The forgotten royal seat

Dambadeniya was the third, ephemeral kingdom of Sri Lanka.
By Time Out editors |

It survived for only four decades. But this shortness of time is not the reason for the obscurity of the kingdom. We know that the much shorter Yapahuwa kingdom is famous thanks to the beautiful stone architecture it left behind. It is clear that Dambadeniya sank into oblivion because it has no noteworthy relic of its days of glory.

The ruins of Dambadeniya, however vestigial, show that this was once the royal seat of the legitimate king of Sri Lanka. The first sign you come across is a large wall, the borderline of the inner city: 1.3 metres in width and 2.5 metres in height.

Passing this wall, you have to burrow through a path built recently by the Archaeology Department. It leads you to a stairway built in the Middle Ages. The intriguing feature of this stairway is that only one person can squeeze through it at a time.

Rushing up the stairs without caution would bring rock boulders above tumbling down, causing injury and blocking the path completely: a bright stratagem and a necessity for this kingdom which was living in constant fear of attacks by Indian invaders.

At the summit of Dambadeniya are the buildings of the kingdom. All that is left of the Royal Assembly Hall are a dais and square holes in the rock, used for the pillars that once upheld the roof. The only remnants of the royal palace are the bricks walls of a courtyard. Three old stone ponds of rather utilitarian design can also be seen.

These historical relics are only part of the reward of the hard climb. They are interesting for explorer and historian alike. Yet the view from the observatory point of the old kingdom is the true reward after climb of much huffing, puffing and squeezing. It is an unbroken, undulating, panorama of greenery that spreads up to mountains so distant they are blue. 

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