Tissamaharama or ’Tissa’ (as it is affectionately known by many), located around 5 hours away from Colombo is often considered to be an ideal mellow base for partaking in wildlife excursions across the Yala and Bundala National Parks. However, it proves to be much more than the usual nature retreat, as the rustic town is home to one of the more ancient archaeological ruins in the country, showcasing Buddhist monuments dating back to the 3rd century BC, when the country was first introduced to Buddhism. Thus adding a cultural element to that rustic charm.

Top Reason to Visit

There is a lot of debate as to what the best reason to visit the ancient town is, since it is at the crossroads of being that unique rustic charm and a major cultural hotspot in the country. However, the town’s cultural significance takes the top spot in the primary reason to visit, since it is home to monuments in the form of stupas or ‘dagobas’ that tell an intriguing story of the beginnings of Buddhism in the country, namely the Sandagiri Dagoba, Yatala Dagoba and the Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya.

While You're There

Stupas that tell an interesting story:

With King Devanampiya Tissa of ancient Anuradhapura welcoming the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka from India in the 3rd century BC, its spread towards the outer regions of his kingdom was quite prominent. So prominent that the king’s brother, Prince Mahanaga established the southern Kingdom of Ruhuna centered on the teachings of the peaceful religion. However, it was Prince Mahanaga’s great grandson, Kawan Tissa that first commissioned the erection of Buddhist monuments to house sacred relics of the Buddha. The stupas, such as the Sandagiri Dagoba, Yatala Dagoba and the Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya lie testament to the kings that contributed heavily towards the spread of Buddhism in the country.

Sophisticated irrigation:

Along with the central teachings of Buddhism, Prince Mahanaga was keen on establishing a self-sufficient kingdom that would enable the local society to be the masters of their fate. This meant the construction of one of the more sophisticated ancient irrigation systems in the country, if not the world. The Tissa Wewa, or Tissa Tank, is a man-made tank that enables the rejuvenation of the surrounding paddy fields in order to provide a sustainable form of crop cultivation in the area. The tank still performs this duty without a hitch even today and is home to an abundance of wildlife.

Man is one with nature:

Tissamaharama is a timeless charm when it comes to its rustic heritage. Surrounded by lush green paddy fields, along with the picturesque Tissa Wewa, it has become a rich biodiversity hotspot. Teeming with a great variety of bird species, it is perfect for the nature lover to gaze upon the majestic animals with the best sceneries of low country Sri Lanka.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about the town is not that difficult as most places of interest are in close proximity to each other, which makes walking the best option. Busses and tuk-tuks are available, should you desire them. However, please be mindful of tuk-tuks as they could overcharge, thus making it imperative to research on the distance of your destination.

Weather: Tissa generally experiences the best weather between the months of May to August, making it suitable for both, exploring the city and partaking in wildlife excursions close by.

Money: It is best to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s so as to make life easier. There are a few establishments though that accept credit and debit cards like the supermarkets and the modern cafes.

Clothing: Attire as per the rules of visiting a place of worship (covered legs and shoulders) should be adhered to when attempting to visit the sacred stupas. Apart from that, casual / light wear is the best option when travelling around the town.

Safety: The city is quite safe and is home to a relatively friendly society that accepts outsiders. However, one can never be too careful of your belongings.

Meals and refreshments: There are a few restaurants scattered in Tissa. However, it is most likely that your accommodation provider will provide it as well.

Tissamaharama, although looking like your typical rural Sri Lankan town with a great rustic charm, the town also plays a central role in the country’s cultural heritage with its monuments, giving you the best of both worlds when journeying your way around the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

Title image by: Jehan Gamalathge
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