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The Dematamal Viharaya is located at Helagama on the Buttala-Okkampitiya road which leads to theMaligawila Buddha Statues. The temple lies about 4 km from the Buttala town. Located in the middle of paddy field, you can see the dark coloured Stupa and the bo-tree surrounded by the green paddy from the road itself. Though much attention is not paid by the average tourist to history of the temple complex is said to date back to the 3rd century BC. It is believed that this is the temple that prince Tissa hid from his brother prince Gamini (some times called Gemunu, later king Dutugemunu) after a major battle for power at the location now called Yudaganawa.
After the death of King Kavanthissa (2 nd Century BC), the two sons, price Gamini and prince Tissa had two major battles in the struggle for power. Legend says that the first battle at the Yudaganawa was won by Tissa.
But the second battle was won by Gamini and Tissa unable to flee far, hid inside this temple knowing the brother will never violate a Buddhist temple. Prince Gamini chasing after his brother realised he was inside the temple and asked chief incumbent Ven. Gonashanka Tissa thero whether his brother was inside the temple. The thero unable to lie refused to answer the prince.
The historic Rajavaliya (The tale of the Royal Dynasty) describes this battle :
"....... Prince Gemunu again, raising afresh army set out to fight, but considering that it would not be possible to fight with the tamils if his soldiers were destroyed in fighting among themselves he sent a letter saying "Let the two of us have a fight between us and let the victor have the country". Accordingly prince Tissa mounted the tusker Kadol and the Gemunu the mare at Yudaganapituya they met head on. Prince Gemunu got his mare to leap over the Tusker Kadol while he stuck Tissa with the back of his sward. The tusker Kadol thought "on my back is a woman, on the mare's back is a man" and dropped prince Tissa to the ground.
Thereupon prince Tissa fled and prince Gemunu, chased after him with the thought of catching him and putting him in the chains lest he would raise armies again to fight. Prince Tissa took shelter among the monks while prince Gemunu ran after him and stood guard at the entrance of the temple. The monks saw prince Tissa entering the temple and prince Gemunu taking chase. Thereupon the monks who were seated stood up and those standing sat down. The monks were asked "Sirs where is prince Tissa who just came here?" They replied "Those of us who are standing or those seated have not seen him. Two novices carried Tissa as though carrying a corpse of a monk wrapped up in yellow robes out of the temple premises. Prince Gemunu remarked "There goes Tissa on the shoulders of the Sanga into the impermanent of Sansara," and taking with him his mother Viharamahadevi and also the tusker Kadol proceeded to the city of Magama..........."
Later the chief thero is said to have brought peace among the brothers who worked side by side thereafter.
The name of the temple "Dematamal" also has its own legends. One legend says this area was called Detu-mal meaning "I saw (found) the brother", which happened at the Viharaya. And later became Dematamal.
Another legend says that once peace was brought within the brothers, prince Tissa was in charge of the area and he cultivated the land and it was very rich in harvest. During this time Prince Gamini (now King Dutu Gemunu) was getting ready for the final battle with the South Indian invader King Elara who was ruling the Sri Lankan capital Anuradhapura, seeing the prosperity of the area King Dutu Gemunu said to his brother "Govithen kala ethi male". Meaning "We have done enough of farming now brother". Because of this statement this area was called Ethi-Male which with time became Dematamal.
In addition to the peaceful and serene location, the temple ruins include pillars, guardstone, stone steps, an image house and a series of meditation cells.
This guardstone (muragala) is a unique sculpture as this shows a couple in an intimate position and behind the head of the man is a number of Cobra Heads. Generally all guard stones depict a Naga king carrying a pot of plenty and a long floral arrangement in the other hand. Such Stone can be seen at any ancient temple in Anuradhapura or Pollonaruwa (see guardstones at Vatadage in Pollonnaruwa and Asokaramaya in Anuradhapura)
Other historical sites in this area are Buduruwagala, Yudaganawa and Maligawila