Hatthikuchchi in Sri Lanka’s North-Western province is situated 42 km south of Anuradhapura, 11 km north-east of Galgamuwa Railway Station. When travelling form Colombo to Anuradhapura via Kurunegala and Galgamuwa a visitor must leave the main road A28 just north of the village Mahagalkadawela. The ruins of the ancient monastery Hatthikuchchi Viharaya is at the end of a 4,5 km long cul-de-sac.
The ruins are surrounded by impressive rock boulders. This is what makes this excavation site a really romantic place. All three boulders encircling the ancient site are interesting, in different respects. The smallest one close to the ruins is a little bit overhanging, it carries a rock inscription mentioning the ancient name of this monastery, Hatthikuchchi means “elephant’s stomach”. The taller one on the opposite site has a cave at the top, which can be reached from the back of the rock. It’s worth visiting, it offers the best view. In 1 km distance to the east, there is the most spectacular rock boulder standing upright. It is precariously balanced rock of unimaginable shape. It’s called the “falling rock” of Hatthikuchchi. It is said to have been a trap at the mainroad to Anuradhapura, prepared to let it fall down when enimies approaching the capital should come along this route.
The temple is considered to originate from the earliest Buddhist period, from the reign of King Devanampiyatissa (307–267 BC). But it seems to have been forgotten after only a few centuries, becoming a wilderniss again. It is believed that this was the location where King Sirisangabo (251–253) lived in exile after leaving the capital in order to prevent a civil war when his rival Gothabhaya claimed the throne. When Gothabhaya placed a bounty on the head of the former king in order to get rid of the rival completely, Sirisanghabo beheaded himself, offering his head to a peasant who had shared a meal with him and told him the story. This Sirisangabo legend is a typical Buddhist tale of examples of utmost self-sacrifice. The incident is said to have taken place at the cave on top of the rock mentioned above. The buildings a t the base of the rock are interpreted as the tomb of Sirisanghabo, erected by his former rival, who became a piuos und just ruler after receiving the head and regretting his deed.
The ruins surrounded by legends are interesting for those studying Buddhist monastic architecture, too. They will find remnants of an ancient monastic hospital and of a Bodhigara, a temple dedicated to a Bo-tree once placed in its centre. Furthermore there are assembly halls of the monks, meditation platforms and monk cells in caves.
For those loving heritage sites in beautiful settings, Hatthikucchi will turn out to be a place of real magic, unforgettable for those who try it out and travel with locals like Team Sightseeinglanka instead of giant international tourist companies.
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