Located 116 meters above the sea level, Kurunegala is a famous Sri Lankan city enclosed with forest and tall mountains. However, this post is dedicated to an ancient temple that makes a trip to the town more memorable.
In this post, we introduce you to Kabella Lena Purana Rajamaha Viharaya and some other enthralling locations to visit in Kurunegala.
Kabella Lena Purana Rajamaha Viharaya
Located in the Kurunegala district of the Polpithigama area, Kabella Lena Purana Rajamaha Vihara is an ancient temple that belongs to the Kandyan Era. The Department of Archaeology restored this ancient temple.
On the Kurunegala – Puttalam road, close to Wariyapola town, the Kabellalena Rajamaha Vihara is nestled on a giant rock, allowing pilgrims to witness a scenic view of the vicinity.
Established by King Walagamba in the year 104 B.C, the temple includes a flight of stairs with about 200 steps cut into the rock, leading to the summit of the rock.
Upon reaching the peak, there is a beautiful yet awfully maintained natural pool. Moving ahead, you’ll find one of Sri Lanka’s most enormous reclining Buddha sculptures inside of Vihara Geya or Image house.
Furthermore, in the interiors of the Vihara, there are archaic frescoes alongside the statues of Yaksha and Deva.This rock temple houses several caves and drip ledges carved by ancient engineers that can still be seen.
The historic drip ledges creations were built to safeguard the caves from rain. However, visitors are advised not to click pictures while they are in the image house.
About 15 feet tall dome-shaped shrine or dagoba is situated in another cave in the temple. The paintings on the inner walls of the caves signify the tales of Buddha.
A Devala, dedicated to the gods, sits in one of the caves. The temple also houses a giant Bodhi tree, believed to have been planted by King Valagamba of Anuradhapura.
As seen on the popular TV show ‘Sidu’
The ancient Buddha statues and murals of Kabella Lena Purana Rajamaha Viharaya were also a part of the teledrama series ‘Sidu.’ A famous Sri Lankan daily also mentioned about the falling of the temple, in their article called “Temple on the verge of collapse.”
The daily reported that the stupa has fallen prey to the treasure hunters. “This is the only place where we can see a Devale, Dhamma Hall, and a rock cave in one temple place. This was declared a protected archaeological site in 1965.
Since then, only half-hearted attempts have been made to conserve the place.” Ellawala Medhananda Thero, politician and former MP of Sri Lanka, highlighted this to the media outlet.
There also mentioned the use of the location in Sidu, asserting that because of the popular show, the site has amassed visitors in massive. Furthermore, Thero has requested the Department of Archaeology and the Department of Buddha Sasana to conserve the temple.
History of Kurunegala
During the 13th – 14th centuries, Kurunegala was considered Sri Lanka’s fifth capital for nearly fifty years. Kurunegala’s name originated from an elephant-shaped giant rock located in the district.
In 1287, King Parakrama Bahu III reprised Kurunegala into a more scenic and beautiful city until his demise in 1293. Following the death of King Parakrama Bahu III, King Buvanekabahu II (1293-1302), and King Parakramabahu IV (1302-1326) took control of the city. From 1326 to 1335, Kurunegala was ruled by Buwaneka Bahu III, also known as Wanni Buwanekabahu. Son of Pandit Parakrama Bahu II, Buwaneka Bahu III, is believed to be the last king to rule the country from Kurunegala.
Major attraction sites are in the city of Kurunegala; earlier considered as the capital of the island country from the end of the 13th century to the initial years of the 14th century. Following is a list of places to visit in Kurunegala, with each holding a different piece of history.
Other Attractions Around Kabella Lena Purana Rajamaha Viharaya
Besides the archaic architecture of the Kabella Lena Purana Rajamaha Viharaya there are plenty of tourist spots that a bustling city like Kurunegala has to offer. The following are a few other attractions that you might want to visit.
Monaragala Raja Maha Vihara
On the Monaragala-Puttalam road, there is Siyambalangamuwa that leads to the Monaragala temple. The temple is composed of more than 20 caves, each housing murals and paintings belonging to Kandyan style.
As the temple sits on a rock, that holds a resemblance to that of a peacock because of which the temple is famously called as Monaragala. The facade of the temple is ornamented with a Makara Thorana or Dragon’s Arch crafted using clay.
While the canopy is adorned with floral designs with walls depicting Jathaka stories.This ancient Buddhist temple is believed to have been erected by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe.
However, there is no significant backing or proof to justify it as the temple has been renovated innumerable times in the past.
Padeniya Purana Raja Maha Vihara
Situated in the North-Western Province of Sri Lanka, the Padeniya Raja Maha Vihara is home to some of the best archaic architecture. This Buddhist temple’s wooden pillars are carved elegantly with intricate designs. The wooden carvings share similarities with that of Embekke wood carvings.
Padeniya is a famous place among locals and foreign visitors as it continues to preserve and maintain the condition of the Buddhist culture in a temple. The temple’s murals are assumed to be from the Kandyan period.
To go even further in time, this temple was the royal capital of Sri Lanka. Home to the great warrior, Therapuththabhaya who renounced himself to continue as a Buddhist monk was part of the army of the Great Dutugemunu.
Built by a local leader named Sumita, Dadagamuwa Raja Maha Viharaya is a Buddhist Monastery that dates back to the reign of King Devanampiyatissa of Anuradhapura. The temple was resuscitated in the Kandyan era with a Buddha statue adjoining the lake.
Dadagamuwa is a temple highly acknowledged for preserving the inscriptions that are engraved and are a sign of a peace treaty. A period wherein two separate parties (King Gajabahu 2 and King Parakramabahun) met and decided that war is useless and such battle needs to be stopped. Hence, they signed a peace agreement with a petroglyph on the rock.
Read More: The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lank
Situated in the northwest of Kandy, Panduwasnuwara was the home of the sacred Buddha tooth relic during the rule of King Parakramabahu.
Often unnoticed and unvisited, Panduwasnuwara includes two royal palaces, two monasteries, a dagoba, and much more. There is a small Panduwasnuwara museum, which holds the display of artifacts like jewelry, pottery, and quite a few small statues.
Although Panduwasnuwara fails to provide a breathtaking view as other capital cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, it is still worthy of exploring if you are in the vicinity.
Nestled amidst the thick vegetation, Arankele is a Buddhist monastery built in the 6th century BC. A site covered with hardwood trees is house to several meditation paths along with many stone pillars.
A cluster of rock caves hides a shelter for monastic monks for meditation. The Arankele Forest Monastery can be easily reached by Colombo-Kurunegala-Ibbagamuwa-Moragolla road.
To take a dip in a pond, the monastery is home to the most massive hot water pond with 100ft in length and 60ft in breadth. All that mentioned-above is proof of the existence of an ancient Ayurvedic hospital.
Silver Temple (Ridi Viharaya)
Located 20 km from the Kurunegala, the Ridi Vihara, also famously known as the Silver temple is built on a rocky outcrop over a silver mine.
Established by King Dutugemunu in 2C BCE, the temple was later revived by King Kirti Sri Raja Sinha as the previous version was in poor condition after negligence. With many caves, it has around, one of which includes a 9-meter long reclining idol of Buddha.
As the most popular Buddhist temple around, Ridi Vihara holds some valuable collectible items such as paintings and beautiful wood and iron carvings.
Read More: Kandy – The Hill Country of Sri Lanka
Described as the lifeblood of the city’s people, Kurunegala lake is also known as Rantalia Lake or Kurunegala tank. Situated away from the monotonous traffic and life, this lake is an amazing human-made water body by ancient kings.
With many restorations in recent years, Kurunegala lake is now a beautiful and well-maintained greenery in the surrounding.
Fact: Many locals hold their wedding ceremonies at this lake as it offers the best picturesque views.
The Bottom Line
So this was all about the Kabella Lena Purana Rajamaha Viharaya and other places to wander when in Kurunegala. If there’s a place that we’ve not mentioned or you have the best way to get to the Viharaya, write to us in the comments section below.