What is Ambuluwawa? The Story Behind its Name and Rich History | 2024

Both locals and tourists adore Ambuluwawa as a travel hotspot. Whether it’s the adventure park, Java lounge, or the Pinewood restaurant, this place offers something for everyone.

Excitement and affection radiate from this place, with its fascinating history adding to its charm.

Let’s delve into Ambuluwawa’s significance in Sri Lankan history, its ties to the Gampola kingdom, the origin of its name, ‘Ambuluwawa,’ and more in this blog.

First of all, what is Ambuluwawa?

Ambuluwawa is a mountain hill.

It is located in the Kandy District of the Central Province of Sri Lanka, and the mountain’s peak rises 3,567 feet above sea level. It is mainly known for its scenic beauty, religious significance, and many attractions, especially the Ambuluwawa Tower — which is built on the top of this mountain peak.

Gampola, a neighboring city, boasts a storied history as one of Sri Lanka’s medieval kingdoms. Under the rule of King Buwanekabahu IV from 1344 to 1415, Gampola functioned as the country’s second capital.

This era marked a peak of cultural and architectural success, highlighted by prominent structures like:

  • Niyangampaya Rajamaha Viharaya
  • Buwenakaba Viharaya
  • Ambakke Dewalaya
  • Lanka Thilaka Dewalaya
  • Gadaladeniya Viharaya …and others.

Ambuluwawa’s Role in History

Understanding Ambuluwawa’s historical ties to Gampola is key to appreciating its significance in Sri Lanka. Let’s explore how this connection fits into the rich history of Sri Lanka’s ancient kingdoms.

Some of these kingdoms include Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunagala, and Gampola. Each of these kingdoms has had a significant impact on the island’s political, cultural, and religious landscape.

Let’s go back to the prosperous Kurunagala Kingdom during the reign of IV Vijayabahu.

Gampola saw a significant revival when IV Buwanekabahu, the eldest son of IV Vijayabahu, strategically chose to establish his rule in the city.

His decision was influenced not only by the city’s secure environment but also by its historical significance as a commercial center.

Gampola’s history dates back to the Anuradhapura era when it thrived as a market town. The name “Gampola – gaga siri pola, gaga ashritha pola” (meaning “market near river” in English) highlights its role as a trading hub throughout history.

Furthermore, this decision was supported by the protective presence of the Mahaweli River and the Kothmala mountain range, along with its location below the Ambuluwawa Mountain.

The Beginning of The New Beginnings

After IV Buwanekabahu passed away, V Parakramabahu became the new ruler. Unfortunately, his reign was troubled by internal plots led by Weeraalakeshwara, which caused V Parakkarabahu to lose power.

The once stable kingdom was thrown into chaos and uncertainty because of political schemes and betrayal. These internal conflicts eventually led to the decline of the Gampola kingdom.

During this turbulent time, Queen Senkanda (සෙංකන්ඩ), the wife of King Vijayabahu III, played a crucial role in laying the groundwork for the future Kingdom of Kandy.

Seeking refuge in the secure Ambuluwawa mountain, a natural fortress, she found safety and supplies. Her strategic decisions and foresight greatly helped in the rise of the Kandy kingdom, leaving a lasting impact on Sri Lanka.

Now that we have discussed the historical significance of Ambuluwawa, let’s explore the meaning behind the name of this majestic mountain hill.

What is the meaning of “Ambuluwawa”?

While commonly known as “Ambuluwawa,” the original name of this iconic mountain hill was “Ambuluwagala.” The term Ambuluwagala has its roots in the Pali language, an Indo-Aryan language used in Theravada Buddhism. In Pali, “Amba” means water, “Ulu” means fountain, and the suffix “Wa” means to pour.

The area’s plentiful natural resources influenced the naming of Ambuluwagala, which has since transformed into the cherished and famous name “Ambuluwawa” that we all know and love.


Ambuluwawa is a stunning place that showcases Sri Lanka’s rich history. This location holds significance from its role in the golden age of the Gampola era. When you visit the Ambuluwawa tower or make your own memories there, don’t forget to pause to appreciate the deep history within these mountain walls.

Want to know what more you can do when you visit Ambuluwawa? Make sure to check out these activities.

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