Algama Kanda Purana Len Viharaya – අල්ගම කන්ද පුරාණ ලෙන් විහාරය

Algama Kanda Ancient Cave Temple

Algama Kanda Ancient Cave Temple
Photo by : Milinda Huruggamuwa

Algama maintain lies in the village of Algama in the Kurunegala district and is about 100 meters high. The top of this hill is scattered with caves and ruins of an ancient aramic complex which is covered with forest today. Research has placed this aramic complex to the Anuradhapura era of the Sri Lankan history. Ruins of a dilapidated stupa and buildings on the southern slope of the mountain belonging to the same era has been discovered.

Today there are two Buddhist temples in on this mountain which has been built using the ancient dripledge caves. On the southern slope lies Sri Shailabimbaramaya also known as the Algama Kanda Purana Len Viharaya or Algama Kande Viharaya. On the eastern slopes lies Algama Sri Sangharaja Rajamaha Viharaya having a written history of about 300 years.

Archaeology department has found that this temple shows work during the periods of Walagamba (89-77 BC), Kithsiri Mevan (303-311) and Kandyan periods. About 200 feet above the cave temple is a rock and a tunnel has been in existence between the cave temple and this rock. But with time, it has been sealed off. It is said that this rock has been used as a observation point by the king.

The king Walagamba (aka Vattagamini Abaya) spent 14 years in exile hiding from South Indian invaders before he finally manage to chase them away them.

During this time he took refuge in number of caves through out the country hiding from spies and gathering forces to defeat the invaders. After he re instated himself as the rightful king of the country, it is said that he built cave temples in every cave he took refuge during his exile.

A rock inscription in Kothmale Viharaya states Theraputthabaya thero who was one of the 10 worriers of the King Dutugemunu (161-131 BC) lived in this temple after he joined the monk hood. One of the rock caves shows inscriptions written is siam (Thai) language. It is believed that this cave was used by a Siamese priest who traveled to Sri Lanka with Upali Maha Thero, who brought upasampada from Siam (now Thailand) to form the Siam Nikkaya during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747 – 1781).

The primary image house is built on a 35 meter long cave. Dripledges has been cut along 13 meters of this cave. A rare instance of the image house as well as the residence of Bikkus built to gether under a single cave can be observed here. The statues inside the cave image house can dated to Kandyan era eventhough most have been renovated and painted loosing their antiquety.

The image house of the temple is 6.4m long and 3.3m and 2.95m wide at west and east sides. The entrance to the image house lies on the south. This entrnace and the door is of recent built. East to the entrance lies a statue of Vishnu with 4 arms. This statue is 1.93 meters tall and 57cm wide. The rear right arm of Vishnu carries a  Conch Shell which considered a symbol of prosperity and the front right arm is in a Varada Mudra. The rear left arm arries a Para Walalla, a circular ring like weapon used in the ancient times and the front left arm is freely dropping down. Unfortunately this statue has been repainted recently destroying any historic value.

A statue of a priest can be found at the west to the door. This statue is 1.45 meters tall and 52cm wide and this too has been painted all over recently. The general belief is that this is a statue of Weliwita Sri Saranankara Sangaraja Thero.

West to this statue lies a statue of a deity or a noble. Wearing a crown, this statue is 1.46 meters tall. Some believe that this to be a statue of Udapola deity, a local deity of this area. Right to this statue a paining of a Raksha carrying a club which is believed to be the Sunium Deity. On the left is a painting of a human carrying a sward and another Raksha carry a club in the hand. The paintings on this wall has not been repainted and seems to be original.

On the right wall is a seated Buddha statue. This seems to be a recent built although the painting of the halo around the body and other paintings on the wall seems to be original. The front wall of the image house is also covered with a recently built reclining Buddha statue but the paintings seems to of Kandan era. A new seated Buddha statue with new paintings cover the right wall of this image house.

Currently this cave temple functions as a Meheni Aranyaya.

Primary Sources : Budusarana
ගවේෂන – 2 කලාපය – වයඹ පලාතේ පුරාවිද්‍යා ගවේෂන – 1 අදියර විශේෂ කලාපය – පුරාවිද්‍යා දෙපාර්තුමේන්තුව
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Driving Directions to Algama Kanda Ancient Cave Temple

Route from Colombo to Algama Kanda Ancient Cave Temple

Route II from Colombo to Algama Kanda Ancient Cave Temple

Though : Kandy Road – Ambepussa – Polgahawela – Divulkumbura
Distance : 93 km
Travel time : 2.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Ja Ela – Diwulapitiya – Giriulla – Narammala
Distance : 95 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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