Pallebedda Sri Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya
Situated in the Ratnapura district belonging to the Atakalan Korale Thambagamu Pattu Pallebedda Village the S S P R Viharaya lies in the outskirts of Ratnapura - Hambantota main road near the 24th milepost. It is a 5 hour journey from Colombo through Ratnapura.
Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya stands majestically on a rocky mountain as ample evidence to prove that this temple has been blessed by the saintly monks who spent their time in peaceful meditation.
Brahamin inscriptions cared beneath the dripledges ("Katarama" in Sinhalese) of the rock dating back to a period of even before the birth of Christ is ample evidence to prove the existence of a monastery.
Folklore has it that Pussa Deva a warrior of King Dutu Gemunu (161-131 BC) resided here. This is conformed by the fact that Pussa Devas name has been mentioned in the rock inscriptions. Pussa Deva who played a prominent part in King Dutugemunu's wars was well versed in the art of war and blowing the conch shell. Hence the emblem conch shell was used to identify him. Further it is mentioned that later-on in life he was ordained a monk and achieved the state of Rahath. However, owing to the evils of nature this abode had been later abandoned.
This place was resurrected again and made a popular place of worship by Venerable Karathota Dharmarama during the Kandyan period. It is learnt that King Rajadhi Rajasingha gifted Venerable Dharmarama the village of Pallebedda for his good deeds.
One outstanding feature of literary revelation is the famed Ven. Karatota Dhammananda. He was imprisoned by the king of Kandy Rajaddhi Rajasinghe of 18th century as the king suspected the priest to be in close contact with the Dutch. He was arrested on the king's order and imprisoned in Kandy.
While in prison he wrote a book in verse form named 'Bharasa Kavya Gharbha Chakraya' which was presented to the King through Aththaragama Rajaguru Bandara. This book was sent to all the Pandit scholars in Senkadagala. However, nobody was able to comprehend it. Thus the King ordered all eminent scholars to be present at a King's Audience/Royal gathering ("Raja Sabawa") in order to discuss and understand the contents of the book. When this was done the King was highly pleased and he bestowed Sri Sankhapala Raja Maha Viharaya and the village of Pallebedda admist all pomp and glory to Venerable Karatota Dharmarama. This was a gift to appreciate the literary works of this Venerable monk. Even uptodate this verse form could be seen drawn on the door to the entrance of the Viharaya. Among the other items gifted are the Disa Flag with the lion inscription, "Vatapatha" (A round shaped fan used by monks) and a golden statue of Buddha. These could be seen safely guarded in the Viharaya along with the "Sannasa" (message written on leaf) and epigcaphy. Moreover he was honoured by bestowing on him as the chief incumbent of Sri Padaya and low country Sangha Nayaka Status. The glory of the temple began with this incident and it prospered thereafter until now.
It is very important to note down here the recent observation of the excavations conducted by the archaeological Department regarding Sri Sakhapala Rajamaha Viharaya and its surroundings. Steps have been taken to submit a report on its findings regarding the 14 caves scattered round the Rajamaha Viharaya. These caves have been numbered in order to make it easy for purposes of explanation.
Cave No: I
Cave No: II
Cave No: III
Cave No: IV
Cave No: V
Cave No: VI
Cave No: VII
Cave No: VIII
Cave No: IX
Cave No: X
Cave No: XI
Cave No: XII
Cave No: XIII
Cave No: XVI
Tombstone of Pussa Deva
Here lie the ruins of a small Dagoba. It has been constructed on a square platform of which one side measures 34 ft. It is a round Stupa with a circumference of 60 ft. Although there are no other ruins to be seen here the archaeological value of this place cannot be undermined
Following is the inscription which is cared just below the Repledge (Katarama) of Cave No: l
Meaning: "An Upasaka named 'Sona' has gifted this cave 'Supatiththitha' to the Maha Sangha."
Here means Maha Sangha and denotes the name of the cave. Two documents in Brahamin inscription dated Before Christ have been found inside the main Image House ("Budhu Madura" in Sinhalese) in cave No: 4. This has been inscribed about 25 ft below the Repledge (Katarama) towards the centre of the cave.
Meaning: "Son of Pussa Devage Guththa …………… gifted this cave". Although it is not mentioned that this particular cave has not been gifted to the Maha Sangha, we can assume that it has been done so to all monks who inhabited the land in all directions.
Meaning: "the cave belonging to the son named Pussa Deva has gifted this cave to the Maha Sangha".
According to this document the cave has been gifted to the Maha Sangha by Pussa Deva. As proclaimed by the Brahamin inscriptions B.C.
The name of the gifter and his fathers name have been mentioned. But unfortunately today the fathers name has been erased with the passing of time.
Attention should be focused on the rock inscriptions found by the excavating organisation of the archaeological department. They have been successful in bringing to light two rock inscriptions which hitherto have not been excavated, in front of the main Image House on a slab of stone.
This inscription done recently consists of a mixture of Sinhalese and party erased Brahamin letters. It can be assumed that this was a gift to the Viharaya.
Considering the importance and value of these rock inscriptions there are several conclusions we could arrive at. According to folklore this cave Viharaya is where warrior Pussa Deva was ordained as a monk and where he resided.
The letters of the period between the second and third century B.C. mentions the name of Pussa Deva. This documentary inscription belonging to the 2nd century B.C. regarding Pussa Deva and folklore are identical.
Another aspect which becomes prominent with these inscriptions is the fact that these caves have been renovated and offered to the temple by the devotees. A special feature of this offering is that these caves have been gifted not only to the Bhikkus residing here but also to all monks living in all directions of the country.
To the left of these inscriptions beneath the Repledge (katarama) is the emblem of the couch shell. This emblem should be taken into consideration because adjacent to the Brahamin inscriptions belonging to the era Before Christ there are couch shell is very rare. Therefore, it is reasonably to assume that the couch shell emblem signifies the authority of Pussa Deva.
Frescoes depicting bhikkus in meditation can be found on 'Sankhapala' rock. These inscriptions date back to the early Anuradhappura period.
Bharasa Verse (poems)
A very rare kind of creation by Venerable Karathota Dhammarama of the temple in verse form named " Bara Nama Gaba Saka " during the period of King Rajadhi Raja Singha takes special place in Sinhalese literature. This was written in order to apprise King Rjadhi Rajasingha of his literary abilities. As has been mentioned earlier this was written while serving a sentence in prison.
Relics in the museum of Sri Sankapala Rajamaha Viharaya:
The Lion Flag
Vatapotha(A round shaped fan used by monks)
Gold Buddha Statue
The deed of Pallebedda Sankhapala Viharaya
Source : http://www.lakdaruwo.net/embilipitiya/sankapala_vihara.htm
Updated April 6, 2007