreds of Kandian dancers and Devil dancers with a series of various drumming, also with a number of elephants and all esteem for the existence of the Sacred Tooth Relic, having evocation of ancient days to secure of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

The days prior to the day of big parade, there are separate peraharas namely, Sri Kataragama devala perahara (coming from village Pathegama), Sri Wishnu dewala perahara (coming from village Thalapath Kanda) and Sri Rajjuru Bandara dewala perahara (coming from vilage Warapitiya) march on streets on three consecutive days prior to the big parade day, with three dewala Nilame . The most fascinating parade headed by the Chief Basnaya Nilame, the Randoli Maha Perahara march on streets with respectful relic on elephant with a number of dancing and drumming troops demonstrating its cultural beauty and vibrant.

The Rammala mountain range:

The Rammal mountain range and plateau is situated on a soft slope at 2,700 feet above Mean Sea Level. The plateau, which extends up to 268m in height, stretches to the Sinharaja Rainforest through the Morawak Korale. This is also the highest point in Hambantota District and among the mountains in Mulkirigala, Naigala, Handugala and Dehigahahena. There are smaller mountains among them, including Deniya Kadna, Bengamukanda and Hulang Kanda, which envelope into idyllic surroundings.

The location is around 48km from the Tangalle town. There is also the vegetation that is typical of the Southern hill rainforests, which has trees of valuable wood, such as Hora, Bakmee. Malburutha and Weniwel.

It is from the Rammal Kanda from which the Kirama Oya meanders, feeding the roots of the Sinharaja forest connected through Gongala and Rammale mountains. It is from the Rammal Kanda that the Sapugahadola Waterfall, which is the only picturesque fall in Hambantota, can be seen.

It is also through the Rammala mountain range that the Dutch built the road and the fortress to transport salt from Hambantota to the upcountry areas. There have been a large number of historical data that has been unravelled from the fortresses there, which specify the international relationships between the people of Giruwapattuwa and foreigners in the 16th Century.

There are three definitions which envelop the name Rammalaya. One is Sonmalaya, as per the Mahawamsa listing. The other is that it is a depiction of a shrub forest. Another definition is the mountain of war. The Mahawamsa also has chronicled that there have been wars in this area in the 11th and 12th Centuries. R.L. Brohier has defined this as Rammeli.

The mountain range is also famous after deity, Rajjuru Bandara, and is also known as the Rajjuru Bandara plateau as he is said to have been in charge of the area.