Yapahuwa. The Ephemeral Capital

Yapahuwa was one of the ephemeral capitals of medieval Sri Lanka. The Yapahuwa citadel was located halfway between Kurunegala and Anuradhapura, and was built around a huge granite cliff rising up almost 100 meters above the surrounding lowlands.

In 1272 King Bhuvanakabahu I moved the capital from Polonnaruwa to Yapahuwa after a series of powerful Dravidian invasions from South India, due to which, among other things, the Holy Tooth of Buddha needed to be sheltered in a safe place. After the death of King Bhuvanakabahu I in 1284, Pandiyas from South India again invaded Sri Lanka and they succeeded in capturing the Holy Teeth of the Buddha. After such a capture, Yapahuwa was largely inhabited by Buddhist monks and religious ascetics.

The fortress complex on the Yapahuwa cliff is located in the Wayamba region, northwestern Sri Lanka. It is about 4 kilometers southeast of Maho, halfway between Kurunegala and Anuradhapura. The original name of this territory gave the Buddhist heritage — Yapavva, although now the place is called Yapahuwa, which is a kind of distortion of the true etymological meaning of the name of the area.

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Yapahuwa served as the capital of Sri Lanka in the last quarter of the 13th century (1273-1284). Built on a huge, almost 100 meter boulder of high rock in the style of Lion's Rock in Sigiriya, the city of Yapahuwa was both a palace and a military stronghold against foreign invaders.

The palace and fortress were built by King Bhuvanakabahu I in 1273. Many traces of ancient combat and defensive battles can still be seen, while the decorative staircase is the largest exhibit of the complex. At the top of the rock are the remains of a stupa, the body of a Bodhi tree, and rocky dwellings / caves used by Buddhist monks. This indicates that earlier this place was used as a Buddhist monastery, as well as many other boulders and hills in the surrounding area. There are several caves there at the base of the cliff. In one of them there is a temple with Buddha images.

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In one of the caves there are texts written with the brahmi alphabets This writing was the progenitor of all the North Indian scriptures, and was used to record texts on the devanagari written out of the Brahmi script, which was used for Sanskrit. Nowadays this letter is used for the languages of Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, in part Punjabi, etc. Then, in ancient times, in Sanskrit, a myriad of texts were written. It is quite obvious that even before the arrival of the title people — the Sinhalese — from the north-eastern and north-western regions of ancient India, this part of the island was already inhabited by some of the pro-Sanskrit ancient civilizations.

On the south side of the rock there is a fortification with two moats and ramparts. In this part are the remains of a number of buildings, including a Buddhist temple. There is also a Buddhist temple called Yapahuwa Rajamaha Vihara, built during the Kandy period.

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The Buddha's Tooth was brought here from Dambadeniya and it was kept in a temple built for this purpose on the top of the third staircase. The stolen Holy Tooth was stolen from the temple and taken away by the Pandiyas to India, but then returned to Sri Lanka in 1288 by King Parakramabahu III (1287-1293). After the return, the Tooth was temporarily placed in a safe place in Polonnaruwa.

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You can visit Yapahuwa with a tour when visiting Anuradhapura, Mihintale and other attractions of the north in the Cultural Triangle. Please inform your Lankarus manager for the best planning and organization of your trip.


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