Located about an hour away from Yala, the Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya (Sithulpawwa Rock Temple) used to be a monastic settlement, which could be traced back to the 2nd century BC. It’s believed that King Kavantissa was responsible for its establishment, and that it once served thousands upon thousands of monks back in the day.
Though the numbers are up for debate, the temple is surrounded by over 160 caves, of which some are extraordinarily large, so it’s no surprise that the monastery could accommodate a large number of monks within it.
In the ancient texts, Sithulpawwa was referred to as ‘Chiththala obatha’, and its name means ‘the hill of quiet minds’, which is appropriate given it primarily functioned as a meditation site.
The monks who resided here were ‘arhats’, or those who have achieved enlightenment and will attain nirvana upon passing. The temple draws hundreds of pilgrims on a daily basis for this reason.
The stupa is located atop a hill, which is the first thing visitors would see when they enter the premises. Paintings and inscriptions adorn the walls of the temple, reminiscent of those at Sigiriya. The paintings depict images of Lord Buddha and Bodhisattva, among others, and relic houses dot the monastery premises.
The soothing and tranquil temple is also rather eye-catching in terms of architecture, dating back to around 2,200 years ago. For a relaxing and enlightening experience, Sithulpawwa is the perfect location.