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The Dravidian invasion from south India and the collapse of the Dambadeniya kingdom in the 13th century to Sri Lanka forced the King at the time King Buwanaka Bahu to shift the capital of Sri Lanka from Polonnaruwa to Yapahuwa. Yapahuwa is located in the Wayamba province of Sri Lanka a little way off from the Anuradhapura and Kurunegala Road. The Yapahuwa ancient fortress rises to a height of 90m above the surrounding plains.
After the devastation of the Polonnaruwa by Kalinga Magha, King Vijayabahu the fourth commanded his brother King Buwanaka Bahu to settle in Yapahuwa with his army to prevent and repel the south Indian invasion. At the time Yapahuwa was known as “Subha – Pabbata” which means auspicious mountain. The strength of this area of defense is proven in the 16th century when the Portuguese referred to Yapahuwa as “the Fortress of the Sinhalese”. The ancient Kingdom is very similar to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. The magnificent abilities of ancient Sri Lankans are clearly shown from this complex rock fortress.Though the royal residence and the temple of the tooth relic are in ruins many traces of other ancient defenses are still seen; the Ornamental stairway, which is very similar to the steps at Sigiriya, remains as the main price.
Originally the stone stairway comprised of three flights of stairs, however now the lower one was remade from cement due to it being damaged, Sculptures of Goggle-eyed lions and graceful female figures decorate the sides of the stairway. You can also find deep rock carvings of Dancers musicians decorating the last staircase and porch on top. At the top of the stairway, you will find an impressive doorway which once led to the temple of the tooth. Once you pass this door you will be greeted by the foundation of the temple. A path on the left will lead you to the top of the rock. If you follow the rough path which leads to the top the rock, you will find caves, which were inhabited by ascetic monks for centuries before Yapahuwa became the capital of Sri Lanka. You can also find caves at the base of the rock. One cave has Brahmi script inscription in it.Another has a shrine with Buddha images. You will also find two moats and ramparts which remain from the ancient fortifications against the south Indians. You can also visit the new museum situated at the entrance to the rock fortress, it contains excavated relics and a large collection of antiquities.
Though the point of moving the capital to Yapahuwa was to safeguard the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha from the south Indians, after the death of King Buwaneka Bahu the South Indian invaders pillaged the Kingdom of Yapahuwa and carried the Tooth relic back to India. But The Successor to King Buwanaka Bahu, King Parakkramabahu the third, successfully secured the Sacred Tooth relic having visited the Pandayan court in southern India in 1288. Yapahuwa is definetely an attraction worth visiting and is a perfect location to see the ancient ways of ancient Sri Lanka.