SRI SANKAPALA PURANA RAJAMAHA VIHARAYA - Pallebedda
This temple is situated along the A18 in Pallebedda. It comprises of natural boulder formations that in turn play host to some 14 caves. From the spacious car park, visitors and pilgrims will pass a number of stalls selling various items from pooja (ritual) offerings such as fruits and flowers to other random fancy items that attract the attention of visitors. Beware of the boisterous monkeys who roam the temple.
The name ‘Sankapala,’ is formed by Sanka (conch) and Pala (administrator/conch blower in the King’s Army).
The first level of the Temple plays host to a bo-tree shrine, a large samadhi posture statue of Lord Buddha, carved from a solid rock and also twin ponds with ornamental fish.
The second level features small shrine rooms dedicated to the deity Murugan. The routes to the shrines are through fascinating narrow cave paths.
The third most level features an image house of Lord Buddha, complete with wall paintings that depict the past of the Temple. From here a path to the pinnacle is found.
It is believed that the Temple was originally a monastery gifted by Pussa Deva, a brave warrior of King Dutugemunu, whose job was to blow the conch shell and convey urgent messages of King Dutugemunu to citizens living in the surrounding villages. It is suggested that Pussa Deva was ordained as a monk later on in his life and gifted this Temple to be used as a monastery.
This is confirmed by Brahmin inscriptions found in nearby caves including the conch shell emblem, that signifies the authority of Pussa Deva. The monastery was eventually abandoned, perhaps given the fact that nature simply took over. What is said to be the tomb of Pussa Deva can be seen around half a kilometre away from the temple beneath a broken brick dagoba (stupa) that is said to lie on top of the tomb.
The topmost level is where a milky white dagoba can be found and from here, the height provides for an impressive view of the land below. The Pallebedda village area is flat and the Sankapala mountain towers above in striking contrast. From the top of the mountain visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of Deniyaya, Suriyakanda, Ratnapura and the Balangoda mountain range and in the distance the Samanala Wewa can also be observed.
Beyond the pinnacle level, further up on the mountain, are some 14 caves where it is thought that the monks who were resident in the monastery used to meditate and reside. Brahmin inscriptions found within these caves confirm their use and age.
During the Kandyan period it is noted that the village of Pallebedda along with this Temple was gifted to Venerable Karathota Dharmarama by King Rajadhi Rajasingha. Prior to this, the King had in fact imprisoned the monk for his apparent close ties to the Dutch.
It is recorded that during his imprisonment the monk penned a philosophical book in verse form and this was passed along to the King. The King had his closest advisors try and comprehend the verses, but they failed. The King soon requested the most eminent scholars of the period to gather together and provide him with the true meaning of the verses.
Having been enlightened by the monk’s verses, the King, overjoyed soon set the monk free and gifted him the village of Pallebedda. Even today, these same verses could be seen painted on the door of the entrance to the image house
For those more inquisitive, a visit to the chief monk’s residence is where some valuable artefacts can be seen. These include a lion flag, an historic vatapotha (a round shaped fan used by monks), Buddha statues made of ivory and gold, ola leaf manuscripts together with a gold pen and the original deed of the temple…