It may lack the creature comforts that define a classic tourist destination, but Buttala, the rural region along the A4 highway is a treasure trove for history buffs and the atypical traveller. From Yudaganawa to Rahathangala , the region is littered with precious Dutugemunu stories that are enshrined in the Great Chronicle and lesser known legends associated with this emerald isle….
Buttala is one of those places which everyone knows about and passes along the way to some other destination, yet rarely take the time to explore and discover. This is not to say that the small town along the A4 Colombo-Moneragala road is your typical tourist destination with all the creature comforts to allure travellers. But for those who prefer lesser traveled paths and are willing to forgo some creature comforts, Buttala does offer a variety of sights that are truly a delight to discover
It is for instance, a treasure trove of historic artifacts and ruins. Buttala and its surrounding areas are littered with sites closely associated with the story of King Dutugemunu, the young rebellious prince from Ruhuna who went on to defeat the invading King ruling in Anuradhapura and unite the island. It is not difficult to imagine this fertile area with its vast fields of paddy being a far more developed settlement during ancient times and being the site of several pivotal historic events which have long since been enshrined in legend.
The Mahawamsa, the ancient chronicle of this country provides a graphic description about the battle between Prince Dutugemunu and his brother Prince Saddha Tissa which took place after the death of their father King Kavantissa. Gemunu who was in self- imposed exile in Kotmale during the latter part of the reign of his father, returned upon hearing of the demise of the King of Ruhuna. This is how the Rajawalia, a Chronicle written during the Kandyan time describes the events;
“…. Prince Gemunu coming to know that his father had died, left Kotmale and arriving at the city of Magama, sent word to prince Tissa, requesting him to dispatch the mother and the tusker, who was born on the same day (as Prince Gemunu). But prince Tissa did not heed that request.
Letters were sent three times and when there was no response, Prince Gemunu set out to fight, taking with him his men. The two brothers met each other at Yudaganapitiya
Thirty thousand soldiers of Prince Gemunu fell in the battlefield and admitting defeat he started to flee.
When Prince Tissa was chasing after his brother, the maha sanga came and blocked his way, and noticing thist Prince Tissa returned to Digamadulla (then part of the Ruhuna kingdom). …”
The Mahawamsa says that the battle of the brothers took place at a site known then as Guttahala, which some believe to be modern day Buttala. Legend has it that a stupa was built later to mark the spot where this epic battle is reported to have happened. The Yudhaganawa stupa which archaeologist have dated to be around the 6th Century AD is one of the largest such structures in the island and even though it is not currently standing at its original height, the enormity of the stupa can be imagined simply by looking at the circumference of its base.
Popular though the theory of the battle of the brothers is, there is also another school of thought as to the origin of the stupa. Some historians and archaeologists believe that the massive structure was built by King Parakramabahu of Polonnaruwa in memory of his mother in the 12th Century A.D.
Following restoration efforts in the recent past, the Yudhaganawa stupa and the ruins of a monastery surrounding it have now been preserved. This site can be reached by travelling a few kilometers from the main road. Situated just before the Yudaganawa stupa , there is a smaller stupa by the side of the road. This has been identified as the “ Chulangani Viharaya ” belonging to the 12th century AD. According to the Department of Archaeology of Sri Lanka, the Chulangani Viharaya comprises an image house, bodhigara, stupa and other monastic houses all traced back to the 12th Century, but the temple’s much weathered Buddha image is believed to belong to the 6th Century AD.
The Yudhaganawa Wewa is a medium size reservoir built during ancient times which even today provides irrigation water to a large acreage of paddy in the Buttala area.
It is also a good spot for bird watching. An island in the middle of the lake is a favourite nesting place for many birds and the best time to observe them is in the late afternoon.
Another site in Buttala closely associated with the legend of King Dutugemunu is the Dematamal Viharaya
It is believed that after losing in battle, Prince Saddha Tissa fled to Dematamal Viharaya , where the chief incumbent of the temple saved him from the wrath of his elder brother.
The Mahavamsa detailing this episode, says that Prince Saddha Tissa hid under the bed of the priest when his brother followed in hot pursuit.
It was the code of ancient kings that the sanctity of a religious place could not be desecrated. It is chronicled that it was the Chief Priest of Dematamal Viharaya who rescued the younger prince that finally made peace between the two royal siblings.
Currently, Dematamal Viharaya stands amidst lush paddy fields. Its darker colour offers a wonderful contrast to the green vastness of the paddy. There are some ruins that are also on display at this historic site, including ancient guard stones with the cobra hood.
It seems that every nook and corner of Buttala is associated with some sort of legend. Rahathangala is no exception. This is a small mountain situated alongside the main road as it passes along what is now the Uva Wellassa University which was in fact the site of a Gam Udawa project during the 1980s. As for the name of the mountain, legend has it that it was miraculously created by Arahats (Rahatun in Sinhala) as a barrier to the battling princes Dutugemunu and Saddha Tissa. Another version of the legend is that the mountain was created by the Arahats to help Prince Saddatissa flee his brother. There are still monks meditating in the caves of Rahathangala and hikes up the hill should only be undertaken after obtaining permission. Once on the summit, it offers a breathtaking view of the whole plain below and the wonderful and unique sight of the A4 main road snaking through the contours of the land.
Like many other remote parts of the island, Buttala has nothing much to offer in terms of accommodation, not even of the sparse and minimalist kind. The only options are a few adventure and ecotourism spots located few and far between and even these are little known. The journey there is a long one and the conditions difficult. But perhaps because of its remote situation, Buttala has retained its inherent quality of being a rural hamlet. But to the discerning and adventurous it is a destination steeped in history, archeology and the romance and mystery of legendary tales that have defined the character of a nation.
Map of Buttala Rahathangala
The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites.
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Travel Directions to Buttala Rahathangala
Route from Ampara to Buttala Rahathangala
|Through : Awissawella, Ratnapura – Balangoda – Beragala – Wellawaya|
Distance : 216 km
Travel time : 5-6 hours
Driving directions : see on google map