Despite being 46km north of Kurunegala, and almost half-way to Anuradhapura, Yapahuwa is the one site not to be missed. As magnificent as Sigiriya, it is a massive 100m high rock that soars dramatically above the surrounding area.
Yapahuwa was the seat of Bhuvanekabahu I (1272 – 84), the younger son of Parakramabahu II, who moved the royal capital from Dambadeniya to the stronger base at Yapahuwa. Its main feature is the beautiful ornamental stairway that climbs to a natural terrace where the tooth and alms bowl relic were once kept. There are three flights of very steep stairs, of which the last is flanked by stone carvings of lions in a remarkable condition leading to an ancient stone doorway. Passing through you will see the ruins of the building used to house the tooth, and looking back you can appreciate a stunning view over the palms.
At the base of this massive rock is a shaded circular path that takes you past stone walls, moats and ramparts. The setting is beautiful and there are many colourful birds and butterflies to be seen as you stroll around.
Unfortunately, Yapahuwa was only a royal capital for a short time since it was abandoned after the invading Pandyans of southern India seized the sacred tooth relic soon after Bhuvanekabahu’s death in 1284. It is said that Parakramabahu III, his successor, went in 1288 to the Pandyan court in India to successfully negotiate for the return of the tooth. It was brought eventually to Polonnaruwa after a brief stint in Kurunegala.
There is a museum near the entrance housing many relics discovered at the site. There are statues, and some china and Chinese coins that suggest there were diplomatic relations with China at the time. The most important relics have been removed to the Colombo Museum, though there is an exquisite granite window intricately carved with dancers and animals that protected the tooth relic.
by Emma Boyle
April 12, 2007