The ancient city of Hanguranketha

The ancient city of Hanguranketha

Hanguranketha had been a thriving paddy field in the ancient time and it was named “Sangaruwan ketha”, later the name changed to the present name Hanguranketha. The city was very useful for the kings of Sri Lanka, especially during the Kandyan period. It was used as the camp city during the troubled period for the kings and the country, due to the south Indian invasions.

Many kings had abandoned the royal capital of Kandy in the past and used Hanguranketha as the temporary capital of Sri Lanka (about Sri Lanka). The city came to being mainly due to the temporary occupation of kings in the past. The city was also known as “Diyatilaka” in the past.

Destruction of Hanguranketha

The King Rajasinghe 2 had erected a palace, audience hall, several other buildings and a lake known as Udamaluwa in the city and made it the royal city of the country. The downfall of the beautiful city was started with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505 AD.

They have vandalized the city and part of the city were destroyed. Thereafter, during the colonial period of Dutch and British, the rest of the city was vanished due to the military offences of the foreign rulers. King Sitawaka Rajasinghe had also contributed to the destruction of Hanguranketha. He had partly destroyed the city in his effort to arrest Konappu Bandara. Today, what is left of this historical city is the Devala.

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Kings palace

King Senarath had built the first palace in the city of Hanguranketha. According to the information available from the writings of Robert Knox, the city had been surrounded by a whitewashed protective wall. The giant wall was built encircling the two-storied giant palaces.

The entrance of the palace was constructed with beautifully carved doors and door panels. The palace was reconstructed several times due to the damages caused by invaders.

Another eyewitness of the palace was John Davy, a civil servant of the British government in 1815. The palace was completely destroyed in the rebellion in 1818, in the manner that it could never be recovered. A moon-stone that recovered from the site was moved to the national museum of Colombo.

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Audience hall

The audience hall of Hanguranketha is very similar to the audience hall of Kandy. Both constructions are open houses with a beautifully carved pillar. But the functionally the audience hall of Kandy has largely differed from the audience hall of Hanguranketha. Unlike the Kandy audience hall, Hanguranketha audience hall was not used for hearing the court cases or discussion of the king and the ministers.

The audience hall of Hanguranketha was used for resting and recreation activities by the King Rajasinghe 2. According to Robert Knox, there had been a ditch around the palace with beautiful fish. The King had enjoyed feeding and watching the beautiful fish. The beautiful audience hall is not to be seen today. It was located near the Hanguranketha rest house. Today a paddy field known as “Wadanapaya” is located at the site of the ancient audience hall.

Places to go in Hanguranketha

Gala Uda fortress

Diyatala Kanda is located near the city of Hanguranketha is a well-known mountain with historical value. The summit of the mountain commands a panoramic view of the surrounding region. Even though it is a tedious task to climb the mountain, the effort is well worth, due to the historical importance and natural beauty of the surrounding.

At the summit of the mountain is a flat granite stone, where a fortress was erected by the religious group during the reign of King Rajasinghe. But King Wimaladharmasuriya destroyed the fort after ascending the throne. The king Senarath had built a fortress again at the summit of the mountain due to the Portuguese invasions.

The king had abandoned the city for a short period of time and lodged himself on the mountain. The king Rajasinghe 2 in 1664 also lived in this fortress with his son, during the rebellion under the leadership of Amanwela Rala. Today, what is left from the fortress is the remnants of the protective wall, once existed around the fortress, none of the rest of the fortress can be seen. The wall had been more than 500 meters in length.

Potgul Maliga Maha Vihara

This Buddhist temple is one of the most visited religious sites in Hanguranketha. Some of the materials used for the construction are recovered from the Hanguranketha Palace, which was destroyed by the British. There are 28 beautifully carved granite stone pillars around the temple and a rare type of moonstone.

The temple largely differs from the rest of the temples in the country, mainly due to the materials used to construct the roof. The roof is made of copper plates. Temple houses a large number of Ola manuscripts that were written in centuries ago. Library and a small dagoba are also located in the temple.

Vishnu Devala

Vishnu Devala is dedicated to the God Vishnu or Upulvan and still being used by the people of Hanguranketha. Devala was originated during the Dambadeniya period (1236 – 1326). The King Rajasinghe 2 (1629 – 1687) had been a devotee of Devala and it was given royal patronage as he was on the throne.

The temple is designated as an archaeological site by the department of archaeology. Devala was built next to the King’s palace but the palace does not exist today. There had been a wall around Devala with several other constructions around the main shrine room. All of them were totally destroyed by the British army during the rebellion in 1818. In fact, this religious site was used as a camp by the British troops.

Panchanari Getaya

Panchanari Getaya is an example of the fine craftsmanship of the ancient Sri Lankan artisans. It is a stone carving depicting five female dancers.  This rare piece of stone carving is located near the Vishnu Devala.

Harasbedda inscription

The inscription was located in the village known as Harasbedda. Therefore it is named as Harasbedda inscription. Today it is located at the government agent’s office of Nuwara Eliya. The inscription believed to be originated in the 10th century AD. The inscription gives a brief description of some of the areas that were controlled by the kings of Kandy. The remnants of a fortress in Harasbedda suggest the existence of a fortification in the village.

Kitulpe Ranpatge Vihara

This Buddhist temple is one of the several temples that are dating back to Anuradhapura (4 BC to 11 AD) period. Some of the artefacts recovered from the site are dating back to Anuradhapura period. The temple is one of the important places for the Buddhist of Sri Lanka, due to the fact that the tooth relic was housed in this temple during the foreign invasion in 1802.

The original construction of the image house in the temple had been removed and new image house was constructed at the same place in 1914. The ancient paintings once existed on the inner wall of the granite caves are diminished during the past several centuries due to the wind, rain and other natural reasons.

Wegama Raja Maha Vihara

This ancient Sri Lankan Buddhist temple was built by the queen Henakada Biso Bandara. She had been the wife of King Vijayabahu 3 of Gampola. The temple is consisting of several caves and a statue that believed to be of the queen is residing in one of the caves.

A half-destroyed stone inscription written in 1585 can still be seen at the site. The temple was given the patronage of every king who ruled the country from Kandy. The Tooth relic had been secretly preserved in this temple during the political unrests of the Kandyan kingdom.

Wilwala Raja Maha Vihara

Wilwala Raja Maha vihara is a popular Buddhist temple that built during the period of Gampola kingdom. According to the stone inscription found at the site, the temple was erected during the reign of King Vijayabahu 5. The cave temple is consisting of several granite caves.

Drip edges were carved at the entrance to keep the caves dry during the rain. In the main cave is the Buddha statue, which is one meter in height. Small dagoba also dating back to the Gampola period and it is 1.87 meters in height.

Some believe this is the temple mentioned in Mahawamsa, where one of the very first shoots of Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura was planted. If the fact is correct, Wilwala Raja Maha vihara/Buddhist temple is dating back to the reign of King Devanampiyatissa (2nd century BC).

Damunumeya Vihara

Damunumeya vihara is situated in the Damunumeya village of Hanguranketha. The temple was built by a group of ministers in the village. The temple is dating back to 1635.

Due to the fact that King Vira Narendrasinghe met Ven Welivita saranankara for the first time in the temple, it had become a popular religious site in Hanguranketha.  Ven Welivita saranankara thera had been residing in this temple. One Catholic priest had made a futile effort to kill the monk using two slaves, in order to stop the Buddhist revival of the country led by the monk.

Ankelihinne Bo-tree

Ankelihinne Bo-tree is situated in the premises of Base hospital of Hanguranketha. Medapitiye Arattana Vihara was first located near this Bo-tree. The history of Bo-tree goes back to the Polonnaruwa period, and it was called Dewram Vehera during that period. Polonnaruwa period had been a very important period for the Sri Lankan history, most importantly the Buddhism on the island. There had been a resurgent in Buddhism under the leadership of kings of Polonnaruwa such as King parakramabahu.

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Medapitiye Arattanaya

Arattanaya was the first temple that was given the patronage from the kings of Hanguranketha. The temple is located about one kilometre from the city of Hanguranketha. It is believed that king Senarath had donated lands to the monks of Arattanaya.

King Senarath had built an image house at the temple and donated three valuable paintings. King Vira Parakrama had renovated the temple as he was on the throne. When the Dutch invaded Kandy in 1765 King Keerti Sri Rajasinghe was given the protection in this temple. Same times the relic was also safeguarded in a specially constructed building for the tooth relic temple.