Attanagalla Rajamaha Viharaya is one of the most famous ancient royal temples in Sri Lanka. Attanagalla Royal temples is the primary one among its nine subordinate temples and is situated in Western Province, Sri Lanka, 28 miles northeast of Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka.
It is unique because it is the only ancient temple historically recognized as the place where a Bodhisattva (a future Buddha) fulfilled his Dana Paramita (one of the ten perfections to be completed by a Bodhisattva to become a Buddha, an Awakened One). He sacrificed his life by giving his head in gratitude for a favour he received from a poor and ordinary countryman.
Known by the name of King Sri Sangabo (247-249 A.D.) he was recognized in the chronicles and other ancient literature of Sri Lanka as the most pious Buddhist king in Sri Lankan history. After King Sri Sangabo, his brother Gothabhaya (249-262 A.D.) became the king of the country and built a Stupa (Pagoda) at the place where his brother, Bodhisattva Sri Sangabo, made the great sacrifice fulfilling a parami. According to the Attanagall Vihara Chronicle, during the reign of King Upatissa (365-406 A.D.), one of the monks, having practised meditation, attained Arahanthship (enlightenment) at this temple. King Upatissa was very pleased to hear this and built a five-story monastery, which he offered to the Maha Sangaha.
The three friends Sangabodhi, Gotabhaya and Sangathissa came to Anuradhapura to serve the king. While they were passing Thissaweva, a blind wise man who was living nearby hearing their footsteps exclaimed, “The earth bears these three kings,” and the last one Gotabhaya heard this and insisted, “Pray tell me. Whose reign will last long?” The answer was “The last one’s my lord.” Having heard this Gotabhaya joined the others without revealing the friends’ anything.
Three of them proceeded to the city and served to the king Vijaya very closely. Later, Sangathissa conspired and killed the king and crowned himself as the king. He ruled Anuradhapura for four years.
Sangathissa was fond of eating Damba fruit and used to travel the eastern part of the island often with his troops and this was hazardous to the peasants there and they poisoned the fruit. The king Sangathissa died eating the poisoned fruit on the spot.
Then Prince Sangabo was crowned as the king. He was known as a virtuous king and he was very kind to his subjects. When the criminals were captured he exiled them to a remote part and the dead bodies secretly brought from the cemeteries burned in the disguise of the criminals to show the people. Once a devil called Rakthakshi (the one with red eyes) began to kill the people and the king overpowered him by his virtues and promised him to accept offerings from people instead of killing them.
Then the prince Gotabhaya conspired and entered the city with his troops to get the kingdom from King Sangabo who was once his friend. King Sirisangabo didn’t want to shed the blood of the troops from both parties and left the city only with a piece of cloth to filter the water. Hereafter the king lived a simple life in Aththanagalla as a hermit meditating most of the time.
The prince Gotabaya began searching for the ex-king and killed a number of people suspecting it was the king. One day a passing peasant offered the king a meal knowing it was the king and he revealed to the king the way the innocent people were killed mistaken as the king. The king was worried and he was still more worried to hear about the bounty on his head. Because of the bounty price, people had begun to kill people and bring the heads to the palace to get the money. Then the king revealed that he was the king and asked to cut his head and to get the money. The peasant refused that and the king himself separated the head and offered it to the peasant. (Mahawansa 58-97 verses)
This is the story behind the Aththanagalla and the place where the king had lived and the pond he went for the water still can be seen. The place has later become a Buddhist temple and a lot of people visit it today.
Popular belief is this was the location where King Siri Sangabo (251-253 AD) lived after handing over the kingdom to his brother Gotabaya. But with recent archaeological studies, archaeologists believe that the location is probably the Hatthikucchi Vihara Complex also known as Rajangana Ruins which is located about 40 kilometers away from Anuradhapura.
Another important archaeological artefact in this temple is the Vatadage. This is the only Vatadage in Sri Lanka that is still intact, though heavily modified at various times. Due to the connection of the temple to King Sirisangabo, the temple is attributed to King Gotabaya (253-266 AD).
A detailed description of the overall Stupaghara architecture including vatadages of Sri Lanka can be found here.
Map of The Attanagalla Raja Maha Viharaya
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Driving Directions to Attanagalla Raja Maha Viharaya
|Route from Colombo to Attanagalla Temple
|Route from Mount Lavinia to Attanagalla Temple
|Though : Kelaniya
Distance : 48 km
Travel time : 1.15 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
|Though : Malabe – Biyagama
Distance : 62 km
Travel time : 1.15 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map