The Pallebedda Bambaragala Forest Monastery is an ancient monastery complex lying close to the remote village of Galpagama north to the Udawalawe National Park. The Bambaragala, translated as the “Wasp Rock” is impressive rocky mountain with a number of natural caves. Its is said that this name was derived due to the amount of wasp hives found on the caves.
Archaeological studies of this ancient monastic complex has identified about 15 drip ledge caves out of which 6 having inscriptions. Based on the evidence, the temple complex has been flourishing from 3rd century BC till about 12th century AD. The complex has been neglected thereafter and it has been conversed to a monastery recently.
Archaeological research has placed inscriptions of one cave to the 3rd century BC and the latest one to about 12th century. One drip ledged cave, which is considerably larger than the others at 100 feet long and 24 feet deep called “Kana Biso Lena” carries a special place in the heart of the villages. The cave is enclosed by walls made in wattle and daub with a single door and a window.
Near the ancient bodhi tree you can see a bow and an arrow carved on a rocky plain. A mound of rubble known as Veheragodella has been a stupa in the past.
The villagers believe that this mountain was once a fortress of a regional king called Mangara. Remnants of a rock wall at the top of the mountain is presented as proof of this fortress. King Maranga owned a extremely rare gem which has been locked inside a special room, where he would visit it every day. The gem has been kept away even from his queen.
One day when the king was away, the queen has tried to peek at the gem through the keyhole and the brightness has burned her eye and when she tried to see from the other eye, that too has burned making her blind. Thereafter she has been known as “Kana Biso” ( the blind queen).
When the queen went blind, the king built a guiding rope from her room to her bathing pond at the top of the rock and assigned some attendants to look after her. But attendants sick of serving her had moved the guiding rope towards a precipice and the queen had fallen off the rock and killed instantly.
The king sadden by her death has buried her body along with the invaluable gem and two gold walking sticks near the “Kanabiso Lena”. The point is marked by 3 boulders placed to cover the tomb. One can observe how treasure looters has blasted many rocks in this area in search of the treasures buried with the queens body.
When king Mangara passed away at a later time, the villagers had deitified him as the “Mangara Deviyo” as the deity who look after the cattle. Even today, the villagers receive protection from cattle diseases by making offerings the Mangara Deviyo.
Close to the Bambaragala mountain lies a waterway called Kudawa Oya. Two embankments across this river called “Gal Amuna” and “Thal Amuna” has been used to divert water to a paddy field called Galpaya long ago. According to the folklore the when the crop was ready to be harvested, the farmers would bath, clean themselves in Kudawa Oya, and visit a Bambaragala Cave in clean white cloths. There they would keep a bundle of beetle leaves equivalent in number of sickles they need for harvesting. The next morning they would find the exact number of golden sickles at the cave. At the end of harvesting they would return the sickles and they would disappear again.
On the night of harvesting, a white corbra would appear in the field and it would divide the harvest for the “Mangara Deviyo” and the farmers. Then the pack bulls of the deity would arrive and carry his portion to Bambaragala mountain.
But one day after a harvest, one farmer has returned a iron sickle to the cave instead of the golden sickle which he received and it is said that golden sickles were never seen thereafter. The two embankments across Kudawa Oya too has been destroyed beyond repair after lead pack bull of the “Mangara Deviyo” was loaded with seedless paddy by the farmers one day.
The deep connection between the Bambaragala Temple and the villagers still exist today. During dry spells the villagers get together and empty 17 plus ponds found atop of Bambaragala. Its said that the rain would always fall after this activity.
Travel Directions to Pallebedda Bambaragala Forest Monastery
Route from Ratnapura to Pallebedda Bambaragala Forest Monastery
|Distance : 54 km|
Travel time : 1 hour
Driving directions : see on google map
Map of Pallebedda Bambaragala Forest Monastery
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