The archaeological site of Yapahuwa located in the Mahawa Divisional Secretariat takes a prominent place in history. The Bodhivamsa mentions that Yapahuwa was known as Sundara Giri Pavuvva In third century B.C during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. It was named as Subhavala and Subhagiripura when General Subha converted it in to a fortress for security reasons. In the Dalada Pujavaliya it is known as ‘Ayo Parvata’.
Yapahuwa abound a variety of features of archaeological importance. The fortification and the moat, which extend from west end of the Southern part of the rock are connected to the other side of the rock in the shape of a horse shoe. There are no buildings of any historical value in the outer city. Tiles, potsherds and bricks are strewn everywhere in the vicinity of the outer city.
The fortress is 4m in height and 22m in width. Bastions may have existed on the rampart as suggested by the square shaped structures on it. The well planned citadel consists of a rampart and a moat. The stone slabs are put in place on both sides of the rampart and had been filled with metal. In the citadel where the water is being collected, two sluices made of stone are built to take away the collected water to the nearby drain.
Though the foundation of the square building near the closest steps of the stairway has been named as the Assembly Hall, no evidence can be found to prove it. Three flights of steps have been connected to enter the building. The stone pillars close to the walls inside the building can be seen but no pillars can be found in the middle. The foundation of the buildings generally known as the king’s palace can be seen as a square shaped platform. On the flight of steps leading to the foundation there are two balustrade stones with simple carvings. To the west of the Assembly Hall there is a rectangular shaped foundation of a building 66.30m in length and 6.60 m in breadth.
The stone stairway is very impressive among the ancient structures at Yapahuwa. Four tiers have been constructed on the steep embankment of the rock and had been connected to the walkway up to the Tooth Relic Temple. To enter the first tier, twenty four steps have to be climbed. After fourteen steps there is a broad landing. To get into the second tier from the first tier, a stairway with sixty five steps built on a steep embankment has to be climbed. The railing of the stairway is made of boxes becoming smaller and smaller in size when reaching the top. After getting into the square platform, the building identified as the Temple of the Tooth, the doorway and the beautiful flight of steps can be seen. This stairway contains sculptures with a high degree of excellence and gives the impression that they had been painted in colour. Influence of South Indian architectural features is highlighted in these sculptures. Sophisticated sculptures on both sides of the flight of steps have a similarity and contain figures of a dwarf, a female dancer and a graceful figure of a female. The next railing is a balustrade with a carving of the face of a Kihimbi (a lion face). On this balustrade two stylized figures of a lion in the kneeling posture have been sculptured.
On the second half of this flight of steps, figures of dwarfs and gajasimha (a mythical lion) have been sculptured. The lower half of the doorway of the top tier has been decorated with borders and the middle section borders have been sculptured with a dancing female, male figures, musicians etc. In front of the doorway decorated pillars and in the middle of the entrance a stone door frame with various sculptures exist.
After the doorway, the foundation of the Temple of the Tooth is to be met. Remains of various foundations of buildings, a stupa, ponds, water sprouts, retaining walls, stone steps are found as well. Out of the forty caves at Yapahuwa 25 of them are with drip-ledges. Inscriptions are found under the drip-ledges of some of these caves.