Debarawewa Yatala Vehera – දෙබරවැව යටාල වෙහෙර

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Yatala Stupa at Deberawewa
Yatala Stupa at Deberawewa

Yatala Vehera is believed to be built by regional king Mahanaga in the 3rd century BC on the grounds which his queen delivered a son. This stupa has been identified as Mani Chethiya and Yattalaya in various historical documents and as Dalada Dagoba in some inscriptions found at the site.

Mahanaga is a brother of King Devanampiyathissa (250-210 BC ). History states that that when Mahanaga was inspecting the construction of Walas Reservoir (වලස් වැව), the queen of Devanampiyathissa send him a bowl of Mangos with the top most one poisoned. Her intention was to kill Mahanaga to ensure the throne to her son after Devanampiyathissa. At that time the son was with his uncle at the tank and child ate the poisoned mango and died on the spot. Fearing reprisal he took his pregnant wife and escaped to Ruhuna where he built up his own regional kingdom surrounding Magama area.

Some believe that this was much larger stupa due the size of the the huge granite pinnacle (ගල් ඡත්‍රය) found on the grounds. It is not known what was enshrined in this stupa but a large number of relic caskets has been discovered in the stupa.

This stupa was completely restored and a small opening has been left to observe the different phases of construction. The restoration work of the Yatala Stupa commenced in 1883 AD. It took over a century to complete the restoration. This stupa is surrounded by probably the oldest Elephant Wall in the country.

Ruins of large number of various image houses has been conserved.  One image house contains 2 larger than life size Buddha statues carved from Rock. The head of one statue has been broken and can be seen at the feet. Another image house has been reserved for a large Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva image carved from stone. Avalokitesvara  Bodhisattva is a concept from Mahayana Buddhism which had became Natha Deviyo in Sri Lanka.

On the ground of the stupa a statue of Avalokeshwara Bodhisattva, a concept originated in Mahayana Buddhism blended with the Sri Lankan culture and Theravada doctrine.

One of the largest Asana with ruins of a  Asanaghara is found at Yatala Vehera
One of the largest Asana with ruins of a Asanaghara is found at Yatala Vehera

Near the new Sanghawasa of the Yatala Vehera lies one of the largest stone carved Asana with indications of a Asanaghara over it. Archaeology department carried out some excavations in 1961 and found the Asanaghara building was 66×68 feet in size.

The BodhigharaChethiyaghara and Asanaghara are considered by scholars to be the three oldest Buddhist architectural elements in Sri Lanka. Of these, the Chethyaighara also called Vatadage and the Bodhighara are mentioned in most ancient Buddhist literature but the sources do not mention the Asanagara in detail. But there are some references to this in the ancient Attakathas and in the ancient chronicles such as the Mahavamsa and the Deepavamsa.

Archaeologically, the Asana seems to have become popular at the same time the carvings of the sacred footprint (siripathulgala) became popular as a symbol of the Buddha or shortly thereafter. Mr. Gunapala Senadheera (Buddhist Symbolism and Wish Fulfillment) states that the use of seats dates back to the 3rd century BC to the 9th century. With the advent of the creation of Buddha statues in Sri Lanka, the use of symbols to commemorate the Buddha had declined.

There are number of ruins of Asanaghara has been found from various parts of Sri Lanka. Some of the more popular Asanaghara are located in PulukunawaKatuwannawaHalmillawetiya, Uttimaduwa, Ganewewa and Debarawewa  Yatala Vehera sites. In addition, Asana and Asanaghara’s have been discovered at Weeraketiya Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya (9 feet 8 inches long and 4 feet 4 inches wide) in Hambantota district, Sigiriya Mahanaga Pabbatharamaya, at Pihimbiyagollewa (8 feet long and 3 feet 10 inches wide) and Veheragala (11 feet 8 inches long and 4 feet 4 inches wide) in the Eastern province, Kokebe (11 feet 5 inches long and 5 feet wide) in Anuradhapura district, Periyankulama Elupothana in Vavuniya District, Thantirimale (9 feet 9 inches long and 4 feet wide), Seruvila, Manik Vatadage, and Rajanganaya Hatthikuchchi Aramic Complex.

Yatala Vehera is located between Debaraweva and Akurugoda on the Hambanthota – Kataragama Road and about a 1 1/2 km a way from Tissamaharama Stupa.

References

  • ඇම්. ජී. රත්නපාල, 1997. වජ්‍රාසනය. සංකෘතික පුරාණය, 2(8), pp.31-38.

Also See

Map of Debarawewa Yatala Stupa

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Travel Directions to Debarawewa Yatala Stupa

Route 01 from Colombo to Yatala Stupa Route 02 from Colombo to Yatala Stupa
Through: Southern Expressway – Galle – Matara
distance from Colombo : 250 km
Travel time : 3.30 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Ratnapura – Palmadulla – Udawalawe – Thanamalwila
distance from Colombo : 225 km
Travel time : 4.30 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps

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