It was my kind of day. We had just survived a pre historic adventure into the lost world of Batadomba Lena and now we were to make it to the Batathota cave, in the same area.
But unlike the former, the latter houses an ancient temple and is a popular place of Buddhist pilgrimage
This was quite evident by the provisions made for the continuous stream of pilgrims that seemed to visit these precincts: A huge vehicle park and rows of stalls selling all kinds of everything marked the entrance of the climb up to the cave temple.
It was raining and we donned our rain coats and began to climb towards the Batathota Lena. Rock cut stone steps marked the route, and there were hand railings in some places for the convenience of pilgrims. The path led under a canopy of trees. It was a week day but three groups of pilgrims climbed along with us. As we climbed further, the route divided, a detour claimed to be an easier route. Preferring the harder and steeper steps we climbed on.
Looking up towards the cave through a gathering mist we noticed a strange sight – numerous green chandelier like objects hanging vertically down from the roof of the cave. A few more steps and amazingly they revealed themselves to be simple ferns vigorously growing from the damp rock roof and hanging individually like some meticulously planned decoration. A simple and yet enchanting gift of nature to the cave.
The cave at the top, facing the Sri Pada maluwa, was huge with a high roof, airy and full of light. A thick mist had gathered, covering the surrounding environs.
At the entrance was a pond filled with fish, called the Manduka Vila. A huge frog made of cement adorned the centre. Towards the back of the cave was the temple shrine room, a dagoba and a small Devalaya..
An attractive Makara Thorana adorned the entrance to the shrine room. Inside was a 21 cubit reclining Buddha statue, believed to have been constructed during the days of King Nissankamalla. Behind the statue were some interesting paintings. They delineated a crowd of Arahats standing amongst the clouds. In their hands they held bunches of Sal flowers.
It is believed that these sacred precincts were established by King Walagambahu, to whom most cave temples are attributed.
There is also a further belief that Diwaguha or Bhagawalena, associated with the Lord Buddha’s visit to Lanka, referred to this place. The most venerable Agga Maha Pandith, the Balangoda Ananda Maithriee Thero, having examined the surroundings, the frescoes in the shrine room, cave lore and beliefs of the area, was of the opinion that this was the most likely spot that could be identified as the Divaguhava where the Lord Buddha rested on his visit to the sacred mountain, the Sri Pada. The pictures reproduced here were taken by Anesley Fernando who led us on this half day cave tour covering Batadomba Lena , Batathota Lena and the Isthree pura cave.
The historic cave temple of Batathota Lena can be reached by traveling approximately 7 kms along the the Kuruwita Eratna Road, proceeding a further 1 km at the Batatota Junction upto the Batathota School, and a further ¾ km along the road.
- List of Ancient Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka