Sithulpawwa Rock Temple
Tucked away inside Yala National Park is
Sithulpawwa Rock Temple, one of the most significant Buddhist monasteries dating back over 2,200 years.
The site contains a large number of stupas,
cave temples that carry inscriptions in early Brahmi script, Buddha statues, a
stupa house and image houses that still contain fragments of paintings.
Pilgrims continue to flock here on the full moon of
each month, clad in white, to practice the Buddha’s teachings and meditate.
The ancient Tissamaharama stupa stands amid
the paddy fields that surround the modern town of Tissa.
For Buddhist pilgrims, it is one of the
sixteen most sacred sites (known as Solosmasthana) in the country. The dagoba is
believed to enshrine Buddha's sacred tooth and forehead bone.
Kataragama is a holy city for Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus alike. In July and August,
the predominantly Hindu Kataragama festival draws thousands of devotees who
make the pilgrimage over a two-week period.
The Manik Ganga, or Manika Gangai (River of
Gems), serves as a place of ablution and is believed to have miraculous healing powers, thanks to its high gem
content and the medicinal properties of trees lining the water.
Mulkirigala Rock Monastery
Located 205m above sea level is Mulkirigala, the
most significant rock temple in southern Sri Lanka.
As visitors climb the 533 steps to the summit,
they will encounter a series of seven cleft-like caves on five different
terraced levels along with a number of large reclining Buddha statues, pools of
water and sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.
It was here where a British archaeologist
discovered the ancient manuscripts of the Mahawamsa: the great chronicle of Sri
Lanka’s early history.
Another of the sixteen most sacred Buddhist
sites is the Kirivehera dagoba, commonly known as “the milk stupa”.
The Bo tree situated behind the Katharagama
temple is one of the eight saplings of Sri Maha Bodhi, which is the oldest
historically authenticated tree in the world. The Buddha is believed to have
paid a visit here during His third trip to Sri Lanka.
Relatively unknown to tourists, the small
fishing village of Kirinda centres on a Buddhist shrine perched atop huge rocks, right at the shore.
On a clear day the lonely lighthouse on the
Great Basses Reef appears like a needle in the distance, and visitors can enjoy
a panoramic view of Tissamaharama.
is considered the highest peak in the Hambantota District and provides visitors with a
beautiful panoramic view. Here, two stupas and a statue of the seated Buddha in
meditation stand amidst scattered ruins dating back to the 2nd century BC.