Any visitor to the Sankapala Temple will experience a combination of amazement and apprehension. The feeling of amazement is ignited due to the beauty and brilliance that is exhibited by the Sankapala Temple, its surrounding ruins, the lush vegetation and the rocky landscape. The feeling of apprehension is provoked by the unknown dangers that seems to be lurking behind the dozens of natural caves and heavily dense woods in the area.Moreover, the Sankapala Temple, also referred to as the Sankapala Viharaya, proficiently showcases the rich heritage as well as the substantially influential culture of Sri Lanka with its ancient inscriptions, structures, and artefacts.
Location and Surroundings
Pallebedda, located within the district of Ratnapura, is the place that is fortuitous to possess such a historic temple. Journeying along the Ratnapura – Hambantota main road is the easiest route to the Sankapala Temple. The Udawalawe National Park in all its glory is situated near the site of the Sankapala Temple. Many wildlife enthusiasts who seek to enjoy the excitement and thrills vociferously gifted by the Udawalawe Park and its energetic wildlife occasionally visit the Sankapala Temple, mainly due to its natural caves. Many visitors will also observe that the vibrant modern human society that enlivens the Pallebedda city is in stark contrast to the laid-back and mystical site of the Sankapala Temple.
Caves of Sankapala
One of the predominant attractions and allures of the site of the Sankapala Temple is its natural caves that include various ancient artefacts of the yesteryear communities of Sri Lanka. The caves of the Sankapala Temple provide an aura of mystic that is coupled with a sense of prolific and historic grandeur. These caves are similar to a rich gratuity and bounty for archaeologists and historians alike. Several professional personnel, including archaeologists and historians who specialise in Sri Lankan artefacts, have closely studied the ancient inscriptions discovered within the caves of the temple as well as those ancient ruins found in the immediate vicinity.
A total of fourteen disparate caves, or dens as some would claim, are officially recognised by many of the aforementioned professional researchers, including the members of the Department of Archaeology of Sri Lanka, at the site of the Sankapala Temple. Each of these caves have been assigned numbers and out of these, cave number 5includes an ancient shrine room for Lord Buddha while cave number 3 possesses a shrine room for the god of Kataragama.The contents as well as the dimensions of these caves vary from each other with the longest cave occupying a length of over 60 feet.
Folklore and Heritage
Legends and the folklore of the ancient civilisations of Sri Lanka paint a vitalising and captivating story of the events that encompass the origin as well as the continued utilisation of the Sankapala Temple. One of the most renowned ancient kings of Sri Lanka, King Dutugamunu, plays a pivotal role in the legends that have been disseminated in the surrounding areas.
One of the ten warrior giants of the king was bequeathed several thousand acres of the land that includes as well as surrounds the Sankapala temple.This particular warrior giant is said to have carried out an integral role during ancient battlesand he was referred to as Pussadeva. It is mentioned in ancient folklore that Pussadeva later became a monk and dwelt at the Sankapala Temple.
Pussadeva is also tightly associated with the origin of the name of the temple and its site. As the main duty of Pussadeva during his tenure as a warrior under King Dutugemunu was to announce the combat victories to the residents, the conch shell, which was used to proclaim the message, was used to formulate the name of the temple.