A central character in the history of the south of Sri Lanka, Tissamaharama is one of the foremost cities in the district of Habantota. In ancient times, Tissamaharama was called ‘Mahagama’ and is believed to be the capital of the south during the early era of the Anuradhapura Kingdom.
A prolific character in the Mahavamsa is the great King Dutugemunu. His defeat of the fair yet usurper monarch Elara was largely based on his father King Kavantissa’s preparation for the war. King Kavantissa strengthened the southern empire and developed it, basing Mahagama as its capital. The empire of Mahagama had spread as far and wide as Kelaniya and it was on this setting that Prince Dutugemunu marched to victory against King Elara.
After the epic battle of Dutugemunu and Elara, chronicles speaks less of Tissamaharama. However, when the country faced numerous South Indian invasions, native kings returned to the South and based themselves in Mahagama. They rebuilt their military and marched to defeat the enemy from here. Some of these enigmatic kings include King Datusena and King Mahanaga.
Attractions in Tissamaharama
The reign of King Kavantissa was an enriching one for Tissamaharama. The good king did not hesitate to construct a great number of edifices.
Fascinating the international traveller, the Tisa Wewa is a vast artificial tank built by King Kavantissa nearly 2000 years ago. Found in the North of the contemporary town of Tissamaharama, Tissa Wewa and its surroundings is a visual delight for visitors.
Tissamaharama Raja Maha Vihara
One of the oldest temples in Sri Lanka, the Tissamaharama Raja Maha Vihara was constructed first by King Kavantissa. It was further extended by King Illanaga. We are told of the power of the Southern empire and its advanced civilization through vestiges such as the Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya. It is also one of the sacred sites ‘Solosmasthana’ for pilgrims.
Built over two thousand years ago by a Southern King called Yatala Thissa, the Yatal Vehera is an impressive structure. It is believed that the temple was a dedication to the first Sinhalese Arahant. And some believe that this was the first Stupa to be built in the Southern Kingdom.
Intriguing the global traveller, the Galkanumandiya Ruins is a mystical site. Found nearby the famous Manik Vehera, a cluster of pillars made out of granite constitutes the Galkanumandiya Ruins. An interesting fact here is that while granite was commonly utilised during the Anuradhapura Kingdom and is therefore a rare finding in the Southern region.
Ethabandigala Pillar Inscription
Feeding your appetite for history, Ethabandigala Pillar Inscription is another captivating site. This is where King Dutugemunu had tethered his war elephant ‘Kadol’ at the pillar. The inscription here had been dated back to the 1st – 2nd centuries.