Dematamal Viharaya is located at Helagama on the Buttala-Okkampitiya road which leads to the Maligawila Buddha Statues. The temple lies about 4 km from the Buttala town.
Located in the middle of paddy field, you can see the dark coloured Stupa and the bo-tree surrounded by the green paddy from the road itself. Though much attention is not paid by the average tourist, history of the temple complex date back to the 3rd century BC.
According to folklore it is said that was the temple which prince Tissa hid from his brother prince Gamini (some times called Gemunu, later king Dutugemunu) after a major battle for power at the location now called Yudaganawa.
After the death of King Kavanthissa (2nd Century BC), his two sons, price Gamini and prince Tissa had two major battles in the struggle for power. Legend says that the first battle at the Yudaganawa was won by Tissa.
But the second battle was won by Gamini and Tissa unable to flee far, hid inside this temple knowing the brother will never violate the sanctity of a Buddhist temple. Prince Gamini pursuing after his brother, realised he was inside the temple and asked chief incumbent Ven. Gonashanka Tissa Thero whether his brother was inside the temple. The thero unable to lie answered in form of riddle neither lying nor giving away Tissa.
The historic Rajavaliya (The tale of the Royal Dynasty) describes this battle and the conversation Gemunu had with the priest:
Prince Gemunu raised a fresh army and [again] set out to flight ; but thinking within himself that it would be impossible to wage war with the Tamils if he wasted his army by continuing to fight in this way, sent this letter to Tissa: “Let us two fight the one against the other ; the land to him who gains the day.” On receiving this letter, Tissa mounted the Kadol elephant and went forth, whilst king Gemunu started on his horse. The two brothers having met in Yudahganjipitiya, Prince Gemunu made his horse leap over the back of the Kadol elephant, and struck Tissa with the back of his sword. Then the Kadol elephant being wroth thought within himself, On my back was a woman; on the horse rode a man and threw Prince Tissa to the ground. As Tissa fled, Gemunu thought, “ I will seize und take him prisoner ; otherwise he will again raise an army and make war upon me,” and pursued after him to seize him. Tissa took shelter among the monks, whilst Gemunu kept up the pursuit and watched at the vihara entrance. The monks having seen Gemunu pursuing Tissa, when the latter took shelter among them, those who were sitting stood up, and those who were standing sat down. When Gemunu asked them, “ My lords, where is Tissa who has just come here ?’* they answered, “We have not seen him either sitting or standing.” The monks bore out Tissa as if they carried a dead monk swathed in yellow robes, and Gemunu having perceived it said, “ There goes Tissa, a powerless body, on the shoulders of the monks and taking with him the elephant Kadol and his mother repaired to the city of Magama.
Tissa having come to the monastery in order to ask the monks to mediate for peace with his brother, despatched them. Accordingly, they came to Magama, had an interview with Gemunu, caused Tissa to be brought [there] and delivered him to his brother. Addressing himself to the monks, Gemunu said, “ Why, my lords, have you troubled yourselves to come [here] ? I am not to blame ; the blame rests with Tissa ; he has destroyed thousands of persons;” and having bowed to the monks took leave of them.The Rajavaliya or A Historical Narrative of Sinhalese Kings from Vijaya to to Vimala Dharma Suriya II
Later the chief thero brought peace among the brothers who worked side by side thereafter.
The name of the temple “Dematamal” also has its own legends. One legend says this area was called Detu-mal meaning “I saw (found) the brother”, which happened at the Viharaya. And later became Dematamal.
Another legend says that once peace was brought within the brothers, prince Tissa was in charge of the area and he cultivated the land and it was very rich in harvest. During this time Prince Gamini (now King Dutu Gemunu) was getting ready for the final battle with the South Indian invader King Elara who was ruling the Sri Lankan capital Anuradhapura, seeing the prosperity of the area King Dutu Gemunu said to his brother “Govithen kala ethi male”. Meaning “We have done enough of farming now brother”. Because of this statement this area was called Ethi-Male which with time became Dematamal.
In addition to the peaceful and serene location, the temple ruins include pillars, guardstones , stone steps, an image house and a series of meditation cells.
At Dematamal Viharaya, at a conserved building behind the temple near the surrounding paddy fields lies a guardstone with a carving of both Naga and Nagini figures. Generally all guard stones depict a Naga king carrying a pot of plenty and a long floral arrangement in the other hand with some variation. Such Stone can be seen at any ancient temple in Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa (see guardstones at Vatadage in Polonnaruwa and Asokaramaya in Anuradhapura).
There are only 4 such guardstones with Nagini figures discovered so far. One lies at the location named Mahasen Maligawa (at the entrance of a side building hidden behind the Panchawasa) in Anuradhapura, second one at Abhayagiriya Museum, third at Yatala Vehera Museum and the fourth at the Dematamal Viharaya.
There are several guard stone at various buildings at this site. All are very plain guard stones only this building has a exquisitely carved guard stone. The second guard stone is missing, lost in time. The remaining Naga-Nagini Guardstone is 2 feet 9 inches high and 1 feet 9 inches wide. It is carved using dolomite marble which is common in the area but not found near the area of this temple. The carving is heavily weathered. The figures are enclosed inside a frame around the guardstone. The top half of the frame is heavily carved although the designs are weathered.
The male Naga figure is 2 feet tall and has seven cobra heads around he head. The figure is slim and curved. The female Nagani figure is 1 feet 7 inches tall and stands on the right side of Naga. The figure is slim and has her left hand behind the Naga’s back and the right hand on her hip. The male Naga figue is slightly learning towards the wife and and his hand wraps the wife and placed on the shoulder. This Guardstone is considered the most elegant Naga-Nagini carving of the 4 such guardstones found today.
You can reach the site from either Wellawaya or from Kataragama depending on which route you take.
You can reach Wellawaya in through many routes. If you are coming from Badulla or Bandarawela you must tale the Ella Road which lies between Badulla-Bandarawela Road. On the way you will also pass the beautiful Ravana Ella falls too on the way. There is a another road from Koslanda. Taking this road will take you through the 220 metre high waterfall Diyaluma. Koslanda lies between the Balangoda – Haputhale Road.
If you are coming from Kataragama, use the Buttala Road and the turn off is just before the Butala main junction. The temple is about 6.5 kms form the turn off from Buttala.
From Buttala any person can direct you to the temple. The road to the Maligawila Temple Complex is also along this load but you have travel about 15 km further down the same road.
- Gunasekara, B., 1900. The Rajavaliya or A Historical Narrative of Sinhalese Kings from Vijaya to to Vimala Dharma Suriya II. 1st ed. Colombo: GEORGE J. A, SKEEN.
- නිරෝෂා, A., 2021. දෙමටමල් විහාරයෙහි පැරණි කුටියක පියගැටපෙළ පාමුල ඇති නාග-නාගිනී රැකවලුන්ගෙන් යුත් මුරගල. පුරාවිදු වැලිපිල, 2(2), pp.1-5.
Map of Dematamal Viharaya
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Driving Directions to Dematamal Viharaya
Route from Colombo to Dematamal Viharaya
|oute from Colombo to Dematamal Viharaya|
|Though : Ratnapura – Beragala – Wellawaya – Buttala|
distance : 250 km
Travel time : 5-6 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
|Though : Kandy – Jaffna Road|
distance : 55 km
Travel time : 1.30 hours
Driving directions : see on google map