Sankapala Raja Maha Viharaya is located in the Sankapala Grama Seva Division of the Embilipitiya Divisional Secretariat Division in the Ratnapura District. Passing Pallebedda on the Ratnapura – Embilipitiya main road, you can see the Sankapala Rajamaha Viharaya at the foot of the mountain range near the Colombageara area. The total distance from Colombo is about 140 km. Geographically, the Sankapala Range, about 800 feet above sea level in the Intermediate Region, is characterized by arid climates.
There is evidence that a medieval Balangoda man lived in some caves in the Sankapala temple premises. There are several legends about this Raja Maha Vihara. King Dutugemunu, who reigned from 161 to 137 BC, after awarding the battle of Vijithapura, bestowed villages on his ten great giants. Pussadeva, a giant from the Maligawila area in Moneragala, owned the village of Palle Bedda. Pussadeva was a master of the archery army of King Dutugemunu’s army. The Phussadeva giant who accepted this village came to live there with his friends and built a village. Shortly thereafter, he became disillusioned with life. He was a monk. He built the Sankapala Vihara. Historical sources also state that Ven. Phussadeva Thero later became more enlightened.
Locals believe that the south-facing conch, which is said to have been conquered by the giant Phussadeva in the battle of “Elara-Dutugemunu”, is treasured on top of this rock. In addition, the emblem of the conch, which symbolized his victory, can be seen engraved in the cave where the present main temple is located. The name Sankapala is given to this temple accordingly. There are many caves with dripstones on the grounds of the Sankapala Vihara which are said to be the dwellings where the monks of the forest used to meditate. Three of the old caves at the foot of the Sankapala hills have now been converted into Buddhist temples. A dagoba which is believed to have been built by burying the ashes of Arahant Phussadeva can be seen being built on a rocky plateau about 2 km away from the temple, near the Embilipitiya main road. This place is today known as “Phussadeva Tomb”.