Located about 200 kilometres from Colombo, Mahiyangayana is situated in the Badulla district and is in close proximity to the Mahaweli River. This historically significant city gets its name from the Pali language and it means ‘flatland’.
Yakkas and Nagas were the two tribes that had inhabited this area. According to legend, Mahiyanganaya was visited by Gautama Buddha on a Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day in hopes of resolving a conflict that has arisen between the two parties. This being his first visit, he has also preached Dhamma to a leader there, namely Sumana Saman, who has also gifted a handful of his hair in order to be worshipped by the people. Sumana Saman who was later adorned as a god then proceeded to build a golden chethiya in which the hair was stored and deemed sacred.
Later on over the years, about seven more chethiyas were built, where the last one was by King Dutugemunu. As per these events, this historic town was believed to be sanctified by the Buddhists.
Mahiyanganaya can be reached by bus via the Colombo – Kandy A1 route, but there is no direct railway line leading there. The closest stop by train is Badulla, from where you would have to proceed by bus or of course a private vehicle.
The massive and glistening white Mahiyanganaya Stupa is what houses the sacred hair relic and is situated about a kilometre from the centre of the city. The stupa erected on a gigantic platform has elephant heads sculptured into it as an emblem of protection.
The island’s largest river, the Mahaweli also runs through the city and enables access to a number of Bird Sanctuaries, National Parks, and lands inhabited by the aborigines of Sri Lanka.
The Wasgamuwa Wildlife Sanctuary and Maduru Oya are two of the major parks you find here.
‘Veddahs’, the aborigines of Sri Lanka has a population of close upon 1000 individuals who live in Dambana, which is about 19 kilometres Northeast of Mahiyangaya. Their sustenance relies on hunting alone and they are confined to the forest. However, over the recent past, they have steadily transferred over into the dry lands for cultivation purposes and have even begun to intermarry with the villagers living around the area bordering Dambana.
A museum, several other archaeological sites and a few Veddah guides are present to take you about and enlighten you on their history and unique ways of life.
The Sorabora Wewa Reservoir, bordering the Veddahs’ homeland at Dambana is a massive construction which was established by King Dutugemunu. This historical reservoir, used for irrigation purposes is built on a natural granite rock and is now plentiful in birdlife, making it an attraction to lovers of nature.