Hidden Ruins of Ethgalpawwa Akasa Chethiya inside Yala National Park

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Yala National Park is one of the most popular wildlife parks in Sri Lanka, covering over 100,000 hectares. Yala is also said to have the highest concentration of leopards in the world and attracts close to a million visitors a year. However, the area covering Yala was part of the ancient kingdom of Rohana, which started to flourish a few centuries before Christ.

With the arrival of Buddhism to the country in 250 BC, the Rohana sub-kingdom too experienced a massive rise of large monastic complexes which could support thousands of bhikkhus. According to ancient text (Sammoha Vinodani Atuwawa) Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya is said to have had 12,000 Arhaths during the great famine of Beminitiyasaya in the 1st century BCE.

The golden era of this region, however, came to an end due to wars among petty kings, drought, famine, disease and the destruction of irrigation infrastructure due to non-maintenance. The Jungles had crept over this once populous area by the time Europeans arrived in Sri Lanka. However, remnants of this forgotten kingdom are still found on almost every rock outcrop inside Yala.

Elephant Rock (Ethgalpawwa) is the highest peak of a rocky outcrop covering about 385 acres (1.15 km2) inside the Yala Wildlife Park. This rock shows the perfect outline of a standing elephant when viewed over the ancient reservoir of Buthawa Wewa giving its name the Elephant Rock. From the same location, you can see the ruined Akasa Chetiya stupa on top of this massive rock against the blue sky. Right to the elephant rock, on another lower outcrop, you can see the outline of another stupa of this ancient monastic complex. Not much research has been done on this archaeological site due to its remoteness but the ruins in Yala which had been studied had been dated to periods between the 2nd to 3rd centuries BCE. Being part of the same civilisation, this monastery too should belong to the same period.

This site along with some other sites inside the Yala National Park had been visited by Mr. M.H. Sirisoma, Assistant Commissioner of the Archaeology Department in 1974.

The Stupa on Ethgalpawwa lies on the eastern side. A surface examination of the Akasachethiya stupa yielded several coins VOC, King Edward IV and Queen Victoria. Another stupa has been discovered on the eastern ridge of the Elephant Rock. This had already been dug up by treasure hunters. On clearing of a part of a pesawa terrace, a small crystal reliquary and a Dutch VOC coin had been discovered.

In July 2021 it was reported that the Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation had given approval to three officials from the Department of Archaeology to conduct a survey around this iconic Akasa Chaitya in Block 1 of Yala National Park. The letter mentions conditions for certain renovations. It was later disclosed in a tweet by the opposition leader that the government is planning to illegally take over 12,000 acres from Yala Block 1 for a concealed purpose and that there are plans to build a road to Akasachathiya. There has been a fury of activity to stop the destruction of the last refuge of many wildlife in the area by environmentalists.

Akasa Chethiya on the Elephant Rock overlooking the ancient Butawa Reservoir  hidden inside the in Yala Sanctuary - යාල වනයේ  ඇතාගල ලෙස හඳුන්වන පර්වතය මත ඇති පුරාණ ආකාශ චෛත්‍යය
Akasa Chethiya on the Elephant Rock overlooking the ancient Butawa Reservoir hidden inside the in Yala Sanctuary – යාල වනයේ ඇතාගල ලෙස හඳුන්වන පර්වතය මත ඇති පුරාණ ආකාශ චෛත්‍යය
source : Administrative Report of the Archaeological Commissioner for the years 1970-1971
The Ruined stupa on the Rock south of Akasa Chethiya on the Elephant Rock hidden inside the in Yala Sanctuary - යාල වනයේ ඇතාගල ලෙස හඳුන්වන පර්වතය මත ඇති පුරාණ ආකාශ චෛත්‍යයට දකුණින් ඇති පර්වතය මුදුනේ ඇති නටබුන් වූ චෛත්‍
The Ruined stupa on the Rock south of Akasa Chethiya on the Elephant Rock hidden inside the in Yala Sanctuary – යාල වනයේ ඇතාගල ලෙස හඳුන්වන පර්වතය මත ඇති පුරාණ ආකාශ චෛත්‍යයට දකුණින් ඇති පර්වතය මුදුනේ ඇති නටබුන් වූ චෛත්‍ය
source : Administrative Report of the Archaeological Commissioner for the years 1970-1971

List of Archaeological Sites inside Yala and Kumana National Parks

References

  • De Silva, R. , n.d. Administration Report of the Archaeological Commissioner for the years 1970-1977. 1st ed. Colombo: Department of the Government Printing, pp.29-33.

Also See

Map of Akasa Chethiya hidden inside the Yala Sanctuary

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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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 Akasa Chethiya hidden inside the Yala Sanctuary

The park can be reached through Southern Highway. It is 275 kilometres away (the shortest path through Ratnapura avoiding the Highway but travel time is longer) from Colombo.

Route from Colombo to Yala National Park  (Ruhuna) EntranceRoute from Kataragama to Yala National Park  (Ruhuna) Entrance
Through : Southern Highway – Mattala – Tissamaharama – Kirinda
Distance : 275 km
Travel time : 4.30 hours
Driving directions : see on Google map
Through Tissamaharama – Kirinda
Distance : 40 km
Travel time : 45 minutes.
Driving directions : see on Google map
Route from Yala Entrance to Akasa Chethiya hidden inside the Yala Sanctuary
Time to Spend : 1-2
Distance : 16 km
Travel time : 40 mins up to the rock
Driving directions : see on google map

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