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The King’s Secret Cave

The King’s Secret Cave
Hiding out with God

Hidden down tiny roads very close to the hotel is the ancient cave temple of Gunadaha Rajamaha, its lofty views and deep forest hinterland once home to one of Sri Lanka's most sorrowful and unlucky kings.  

Valagamba became King of Anuradhapura in 103 BCE; but had first to kill Kammaharattaka, his sibling’s murderer and chief general, before gaining what he regarded as his birthright - the crown.

This was to prove one of his two only really successful accomplishments. 

Decades of earlier royal misrule - going back to the death of King Dutugemunu in 137 BCE - had set up the grand old kingdom of Anuradhapura for utter disaster. 

Within months of taking power, a rebellion broke out in Rohana. A devastating drought began – a less than positive development in a land where the king was considered to have the power to cause rain. The kingdom’s preeminent port, Māhatittha (now Mantota, opposite Mannar) fell to Dravidian Tamil invaders. And at a battle at Kolambalaka, the hapless King Valagamba was defeated, racing from the battlefield in a chariot lightened by the (accidental?) exit of his wife, Queen Somadevi. 

The king went into continual hiding - including here in Galagedera as he sought to build a guerrilla resistance to the invaders.  His kingdom was now ruled by a series of Dravidian Tamil kings who, between 103 BCE and 89 BCE were to either murder one another or fall victim to the guerrilla campaign that now became ex-king Valagamba’s passion and priority. 

For over 10 years the island was crippled by war, and an ever diminishing government. Pulahatta, the first Dravidian king, was killed by Bahiya, another of the five remaining Dravidians and head of the army. He was in turn murdered in 99 BCE by Panayamara, the third Dravidian who had been unwisely promoted to run the army. Panayamara was next assassinated in 92 BCE by his general, the fourth Dravidian, Pilayamara. Seven months was all Pilayamara managed to last - before dying in skirmishes with Valagamba and passing the throne to the last Dravidian and army commander, Dathika who ruled until his defeat in battle against Valagamba in 89 BCE. 

Victory earnt King Valagamba the second of only two moments of real success in his otherwise sorrowful reign. 

Valagamba ruled on for a further 12 years, building a monastery, stupa and more memorably converting the Dambulla caves. Less adroitly, Valagamba managed to drive a wedge between the monks, his favouritism of one sect for another, setting in motion the island’s first Buddhist schism. Despite this, it was under Valagamba’s patronage that 30 miles north of Kandy 500 monks gathered at the Aluvihare Rock Temple to write down for the very first time, the precepts of Buddhism. The monks were probably still hard at work on The Pali Canon when Valagamba died in 77 BCE, bringing his adopted son, Mahakuli Mahatissa to power for 14 years. 

Over the following hundreds of years the ancient little temple carried on; its caves gathering statues; its forest getting ever denser; and the walls of the rock within which it hides being chiselled with medieval drains to fend off the monsoon.  

Today it remains a place for solitude and prayer; a moment of stillness to carry with you.

To arrnage a visit, please contact the Hotel Office.

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