Next month, we will publish a series of four articles about heritage sites in the south of Sri Lanka, namely Buduruwagala with the tallest rock-cut Buddha on the island, Maligawila with Sri Lanka’s largest free standing ancient statues, Ramba Vihara as the best example of an excavated ancient monastery in the south, and Mulkirigala with the most impressive painted caves beyond Dambulla. Ramba Vihara and Mulkirigala belong to the Southern Province, whereas Buduruwagala and Maligawila are located in the Uva Province. Anyway, all of them are situated in the lowlands to the south of the hillcountry. In a wider sense, all territories between the south coast and the southern mountain range connecting Adam’s Peak (Ratnapura) and Namunukula (Badulla) can be called “southern Sri Lanka”.
The area between Tissamaharama, Maligawila and Mulkirigala is sometimes called “Cultural Triangle of the South”. This name refers to ancient sites with remains of the pre-colonial Sinhalese-Buddhist culture. During most of the centuries of the Anuradhapura period, the south or, mor precisely, the south-eastern dry zone of the island was not under the control of the capital Anuradhapura but formed an independent kingdom called Rohana (Ruhuna in Sinhala). The royal families were related to those of Anuradhapura and sometimes accepted Anuradhapura’s hegemony. The Buddhist culture was similar to that of the north, but there are some special characteristics of the south. For example, Mahayana Buddhism played a much more important in Rohana than in Rajarata, which was the name of the Anuradhapura kingdom or the area we now call “Cultural Triangle” (the famous northern one).
Capital of Rohana was Tissamaharama. Though not as much remains of its ancient glory as in Rajarata’s excavation sites, Tissamaharama is sometimes called “the Anuradhapura of the south”. Similar to Anuradhapura, Tissamaharama’s landmarks are huge dagobas, they have been restored in recent decades. There are 4 ancient stupas (dagobas) belonging to the Anuradhapura period, they are lying almost in a row. They are called Sandagiri Stupa, Tissamaharama Stupa, Yatala Vihara, and Menik Vihara. Out of these, the most worshiped and the largest one is the Tissamaharama Stupa. It belongs to the Tissamaharama Rajamaha Vihara, which was built in the 2nd century BC by King Kavantissa of Rohana, father of Dutthagamani (Dutugemu in Sinhala), who later on became the conquerer of Anuradhapura. The Tissamaharama stupa is said tomark the spot where Lord Buddha himself meditated with 500 enlightened followers. The Stupa houses original Buddha relics. It is also believed that Dutthagamani was born near this Tissamharama Stupa.
Today, Tissamaharama is popular with tourist for quite a different reason. It’s the gateway to the world-famous Yala National Park. Bundala National Park, a paradise for birds, is close-by, too. Nevertheless, there are areas of Tissamaharama untouched by mass tourism. Team Sightseeinglanka can arange village holidays for you in Tissamaharama, with day excursions to various natural and cultural heritage sites of southern Sri Lanka or relaxing hours at Kirinda Beach alternatively.
Sri Lanka's "Southern Cultural Triangle" with Rohana's ancient capital Tissamaharama (Tissa)
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