Malwariyakema Monastic Ruins and Vedda Paintings inside the Yala (යාල තුල සැඟවුණු මල්වාරියකෙම නටබුන් හා ආදිවාසී චිත්‍ර)

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The Yala jungles were used by the British colonial government as a gaming reserve which became a national park after independence. However, on March 23, 1900, Yala was declared a wildlife sanctuary and hunting was banned. Engelbrecht a boar prisoner became the first ‘Forest Officer’ in the protected area. The archaeological sites inside its boundaries formed an effective “archaeological blanket area”. Even though these sites were shielded and protected by the latter human activities, they have become easy hunting grounds for treasure hunters where they could exercise their craft unhindered.

Yala National Park, also known as Ruhunu National Park is dotted with Buddhist ruins of the ancient Ruhunu kingdom hidden away in the jungles. These ruins are found on almost every hilltop inside this park but are rarely visited due to restrictions and the lack of any roadways.

After the 13th century, the the dry zone the civilization in the northeastern part of Sri Lanka collapsed and the civilization in this region too fell in line. As a result of the loss of people’s livelihoods due to the war, disease and the devastation of irrigation systems, villages migrated to other areas. Along with this, all the great Buddhist monasteries too collapsed. Traces of this great civilisation were eventually swallowed by the jungles of Ruhuna.

Malwariyakema lies inside Yala Block III, an area which is rarely visited by the general public. Due to the same reason, wild animals here are not used to vehicles and human activities thus sightings of Big 3 are rare in this area. Access to Block III is through the Galge Entrance lying on the Kataragama – Buttala road. Pilimagala is a rocky plateau lying in the middle of the thick jungle 3.8 km southeast of Galge entrance close to an abandoned ancient reservoir with a restored bund.

Although the existence of Malwariyakema was known for a long time, no proper study of these ruins has been recorded. Both the old 1-inch map series published between 1897 and 1925 and the new 1:50,000 map published between 1985 and 1996 by the survey department mark Malwariyakema with a ruins symbol.

A details site study of the Malwariyakema Archaeological Site was carried out by a Japanese archaeological team headed by Takashi Okamura only in 2018.

Malwariyakema Monastic Ruins inside the Yala National Park : යාල තුල සැඟවුණු මල්වාරියකෙම නටබුන්
Malwariyakema Monastic Ruins inside the Yala National Park : යාල තුල සැඟවුණු මල්වාරියකෙම නටබුන්
source : Ruins in and Around Yala National Park in Sri Lanka

The upper part of the rock plateau extends 200 meters east-west and 120 meters north-south. At the very top, ruins of a stupa with a two-stage platform can be identified. A drip ledge cut cave with indigenous Vedda paintings can be found. On the northern wall of the rock. On the southern side of the flat rock bed, a number of cairn-type burials are found indicating that this site has been inhabited since the early man to recent Veddas.

The cave is situated under the rock wall exposed on the north side of the rock hill. The width of the frontage facing the northeast direction is about 18m, the height is 6m and the depth is 6m. From the existence of the dripledge over the mouth of the cave it can be assumed that this cave had been used as part of the ancient monastery and with the fall of the civilisation in this area, it has been occupied by the veddas. Remains of a stone wall dividing the cave into 2 is found. Several cave wall paintings belonging to Veddha can be found on the rear rock wall of the left room over a range of about 5m in width and about 2m in height. Mainly white pigment is used, and can see that about 30 different animals and patterns are drawn by line drawing (It seems that there are more paintings because part of the centre of the wall is hidden by an anthill about 1m wide and about 2m high).

Until now, at about 80 rock shelters in Sri Lanka, Vedda paintings have been discovered. However, while many of them are silhouette painting methods, these rock paintings are characterized by line art. It also includes several designs with dot patterns that have not been discovered before and is expected to provide valuable data for future studies on the culture of Vedda.

The stupa at the top of the rock has been completely collapsed and seen as a small mound of brick fragments. A gaping hole dug by treasure hunters seen at the top is now filled with rubble. The upper parts of the stupa platform are exposed on the southern side and eastern side. From there, it can be seen that the lower platform built with cut stones is a square base with each side 11m long and the upper square platform which is piled with bricks is 9m on each side.

The height of the platform and the diameter of the dome cannot be measured due to the sedimentary soil, and no decoration such as moulding can be found on the outer periphery of the upper platform. Also, the entrance relics such as the stones of the stairs are not found on the south side where the trace of the platform is clear. Judging from the accumulation of stone fragments and the topography, it is highly probable that there was an entrance going up to the platform on the west side.

There are several mounds made of rubble on the southern side of the rock bed. There is no indication of cement being used or any bricks in the rubble. The mound consists of rubble with a diameter of 5cm to 20cm. Therefore these are believed to be megalithic Caine Burials of the prehistoric man.

At about 2km from Galge on the rough gravel road extending northeast to Kumbukkan River, there is a junction with the road heading south. From there, turn south and follow the road leading to the Pilimagala for about 3 km. Then, in front of the rock hill covered with jungle on the foot slope, a branch point with a path leading to the reservoir appears, so follow this path, enter the jungle from the bank of the reservoir, climb the northern slope of the rock hill to reach the ruins.

List of Archaeological Sites inside Yala and Kumana National Parks


  • 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 Malwariyakema Monastic Ruins and Vedda Paintings

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Travel Directions to Malwariyakema Monastic Ruins and Vedda Paintings

Route from Colombo to Malwariyakema Monastic Ruins and Vedda Paintings (upto Galge Entrance)
Route from Colombo to Malwariyakema Monastic Ruins and Vedda Paintings (up to Galge Entrance)


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