Aliwatte Caves (අලිවත්ත ලෙන්)

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Aliwatte’s royal secret

In and around the Kingdom of Sithawake-Rajasinghe are places of historical value closely connected, with the royalty from the early 5th century or beyond, when King Walagamba, with his enemies at his heels, was believed to have taken refuge, in places of safety after leaving his hiding place in the Pothgul-Kanda, Ratnapura.

According to the oral tradition, one such place, was ‘Aliwatte’ in Yatiyantota with a spacious cave in a massive rock, covering several perches of land, where King Walagamba had found secret accommodation once, during his exile.

The rock was also believed to be sanctified by royalty, over centuries as a place where the kings, before they went to war, had secretly deposited their ‘royal insignia’, the crown, and the scepter till their return and placed ‘guards’ trusted servants with strict-instructions to protect them ‘in life and death’.

The tradition has it, that the practice was followed by a ‘Bahirawa – induction’, in which the guard entrusted with the protection of the ‘royal-insignia’ was overtaken by sudden death, inflicted by the kings, by sitting the throat of the victim (guard), and bathing the spot with the blood, taking the victim by surprise. The perished guard turned to a ‘Bahirawaya‘ over the royal treasure, and passed it down the ages.

The rock at ‘Aliwatte’ had the imprint of an ‘elephant-foot’, carved upon it, which might well be an indication of an ancient ‘treasure trove’ belonging to the royalty lying within close proximity to the royal parks in Sithawaka.

The ‘guards’ who were virtually murdered in cold blood to fulfill a tradition, in the name of royalty at the foot of the treasure deposit had become ‘Bahirwayas’, reappearing in the shape of enormous and vicious snakes, ‘mostly Cobras’, dreadful demons and vampires out for the blood of those who disturbed the ‘sleeping-treasure’.

The ‘cult’ of the ‘Bahirawa’ inspiring terror, death, and destruction had prevented the looting of the ancient ‘treasure troves’, in ages past.

Thus the peculiar situation of the enormous cave coupled with the huge rock to match, the mark of the elephant foot imprinted upon it, and the panoramic view it commanded from the hill-top, all supported the claim that ‘Aliwatte’ might have been a place which the kings, down the ages, had requented due to the apparent and real strategic position it held during a period in pre-history when there were power-struggles among the provincial chiefs and kings at each others throat to gain or regain, the ‘crowns and thrones’, as in the case of Walagamba.

The rock cave still remains untouched, filled with earth with no attempt made by any party or the Dept. of Archaeology, State or private in the name of ancient civilization, a good part of which was probably still lying buried, perhaps, hiding valuable evidence of a civilization, which the the recent excavations, elsewhere had scientifically proved to be hundreds of thousands of years old.

‘Aliwatte’ seems to possess all the attributes of a place of historical importance which might well be harbouring strategic – information pertaining to the cultural pattern from the 5th century to the time of the Sithawaka kingdom, the most recent link with the present age.

by by P.D.A.S. Gunasekera
Daily News

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