Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya – කැලනිය රජමහා විහාරය

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Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

photo by Jorge Láscar published under CC BY 2.0

On the eighth year after attaining enlightenment, The Buddha visited the kingdom in Kelaniya on the invitation of the King Maniakkhika of the “Naga” (Cobra) tribe. The king had extended this invitation at the Buddha’s second visit to country which was to settle a battle between the two “Naga” kings, Culodara and Mahodara over a gem studded throne at Nagadeepa. King Maniakkhika who was the mother’s brother to the naga Mahodara has been present at Nagadeepa for the battle.

According the chronicles the Buddha visited the Kelaniya with 500 bhikkhus and preached dharma to King and his people on the spot where the temple stands today. From Kalaniya the Buddha proceeded to the domain of the Deity Sumana Saman at the mountain to of Samanthakuta now known as Sri Pada.

The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, Mahavamsa describes the Buddha’s visit to kalaniya

“In the third year after this, the naga-king Maniakkhika sought out the Saipbuddha and invited him, together with the brotherhood. In the eighth year after he had attained to buddhahood, when the Vanquisher was dwelling in Jetavana, the Master, set forth surrounded by five hundred bhikkhus, on the second day of the beautiful month of Vesäkha, at the full moon, and when the hour of the meal was announced the Vanquisher, prince of the wise, forthwith putting on his robe and taking his alms-bowl went to the Kalyani country, the habitation of Maniakkhika. Under a canopy decked with gems, raised upon the spot where (afterwards) the Kalyani cetiya was built, he took his place, together with the brotherhood of bhikkhus, upon a precious throne-seat. And, greatly rejoicing, the naga-king with his following served celestial food, both hard and soft, to the king of truth, the Conqueror, with his followers………..”

Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

photo by Jorge Láscar published under CC BY 2.0

On the place that buddha preached his sermons, a stupa was built enshrining a gem studded throne-seat which the Buddha sat and other utensils that the Buddha used during his stay. Although this event took place in the 5th century BC, its is not clear who actually built the stupa. But according to chronicles, the King Uttiya has made renovations to this stupa in the 3rd Centaury BC, therefore this Stupa would heave been built before that time. There after many kings have extended and made additions to this temple over time, and during the Kingdom of Kotte in the 14th Centaury the Temple of Kelaniya was a highly developed place of worship.

Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

photo by Jorge Láscar published under CC BY 2.0

With the arrival of Portuguese in 1505 the darkest era for the Buddhists in the Kotte Kingdom began. The Portuguese blinded by faith and greed for wealth plundered and destroyed the temples taking all valuables with them. Making maximum advantage of the internal conflicts at that time, the King of Kotte was forced to take refuge under their firepower. In 1557 AD, The puppet king Dharmapala of Kotte Kingdom handed over the Temple of Kelaniya and the 3 storied Daladage which housed the Tooth Relic of Buddha to the Portuguese as payment for military assistance. They plundered and destroyed whatever they could get their hands on and the Daladage and the Seven storeyed Kithsirimevanpaya in Kelaniya was razed to the ground and disappeared without trace.

On the same year the 5-storey Royal palace in Kelaniya was converted in to a church. The Kelaniya temple too were destroyed and burned in 1575 by a Captain Deyasen de Melo. All the Buddhist priests and public who resisted the Portuguese was brutally killed and the Buddhists were banned from worshipping the Kelaniya temple And the temple gradually turned in to a pile of rubble over time.

Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

photo by Jorge Láscar published under CC BY 2.0

With the arrival of Dutch in the 18th Centaury, the restrictions were relaxed and Kalaniya was once again allowed to be worshipped. They even allowed the King of Kandy Kirthi Sri Rajasingha to develop the temple in 1767, perhaps to gain the goodwill of the Kandy king. Thus the reconstruction of the Vihara was undertaken by the then Chief incumbent Venerable Mapitigama Buddharakkhita thero. he was provided with funds from the kings treasury. In 1780, the king handed over the ownership of the temple along with all the land to the same thero.

The next stage of development in the temple is in 1888 by Mrs Helena Wijewardana when she took over the task of renovation of the temple. The deteriorated paintings and painting were restored by Solius Mendis, one of the greatest painters of the time. The renovation work took 20 years to complete.

Kelani Viharaya is situated about 6 kilometers away from Colombo. It can be approached from the Colombo – Kandy Route and turning to Biyagama road at the 4th mile post.

alternate names : Kalaniya Temple, Kelaniya Temple, Kalaniya Rajamaha Viharaya

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Map of  Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

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Travel Directions to Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

Route from Colombo to Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

Though : Dematagoda
distance :13 km
Travel time : 30- 45 minitues
Driving directions : see on google map

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