Name of the Temple

Asoka Vanam

Period of origin

1st BC

Name of deity

Moolavar: Sita

Sthalapuranam:

Ravana was the king of Lanka and another 9 kingdoms. He was known as Dasis (or Dasa Shirsha) meaning 10 heads, because he had ten crowns, one each for his ten kingdoms.

His sister Surpanakha went to Jambudweepa for some business. Surpanakha chanced upon Rama at his hermitage and became enamored with the handsome prince. Rama being faithful to his wife, Sita, did not respond and asked Surpanakha to approach Lakshmana who was unmarried. Surpanakha, who felt humiliated by this, tried to attack Sita in anger saying Sita was the cause of the men’s contempt for her. Lakshmana then intervened and cut off Surpanakha’s nose.

Surpanakha, terrified and in pain, flew at once to Lanka to seek the protection of Ravana. When Ravana asked his sister for the cause, Surpanakha said that she had seen Sita, a lady of incomparable beauty, and wanted to bring her for Ravana. Ravana resolved to take revenge for the insult his sister had suffered, as well as to get lovely Sita for himself, and set out to abduct Sita and bring her to Lanka.

Ravana, using a golden deer as a decoy, visited Sita when she was alone. In the guise of an old sage, he abducted and brought her to Weragantota in Lanka in his plane, the Pushpaka vimana.

Weragantota means the “place of aircraft landing” in Sinhala. This is the first place Sita Devi was brought to Lankapura (capita city of king Ravana). These jungles are the place where the city of Lankapura once stood. The city had a beautiful palace for Queen Mandothari surrounded by waterfalls, streams and varieties of flora and fauna. Sita Devi was kept at Queen Mandothari’s palace at Lankapura. The place Sita was held captive is called Sita Kotuwa, which means “Sita’s Fort” in Sinhala. It is believed Ravana had an aircraft repair center at Gurulupotha close to Sita Kotuwa. Sita devi was kept in queen Mandothari’s palace until she was moved to Sita Kotuwa and then on to Ashoka Vatika. The remains that are found here are the remnants of later civilizations. In Valmiki’s depiction, King Ravana’s vimana resembled a huge peacock. The vimana in Sinhala language means “Dhandu Monara” which is known as “flying peacock,” and hence the name Gurulupotha, which means “parts of birds” in Sinhala. This is also called Gavagala.

Ravana moved Sita from Sita Kotuwa to Ashok Vatika the salubrious garden in the mountains. The route too was said to be spectacularly beautiful, as Ravana wanted to show Sita the beauty of his kingdom. The barren land atop the mountain range is believed to be the route in which King Ravana took Sita devi from his capital city Lankapura to Ashoka Vatika, which was a paradise on earth. The Chariot Path atop the mountain range is still visible. Till date no vegetation grows on this passage except grass. King Ravana is believed to have taken this passage on top of these hills to show Sita devi the beauty of his kingdom.

Ashok Vatika is the garden where Ravana held Sita captive. This is in the area of Sita Eliya, close to the city of Nuwara Eliya. The stream that runs from the hill catered to the needs of Sita devi during her stay at Ashok Vatika. She is said to have bathed in this stream. The Hakgala Gardens located at the base of the Hakgala Rock forms part of the famed Ashok Vatika. The Sita Pokuna is a barren area atop the Hakgala Rock Jungle where Sita was kept captive. The Sita Amman Temple is located at this spot. It is interesting to note that foot prints akin to Hanuman’s are found by this river and some are of small size and some are of large size, which tells us of the immense powers of Hanuman transforming himself into any size.

About a century ago three images were discovered in the stream, one of which was that of Sita. It is believed that the deities have been worshipped at this spot for centuries. Now there is temple for Lord Rama, Sitadevi, Lakshmana, and Hanuman by the side of this stream.

The summit of the mountain next to the mountain range overlooking Frotoft Estate in Pussallawa is the place where Hanuman first set his foot on mainland Lanka. This mountain known as Pawala Malai is visible from this mountain range. These hills stand tall in-between King Ravana’s capital city and Ashoka Vatika.

The Sita tear pond is found en route by the chariot route, and is believed to have been formed by the tears of Sita devi. It has not dried up since, even during severe droughts when the adjoining rivers dry up. Visitors could also see the famed Sita Flowers which are endemic to this area. In this area there are many large trees whose bright red blooms add color to the scenery. These flowers are called Sita flowers. The peculiarity of these flowers is the configuration of the petal’s, stamen and pistils, which resemble a human figure carrying a bow, and is said to represent Lord Rama. These flowers are unique only to this area in the whole of Sri Lanka.

Temple Timings:

9.30am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 7.30 pm

Temple Address:

Ashok Vatik

Nnuwara Eliya

Sri Lanka