One of these regional rulers was Vijayabahu at Dambadeniya. He established his palace by the Dambadeniya rock, which is called the “Palace rock” or “Maliga Gala” today. The remains of the palace are still there. But the main attraction of the ancient Dambadeniya kingdom is the main Buddhist Temple he built, which is named in his name as “Vijayasundararamaya.”
|The old Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) in Dambadeniya|
Vijayabahu established himself as the principal leader among the regional Sinhalese leaders. He was able to convince some regional leaders to his side with diplomatic tactics. More importantly, he was able to convince the Buddhist monks to hand over the Tooth Relic to his care. He was crowned as Vijayabahu III at Dambadeniya in 1232. However, since Dambadeniya was still susceptible to enemy attacks, he kept the Tooth Relic at Beligala temple for safety.
In 1236, upon the death of Vijayabahu III, his son was crowned as Parakramabahu II. He continued his father’s religious work and also built a formidable army to defeat Kalingha Magha, who was still in Polonnaruwa. Since he had a stronger army and Dambadeniya city was now well fortified, he was confident to bring the Tooth Relic to the Vijayasundararamaya. He built a two storied building as a Dalada Maligawa. This remains the main attraction in the temple today. It is the most exquisite ancient construction in the temple. There are some beautiful paintings in the building. Much of the paintings have been done in the Kandy period during the renovation of the temple. But there are some paintings which belong to the Dambadeniya era itself.
|Paintings in the outer wall of the Dalada Maligawa|
There is one other building which is also interesting. It is the building which acts as a shelter to a small dagaba. It is thought to be the building which housed the sacred Tooth Relic before it was moved to the main Dalda Maligawa.
The kingdom of Dambadeniya did not have a long history. In 1255, Parakramabahu II finally chased Magha out of Polonnaruwa. But the ancient city was in such a derelict state that the king chose to remain in Dambadeniya. In 1270, he died and was succeeded by Vijayabahu IV. The new king, who was a kind person, was killed by one of his military commanders in 1272. However, this commander was unable to seize control of the kingdom. Buvanekabahu, the brother of Vijayabahu IV, defeated him and came to the throne. He relocated the capital to Yapahuva.
If you are travelling from Colombo, the easiest route to Dambadeniya is through Ja-ela, Minuwangoda, Divulapitiya, Giriulla to Dambadeniya. This is the Colombo-Kurunegala (No 5) bus route. The distance from Colombo is about 75km. From Dambadeniya there is about 30km to Kurunegala. There are a lot of places of historical value in this area. We will be discussing about some of them in the near future.
If you go to Dambadeniya, visit the small museum administered by the Archeological Department. You will learn about ancient folklore of the region from the officers there. The remains of the royal palace are also not far away.