Habessa Ruins (Hebessa) – හබැස්ස බොදු නටබුන්

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Habessa Ruins destroyed by vandals in search of treasures before restoration
Habessa Ruins destroyed by vandals in search of treasures before restoration Photo by : Ashan Geeganage

Ruins of an ancient temple complex is ruin of a ancient temple complex in Koonketiya GS division, Buttala Divisional Secretariat in Monaragala District of Uva Province. The ruins lies deep in the jungle bordering the Yala National Park on a rock plain about 10m in height known as Habessa Ruins. Among these ruins are an ancient inscription and a cave with a large reclining Buddha statue with murals painted on the walls. The department of archaeology had taken no interest on preserving this site making it a prime target for treasure hunters until recently.

The most prominent of the ruins is the cave with the 34 feet (10.5 meter) reclining Buddha statue made with brick and mortar. The rock shelter is about 45 meters in length, 6 meters deep and about 6 meters in height. This cave has been divided in to 3 sections by brick partition walls with a 21 meter long center hall occupying the Buddha statue. Stone pillars in front of the reclining Buddha image indicate that there has been a extended terrace supported by 24 stone pillars laid on a 4×6 grid. The compartments on the two sides may have been used as living quarters for the monks. The left wall is 0.7 meters thick and the right wall is 0.6 meters thick. Traces of 2-3 cm thick plaster paint remains in the ceiling of the cave and a part of the mural (Buddha) is also found in the cave.

The inscription found at the site states “Vahaba maharajaha marumaneke uthara maharajaha puthe uwarajanake dine” (වහබ මහරජහ මරුමනෙකෙ උතර මහරජහ පුතෙ උවරජනකෙ දිනෙ) meaning “Donated by Yuvaraja Naga, grandson of King Vasabha the Great and son of the king Uttara”. King Vasabha reigned the country between 65-109 AD. Therefore we can trace the history of this temple complex at least to 1st century AD.

The Buddha statue lie on a 12 meter long 5 meter wide, 15 cm high platform. The total length of the Buddha statue is 10.5m and the height from the pedestal to shoulder position of the statue is about 2 m. A 250cm x 65cm x 20 cm flower pedestal carved out of stone is found in front of the statue.

The stupa too has been destroyed by treasure hunters and both are in almost destroyed state (see photos). However this site including the stupa is now under restoration. The cave in which the Buddha statue is placed has probably been a image house and remains of the stone pillars can be still seen.

Access to this site is through rough terrain through chena cultivations,  jungles across Kumbukkan Oya river. To reach the site, travel to Okkampiya from Buttala junction. Passing Okkampitya travel to Pahalagama and to “Bo Gas Handiya” (Bo Tree Junction). Passting this junction, you need to travel though chenas passing Gambeyaya village up to Kumukkan Oya. Then you need to cross the Kumukkan Oya and travel on jungle path passing Egodahenyaya to reach the site.

Plan of Habessa Ruins (Hebessa)
Plan of Habessa Ruins (Hebessa)

References

  • Okamura, T., 2021. Ruins in and Around Yala National Park in Sri Lanka. 1st ed. Tokyo: NPO-SARERS – South Asian Ruins Exploration and Research Society.

Also See

Map of Habessa Ruins

ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින් – Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map –
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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

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Traveling Directions to Habessa Ruins

Travel on the Buttala – Okaamptiya Road passing Dematamal Viharaya to Okkampitiya. From Okkampitiya, take the Bogas Handiya Road. You need travel about 7 km on this road passing Karaththamanhandiya and Pahalapola to reach the site. The last stretch of the road will require a 4 wheel drive. Total distance to site from Buttala is approximately 15 km. Google maps does not have a route to this site.

See for detailed directions to the site see


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