At Buttala junction, a left turn from Kataragama Road gets you on to Okkampitiya Road. The landscape will change rapidly to a winding, hilly terrain with lush greenery. Then it happens at around 7 kms: suddenly, you will be greeted with a vast valley with mountains in the background; a valley of rice fields on either side of the narrow road. On your right is the unmistakable sight of an ancient brick-colored Stupa hugged by a green canvass of paddy. You turn right – right into one of history’s fascinating landmarks, the Dematamal Viharaya. The same road leads you through paddy fields to Dambeyaya - the hamlet that’s home to its famous resident - KumbukRiver.

There’s history strewn all over here - it’s a story that dates back to the 3rd Century, a time when a glorious civilization reigned with a royal lineage at the top. Their handiwork, from towering Stupas to irrigation tanks that baffles modern-day engineers can only give us a glimpse of an era of wonderment. The Temple is credited to King Mahanaga and as it lay ruined through times of sojourn, King Kavantissa whose sons will later ensure a colorful place in the history books for the Temple, refurbished it.

Dematamal Viharaya

At Buttala junction, a left turn from Kataragama Road gets you on to Okkampitiya Road. The landscape will change rapidly to a winding, hilly terrain with lush greenery. Then it happens at around 7 kms: suddenly, you will be greeted with a vast valley with mountains in the background; a valley of rice fields on either side of the narrow road. On your right is the unmistakable sight of an ancient brick-colored Stupa hugged by a green canvass of paddy. You turn right – right into one of history’s fascinating landmarks, the Dematamal Viharaya. The same road leads you through paddy fields to Dambeyaya - the hamlet that’s home to its famous resident - KumbukRiver.

There’s history strewn all over here - it’s a story that dates back to the 3rd Century, a time when a glorious civilization reigned with a royal lineage at the top. Their handiwork, from towering Stupas to irrigation tanks that baffles modern-day engineers can only give us a glimpse of an era of wonderment. The Temple is credited to King Mahanaga and as it lay ruined through times of sojourn, King Kavantissa whose sons will later ensure a colorful place in the history books for the Temple, refurbished it.

Dematamal
Viharaya

Tale of two brothers

The feuding brothers Gemunu and Tissa were a nightmare to their father King Kavantissa. A borne-warrior Gemunu had sent his brother on the run after two major battles. In Dematamal Viharaya, Tissa found a safe haven in the belief that his brother wouldn’t damage the sanctity of a temple.

Prince Gemunu was soon on to his brother. Having paid his respect to the presiding monk Gemunu inquired about the whereabouts of his sibling. Sworn to a sacred code of conduct, the monk couldn’t lie but couldn’t also give Tissa away. So came the legendary words: “Tissa not on the bed?. Gemunu realized his brother was under the bed. But not want to defile a place of worship he laid in ambush outside with his troops.

Realizing the inevitable, the monk arranged four young monks to carry him on a stretcher draped in a saffron robe as if to carry away a dead monk. Awaken to the ploy, Gemunu mocked his fear-struck brother quipping that ‘Tissa travels on the shoulders of Buddhism’.

A repentant Tissa begged for mercy and upon the intervention of the presiding monk, the feuding brothers finally made peace here at the historic Dematamal Viharaya. The two would go on to become two great Kings with Dutugemunu better known for his warrior heroics.

The feuding brothers Gemunu and Tissa were a nightmare to their father King Kavantissa. A borne-warrior Gemunu had sent his brother on the run after two major battles. In Dematamal Viharaya, Tissa found a safe haven in the belief that his brother wouldn’t damage the sanctity of a temple.

Prince Gemunu was soon on to his brother. Having paid his respect to the presiding monk Gemunu inquired about the whereabouts of his sibling. Sworn to a sacred code of conduct, the monk couldn’t lie but couldn’t also give Tissa away. So came the legendary words: “Tissa not on the bed?. Gemunu realized his brother was under the bed. But not want to defile a place of worship he laid in ambush outside with his troops.

Realizing the inevitable, the monk arranged four young monks to carry him on a stretcher draped in a saffron robe as if to carry away a dead monk. Awaken to the ploy, Gemunu mocked his fear-struck brother quipping that ‘Tissa travels on the shoulders of Buddhism’.

A repentant Tissa begged for mercy and upon the intervention of the presiding monk, the feuding brothers finally made peace here at the historic Dematamal Viharaya. The two would go on to become two great Kings with Dutugemunu better known for his warrior heroics.

Tale of
two
brothers

Budugallena Forest Hermitage & Monastery

Budugallena
Forest

Hermitage &
Monastery

On the Buttala-Kataragama Road, you may want to experience the serenity and wonderment of a 6th Century Forest Monastery. The 14th milepost on this road is the turn off to this ancient widely spread jungle complex. Your expedition of peace and fulfillment begin at the Budugallena Temple where permission is granted to embark on the jungle trek to the Monastery.

It’s a climb through virgin forest, a good country mile that leads you to the staircase of serenity – 117 steps that will usher you into the stillness of an ancient monastery. You will be greeted by tell-tale signs of an ancient civilization and an area dedicated to meditation. Ruins include rock pillars, moonstones and ancient Brahmian scripts. This level invites the weary soul to pause in a moment of meditation before you scale the remaining heights. Brace yourself for the climatic passage of your discovery.

Drip-ledge caves

The feuding brothers Gemunu and Tissa were a nightmare to their father King Kavantissa. A borne-warrior Gemunu had sent his brother on the run after two major battles. In Dematamal Viharaya, Tissa found a safe haven in the belief that his brother wouldn’t damage the sanctity of a temple.

Prince Gemunu was soon on to his brother. Having paid his respect to the presiding monk Gemunu inquired about the whereabouts of his sibling. Sworn to a sacred code of conduct, the monk couldn’t lie but couldn’t also give Tissa away. So came the legendary words: “Tissa not on the bed?. Gemunu realized his brother was under the bed. But not want to defile a place of worship he laid in ambush outside with his troops.

Realizing the inevitable, the monk arranged four young monks to carry him on a stretcher draped in a saffron robe as if to carry away a dead monk. Awaken to the ploy, Gemunu mocked his fear-struck brother quipping that ‘Tissa travels on the shoulders of Buddhism’.

A repentant Tissa begged for mercy and upon the intervention of the presiding monk, the feuding brothers finally made peace here at the historic Dematamal Viharaya. The two would go on to become two great Kings with Dutugemunu better known for his warrior heroics.

Drip-ledge
caves

An opening through a large rock face leads you to an ancient drip-ledge cave. Enter into the inner abodes of a breathtaking cave complex with its centerpiece being a reclining statute of Lord Buddha flanked by several other statutes against a panoramic ceiling dotted with colorful art. The high point, literally, is a white statute perched at the top of the cave complex.

Legend has it that King Dutugemunu, the most loved ancient warrior set up the Temple and the Monastery as a pit-stop that brought respite to both body and soul while on frequent visits to the South.

Tucked away in the rising complex of devotion are some 30 chambers of meditation, earthly to the core and home to monks who would take refuge from the incessant chatter of life in order to attain a higher level of spirituality and humility. There may be many more chambers on drip-ledge caves higher up but lost to the shackles of time and decay.

Walking the Mind

The Meditation Chamber remaining intact and in use are adorned with a special feature – a path of meditation marked in sand. Each tenant monk engages in walking meditation, eyes closed in a ritual that promotes mind-fullness.

Off the beaten-track and away from the crowded tourist trail, this ancient monastery is proof to a truly authentic and inclusive experience Buttala holds for the intrepid travler.

Buttala may have received its name as a pit-stop for the king’s army but the history has left us many profound clues to believe that it has also been a place of refuge to the human mind and a center of enlightenment - evident in its many places of worship and well-appointed monasteries.

Walking
the Mind

The Meditation Chamber remaining intact and in use are adorned with a special feature – a path of meditation marked in sand. Each tenant monk engages in walking meditation, eyes closed in a ritual that promotes mind-fullness.

Off the beaten-track and away from the crowded tourist trail, this ancient monastery is proof to a truly authentic and inclusive experience Buttala holds for the intrepid travler.

Buttala may have received its name as a pit-stop for the king’s army but the history has left us many profound clues to believe that it has also been a place of refuge to the human mind and a center of enlightenment - evident in its many places of worship and well-appointed monasteries.

Rahathankanda the mountain of solace

Rahathankanda
the mountain
of solace

Rahathankanda Forest Hermitage & Monastery adds to Buttala’s complexes of monasteries. Barely 3 kms from Buttala Town on the Moneragala Road and across Sabaragamuwa University is a landmark none can miss – a beautiful stupa, the centerpiece of Weera Keppetipola Maha Seya, a temple that reminds visitors of the monumental heroism of a brave heart. There’s much to see here – ancient and contemporary.

The walk to the monastery begins by the temple and visitors will feel inspired to know that the hermitage was reportedly set up by an Arahat – one who attained enlightenment, as He sought to bring the famous feuding brothers together – King Dutugemunu and Saddhatissa.

Here too, you will walk through holy halls of historic statues and images and through boulders as you scale higher through jungle canopy you will spot many hermitage chambers with some historical graffiti surviving the test of time.

You haven’t still reached the top of the mountain; not before you explore more signs of what was once a thriving habitat for monks seeking the path of enlightenment.

Vistas of tranquility

The boulder-laden path to the top offers a great hiking experience; the reward at the wind-swept top of the mountain is spectacular views of the area and a well-earned rest.

Yudaganawa Theatre of war

Yudaganawa
Theatre of war

Yudaganawa Rajamaha Viharaya

Back towards Wellawaya from Buttala is Yudaganawa Junction; a right turn and 2kms take you to the Yudaganawa Rajamaha Viharaya - yet another temple from an ancient theatre of war with the name presumably saying just that. In fact, Yudaganawa is one big complex of ancient artifacts and places of worship and monasteries including devalayas where deities are worshipped. Among the ceiling art of Yadaganawa is reportedly at least two images of King Dutugemunu. Among other interests here is a rock pillar that is said to be a milestone that marked the distance between the Southern Kingdom and one in North-Central of the island.

A pathway through the forest leads to the centerpiece of Yudaganawa, a colossal Stupa with a circumference of 1038 ft. Considered to be among the largest Stupas in the world, Yudaganawa, however, presents an enigma. The mighty base rings are matched in height by a mere 27 meters with a pinnacle that looks like an abrupt contraption. Theories rage with some arguing that the Stupa is incomplete while others say it belongs to four such ‘Stunted Stupas’ in the four corners of the island.

Yadaganawa is said to be the sight of the battles between the two siblings and in the greater scheme of things Buttala sbeing the staging grounds for the King’s Army. The Stupa was famously constructed by Dutugemunu and Tissa as a mark of respect for the monks who brought the duo back together, as well as, a reminder of the fateful match-up which they vowed would never happen again.

Tallest free-standing Buddha

Tallest
free-standing
Buddha

(Maligawela)

Better known for the tallest, ancient free-standing Buddha Statue in Sri Lanka, Maligawila is about 18kms from Buttala and passes through gem-rich Okkampitiya. The 7th Century limestone statue stands at 37ft and depicts Lord Buddha in the Abhaya Mudra posture where the standing Lord Buddha clutches his robe at his left shoulder, while the right hand is raised to his right shoulder in the famous peaceful gesture.

Dambegoda Bodhisatva Statue

Dambegoda
Bodhisatva
Statue

(Maligawela)

In the vicinity of Maligawila is yet another magnificent work of art, a 32ft statue of Bodhisatva, an aspirant to become a Buddha. A number of rock pillars are strewn across the area, a landmark of the 10th Century, judging by a rock inscription.

The story here is mind-shattering as you’d hear how this ancient statue was vandalized and scattered into hundreds of small pieces in the 1950s before archeologists painstakingly put it back together – piece by piece.