The ancient Bo Tree at Galapitagala
It is no secret that this majestic isle is made of legends and stories that linger in the back of one's mind. In Wariyapola mysterious stories of the Island's history still roar gracefully...
Words: Nawya Ponnamperuma | Photography: Geeth Viduranga and Anuradha Perera
It was five in the morning when our journey to Wariyapola began. The night sky hadn't lifted, and the stars were still a glimmering silver. We traversed to Wariyapola located in the Kurunegala District with much anticipation to discover a site that is closely associated with the tribal princess Kuveni.
When King Vijaya, the first king of Sri Lanka arrived in Thambapanni he married Kuveni, the princess of the Yaksha clan. Despite her great sacrifice for the King, her story ends tragically. King Vijaya needed to wed Indian royalty to ensure that the great monarchy he established in Sri Lanka was recognised and bade her to leave him. Betrayed and abandoned, Kuveni leaves the palace with the couple's children Jeevahaththa and Disala.
Rejected from her clan too, Kuveni is believed to have sought refuge on a rock called Galapitagala in Wilakatupotha, Wariyapola. Here she wept thus baptising the village; wilapa meaning mourning in Sinhalese. And here she mourned for days before her tragic death at the hands of her unforgiving tribe.
Residents worship at this rock, especially to the Bhodhiya (Bo tree) that shadows it and creates a cooling atmosphere.
Folklore does not end here. There is another legend that links Wariyapola to King Ravana, the great mythical Sri Lankan King in The Ramayana by Valmiki. According to this tale, more positive light is shed on the ruler as it is said that under his governance Sri Lanka flourished in aspects such as Ayurvedha and Hindu astrology. Sri Lankans say, an airborne vehicle in which he travelled, landed and took off from a large rock in Wariyapola. Today, the Sri Sumangala Raja Maha Viharaya also known as the Sailathalaaramaya stands on this spot.
The rock on which Kuveni is believed to have wept is called Galapitagala as it is a ‘a rock-on-top-of-a-rock’, which in Sinhala is gala-pita-gala. Eventually three words became one.
Wariyapola is after all the birth place of the Venerable Wariyapola Sri Sumangala Anunayaka Thero, who is revered for being one of the most courageous freedom fighters of Sri Lanka. The fight against British imperialism, to make Sri Lanka a sovereign nation witnessed many watersheds. Countless mention Ven Sri Sumangala Thero, but one story is proudly retold to showcase boundless bravery. On March 2, 1815 Sri Lankans of the low and up country were to sign an agreement with the British to hand over the control of the Island to the colonisers. Before the momentous time at the Audience Hall of the Dalada Maligawa, a British imperial soldier hoisted the Union Jack. Exasperated by his actions, the Ven Sri Sumangala Thero lowered the British flag and hoisted the Lion flag of the last King of Sri Lanka saying the Island was not under the rule of the foreigners yet.
The serene Viharaya displays Sri Lanka's numerous cultural identities from the moonstones of ancient kingdoms to modern sculptures. The massive Buddha statue made to Taiwanese design, stands at a impressive height of
80 feet. Built on top of a expansive boulder the temple is believed to have received the benefaction of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy. As a result, Kandyan embellishments, architecture and paintings can be found here even today. The image house, stupa and Bo tree lie close to each other symbolising the close knit relationship between one another. As we walked into the bright-white compound of the image house a young priest recited gatha, keeping the doctrines of the Buddha alive.
There are many legends to witness and myths to discover in Wariyapola.It is a three-dimensional story book that promises much adventure.
Speak to residents of the area to guide you to places of significance. The ancient image house decorated with beautiful and intricate Kandyan designs is at the back of the Sri Sumangala Raja Maha Viharaya.