In quest of King Valagamba in exile
Once upon a time as king Valagamba in exile trekked through the jungle trails, he felt tired with fatigue. In order to get some respite, he sat quite exhausted under the spreading canopy of a forest tree. While seated there under the boughs of this spreading tree, (called Mara tree), there appeared a village lass who had gone past him carrying some kind of wild cucumber – thiyabara in a basket on her head.
Gifted gam waras in gratitude
She sensed that this man she did not know that he was a king, quite weary and tired, from his physical appearance that she offered these fruits to him to quench his dire thirst. That spot where these thiyabara fruits were offered, came to be to this day called Thiyabarawatte (the garden of thiyabara fruit). Seeing the rock cave shelter lying close to it, he took shelter and lived there for some time. Valagamba though still a deposed king under forced circusmstances, never forgot to pay his fondest gratitude in kind for offering these thiyabara fruits by gifting that village with gamwara-lands to her and her generations to come. Hence, how this village got its name as Thiyabarawatte.
Tucked away in mountain frontiers
Tucked away in those forest studded mountain frontiers of the Balangoda massif, filled with kitul, coconut palms, interlaced with rice fields and lush jungle vegetation lies those time honoured rock cave shelters. Some of these cave dwellings had been lairs of the prowling leapords, and bears, whilst still others remained as the cave dwellings of the pre-historic Balangoda man – and later the Yakkas and still later those of the Veddas, our aborigines.
Maragala Gallenagoda Len Viharaya
Along the Colombo-Ratnapura-Pelma-dulla-Nonagama highway, before coming to Godakawela near the 24th kilo meter post from Pelmadulla lies the Ridivita junction. From there runs a partly metalled road to Ridivita (where a bus or two plies), lying against the backdrop of coconut, kitul, arecanut, rubber, coffee and tea woods straddled by sprawling rice fields on the hill slopes.
About 1/8 of a mile along this rugged road (from this Ridivita junction), is another place called Maragaha handiya junction. From there, lies an uphill gravelled road leading into the interior. Reposing on a rocky hillock surrounded by cocoa, coffee, and coconut plantations is a typical rock cave shelter called Maragala Gallengoda Len Vihara, coming down from ancient times. This is that historic spot where the village belle had offered those fruits of thiyabara to king Valagamba in exile. He had lived there, built those len viharas and later developed them.
Rock cave shelter and Finds
This rock cave shelter-len vihara is of medium size – being 20 feet long, 50 feet high and 40 feet broad having well chiselled drip ledges on the apex of these cave shelter. This lena or rock cave shelter has a built-in-wall in its frontage. Inside it, reposes a recumbent Buddha statue built of terra-cotta. Two stone pillars stand around its frontage. There are figures of doratupalayah (janitors) and other guard stones . A giant Bo tree vaults over the premises.
The cave ceiling is dotted with paintings of lotus flowers in full bloom and along with other designs of tendrils coiling around trees. There mural paintings are of the typical Kandyan creations dating back to the Kandyan period, as well.
A painting of a lion is also seen there. The mural paintings depict Jataka stories and other episodes, sathsiya vivaranaya the seven episodes of Sidharata Gautama after Enlightenment. The date on the door above to its entrance is 2458 of the Buddhist era, to say its later constructions and restorations were done in 1846 A.D.
The present incumbent of this len vihara (Rock cave Shelter Vihara) is Ven. Ridivita Dhamma Jothi. He is in his eighties, but quite hale and hearty and carries with him a retentive memory of the past antecendats of this Maragala Len Gal Viharaya.
According to the temple archives (Maragala Gallenagala Viharaya called Kudapath), this len vihara harbouring Buddha statues had been plundered by treasure hunters, some years ago. Its reconstruction works had begun about 150 years ago. Among the past incumbents engaged in such restoration works, the name of the late Ven. Bengamuwa Dharmapala is being recorded in the temple chronicles. It is said in those archaic scrolls that it is alleged the cause of causing damage to this len vihara in the past as there were some persons claiming the ownership of the temple lands, and thus committed its plundering in vendetta. During the re-construction works in the past, under its original foundation was found a stone pillar broken into fragments on which some faded away inscriptions had been carved.
Its apartments in the Len Vihara
This rock cave shelter — len vihara comprises three sections, one of which is 37 ft.X 32 ft that houses the image house — pilimage. Then one of those sections is reposed a reclining Buddha statue, built of terra-cotta having a length of 13 ft. and seven ft. broad. There are also small Buddha statues of stone about 2 1/2 feet high, while the other Buddha statues had been executed in the recent past.
On the other section to its right flank is the Devale housing the shrines dedicated to gods —Saman, Kataragama, Vishnu, Ganesh. Its length is 17 1/2 feet, and breadth 10 1/2 feet and height 12 1/2 feet. It is only in this particular cave shelter that drip ledges have been etched. In the other small cave shelter on its left side is 7 feet long, where under its cave canopy is enshrined a small dagaba about five feet high.
More of Temple archaic scrolls
In another archaic temple scroll named as Maragala Gal-lengoda Raja Maha Vihara ‘Kudapathah’ is a proclamation given by king Rajadhi Rajasinha (1782 A.D. of the Kandyan period). It is mentioned that these temple lands had been once encroached by a villager named as Thiyabarawatte Appuhamy. He had enjoyed the fruits of the temple lands which claims had been dismissed by Ven. Vepath Ira Dharmapala, the incumbent of the time and promptly reported it to king Rajadhi Rajasinha (1782). The king whereupon caused inquiries to be made by the Pilima Talawa Adikari and had set aside those illegal claims. Thereby by this royal decree of king Rajadhi Rajasinha restoring those lands to the temple.
Dutch Period Anecdotes
Ambalanwatta is about 1/4 of a mile away from the main road off the Ridiwita junction. During the Dutch period they had brought Java soldiers to guard this frontier. The legend says that these Java soldiers were muzzled, hence its called Marapala which later had corrupted into Maharangala and later to present day Maragala while Maharangala means the great battlefield!
Curious Legend of Ridivita
There is a curious legend revolving around Ridivita, which lies in its vicinity. This place was originally named as ridi-oru-oya as there is a rivulet meandering by. It is told in this folk tale, that a boat made out of silver laden with some treasure trove had been hidden there underground. At times, it flashes a sliver lining in the nights. So in order to wrench off its hidden treasure trove, lying submerged there, some person stealthily had obtained the wood of the milla tree as fuel to heat it. But he was unsuccessful and he turned into a lunatic. So hence this submerged treasure with its eerie surroundings still remains there, unheard, unsung, unknown and even untouched!
Valleys, Dales – Picturesque
The valleys and dales dotting this serene region of mountains winding are, laden with tea, rubber, cocoa, coffee, coconut, kitul plantations, while other commercial crops like cardamoms, pepper — gammiris vines, ensal, karabu neti (cloves) thrive luxuriously. Paddy cultivations are fed by amunus — anicuts constructed across flowing tiny streams that meander by, like silvery ribbons throwing a cool atmosphere. Its climate is akin to that salubrious uplands of Bandarawela.
The peasants are a hardy lot, as they have to toil hard in this part of the hill sides is rugged. On my recent visit to this pastoral village, as there are herdsmen owning buffaloes to plough the rice fields and provide delicious buffaloa curd, I was entertained by a humble gamaya (village) family, to a tasty breakfast of a relishing meal of kurrakkan roti and katta sambol (chillie, onion scum maldive fish). It was delicious, its taste still tillates by tongue! This part of the country, once upon a time came under the ambit of Ruhunu Rata. But later in the late 1950’s during the premiership of the late Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake, it came to be vested with the Sabaragamuwa Province. Even in ancient times, the villagers around this area had trekked to pay homage to the Kataragama shrine to Ruhunu Rata through Ridivita-Godakawela.
Map of Maragala Gallenagoda Len Viharaya
The map below also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites.
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Travel Directions to Maragala Gallenagoda Len Viharaya
Route from Colombo to Maragala Gallenagoda Len Viharaya
Route from Ratnapura to Maragala Gallenagoda Len Viharaya
|Through : Horana – Rathnapura – Madempe – Godakawela
Distance : 130
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
|Through : Pelmadulla – Madampe – Godakawela
Distance : 36 km
Travel time : 45 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map
first published : April 12, 2009