The temple now known as Sri Pushkararama Rajamaha Viharaya at Pathahawatte, Kothalawela is certainly an important piece of Raigampura Heritage – and not just for its religious significance.
Reachable by taking the right turn at ‘Kotalawela junction’ – near the 11th kilometer post on Panadura-Horana Road, the entire land of the temple of 12 Hectares (5 acres), an archeological reserve since 1970, is surrounded by a huge wall of kabook. It is 2 meter wide and the height varies between 2 -3 meters. Given the depth of the foundation, the original height could have been easily twice of that. This wall dates back to either Kotte or Gampola period.
No temple needs that level of protection. So this place could not have been a temple in its heyday. Mostly, it could have been the palace. But of which king? When it was built?
There are two schools of thoughts. The common belief is it was the land that housed the palace built by Raigam Bandara or Pararajasinghe (brother of Buvanekabahu VII and Mayadunne) who ruled Raigampura from 1521-38 AD. Interestingly, both the present Loku hamuduruwo and Archeological Department endorse this opinion. Although that cannot be completely denied the available evidence does not back it fully.
Firstly, by the time of Raigam Bandara, Bandaragama has largely lost its significance as its centre of Raigama. So there was no dire need to build a palace there. (In fact, Raigama again became an independent kingdom only in 1521 AD after the famous ‘Vijayaba Kollaya’. During the period of King Vijayabahu VI Raigama was part of the larger Kotte kingdom.) Secondly, for most of the turbulent period he reigned in Raigama, Raigam Bandara was fighting against elder brother Buvanekabahu, while joining hands with the youngest Mayadunne in Sitavaka, so it is difficult to think he planned building a large palace complex. Thirdly, some literature claims Raigam Bandara stayed at a place at Mapitigama in Sitavaka during the battles with Kotte kingdom. He might not have stayed for the entire period, so we cannot completely rule out the possibility that present Pathahawatte was his kingdom.
The other school that includes several prominent historians believe it had been the palace of Prabhuraja Nisshanka Alakeshvara (1360-87 AD)– perhaps the most illustrious ruler of Raigam kingdom. Nisshanka Alakeshvara was the one who built the castle at Kotte kingdom, surrounded by a huge wall not too different from the one we see today at Pathahawatte. So it is fair to attribute that too to him.
Mayura Sandesha, believed to be written during the reign of Nisshanka Alakeshvara (which also includes an eulogy about him) mentions the peacock (=Mayura) spent one night at his palace. He (peacock) was instructed to worship Veedagama temple the first thing next day morning. (“Vandu Veedagama munida udasana”) So Veedagama temple could not be too far from the place. As of now Pathahawatte is less than one km from the Veedagama temple. This proves to some extent that the former could be Nisshanka Alakeshvara’s palace. Probably Raigam Bandara too have later stayed in the same place.
Leaving the history aside for the moment it will be interesting to see what we find at this land today. Most evident feature is a huge pit of 25 m x 15 m size – which could have been either a pond or most probably a swimming pool (=pathaha). It was well built surrounded by a stone wall. The linkage to the place name Pathahawatte is apparent, but it should have been established long before we think. Even Rajavaliya refers to Pathahawatte as the point where Mudliar Samarakoon arrived with his army to fight the rebel Edirille Rala during the Kotte period.
No matter who built the palace and the surrounding kabook wall, it is reasonable to assume the existence of one or more moats. (=Diya Agala) This was common during those times. These were deep and either filled with water (mostly with crocodiles) or mud. Mayura Sandesha author while describing the Raigampura wall says the moat was built to fit the size of the former. So it should have been minimum 3 meters wide and 3 meters deep. However, today we do not see any evidence of such a moat. Difficult to assume that survived such a long period.
No comprehensive excavations done at Patahawatte, so we have to be satisfied with the few archeological artifacts to be seen on ground. One was a part of a vessel made of stone that takes the shape of a head of an elephant. This might have been used to collect water coming from the roof of the palace. The other interesting one is the double toilet seat – which has two back to back seats. Who used it and how it was used (mostly not simultaneously) is not known. The common belief is that it was the common toilet seat of the king and queen.
Existence of a temple in the ancient palace complex then was not known. It might have been possible that bricks and other material were taken away to build other structures during the Portuguese period and later. The current temple was build somewhere in the beginning of nineteenth century.
(Most of the above information is from the two books ‘Raigampura Rajadhaniya’ by Gunasena Gamage and ‘Sinhala Vehera Vihara’ by Prof. J. B. Disanayake)