Medieval History of Sri Lanka – The Kingdom of Yapahuwa

Yapahuwa was one of the ephemeral capitals of medieval Sri Lanka. The citadel of Yapahuwa lying midway between Kurunagala and Anuradhapura was built around a massive granite rock rising abruptly almost a hundred meters above the surrounding lowlands.

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In 1272, King Bhuvanaikabahu transferred the capital from Polonnaruwa to Yapahuwa in the face of Dravidian invasions from South India, bringing the Sacred Tooth Relic with him. Following the death of King Bhuvanaikabahu in 1284, the Pandyans of South India invaded Sri Lanka once again, and succeeded in capturing the Sacred Tooth Relic. Following its capture, Yapahuwa was largely abandoned and inhabited by Buddhist monks and religious ascetics.

Location and Name

The rock fortress complex of Yapahuwa is situated in the Wayamba province of Sri Lanka, about 4 km southeast of the town and the railway station of Maho, midway between Kurunagala and Anuradhapura.

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Traces of ancient battle defenses can still be seen, while an ornamental stairway is its biggest showpiece. On top of the rock are the remains of a stupa, a Bodhi tree enclosure, and a rock shelter/cave used by Buddhist monks, indicating that earlier this site was used as a Buddhist monastery.

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There are several caves at the base of the rock. In one of them there is a shrine with images of Lord Buddha. One cave has a Brahmi script inscription. At the southern base of the rock there is a fortification with two moats and ramparts. In this enclosure there are the remains of a number of buildings including a Buddhist shrine.

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