Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya at Weeraketiya – වීරකැටිය නයිගල රජමහා විහාරය

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An Image House belonging to the Anuradhapura Era at the Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya
An Image House belonging to the Anuradhapura Era at the Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya
Photo by L Manju licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya at Weeraketiya is believed to have a history going as far as 3rd century BC. The temple is believed to be built my regional king Mahanaga, brother of king Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BC) who had built his palace at Mandaduwa close to Mulkirigala. In ancient scripts this temple has been identified as ‘Kala Pabbatha Viharaya’ (කාල පබ්බත විහාරය).

The Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya has been built as a Pabbatha Viharaya, An architectural feature rarely found on the Ruhunu Kingdom. In 2013, the excavation by the archaeology department had confirmed the the stone pillars of a ruined building has been in fact a 2 storied image house belonging to the Anuradhapura Period. Many other ruins belonging the to the 3rd century BC has also being discovered at this heritage site.

One of the ruins is a circular stone vessel believed to be the vessel that hid the Bowl Relic of Buddha by Sugala Devi when she escaped from the king Parakramabahu the Great of Polonnaruwa Kingdom.

The stone vessel belied to be used to hide the Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic of Buddha on display at Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya
The stone vessel belied to be used to hide the Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic of Buddha on display at Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya
Photo by L Manju licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

According to legend, king Mahanaga developed the agriculture of this area but after some time a prolonged drought dried up all the reservoirs and a famine was starting to spread. One day the king saw a white king cobra at his palace and when it turned back, the king too followed it.

The king followed the white king cobra to a top of a rocky plateau where it disappeared. Looking around the king saw a long rock pond filled with water. Reliving that this was a blessed location, he resolved to built a temple at this site. The moment that king resolved to build the temple, a heavy rain has fell to the area ending the drought.

The rock where the cobra disappeared became the Naigala and the temple the Naigala Viharaya. King Mahanaga has received an off shoot from the Sri Maha Bodhi to be planted at the temple. Today you can see this tree rising out of a cavity on the rock.

The Asana of the Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya - නයිගල රජමහා විහාරයේ ආසනඝරය
The Asana of the Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya – නයිගල රජමහා විහාරයේ ආසනඝරය

The temple is also home to one of the recorded Asanaghara in the country. The Asana is a medium sized rock slab with the beading carved on the top edge. The 1961/62 report of the Commissioner of the Archaeology department notes that this is 9 feet 8 inches long and 4 feet 4 inches long. This slab has been discovered at the center of a ruined building with a balustrades at the entrance. Today this Asana has been moved and is placed in the temple garden enclosed in the small hut.

The BodhigharaChethiyaghara and Asanaghara are considered by scholars to be the three oldest Buddhist architectural elements in Sri Lanka. Of these, the Chethyaighara also called Vatadage and the Bodhighara are mentioned in most ancient Buddhist literature but the sources do not mention the Asanagara in detail. But there are some references to this in the ancient Attakathas and in the ancient chronicles such as the Mahavamsa and the Deepavamsa.

Archaeologically, the Asana seems to have become popular at the same time the carvings of the sacred footprint (siripathulgala) became popular as a symbol of the Buddha or shortly thereafter. Mr. Gunapala Senadheera (Buddhist Symbolism and Wish Fulfillment) states that the use of seats dates back to the 3rd century BC to the 9th century. With the advent of the creation of Buddha statues in Sri Lanka, the use of symbols to commemorate the Buddha had declined.

There are number of ruins of Asanaghara has been found from various parts of Sri Lanka. Some of the more popular Asanaghara are located in PulukunawaKatuwannawaHalmillawetiyaUttimaduwaGanewewa and Debarawewa  Yatala Vehera sites. In addition, Asana and Asanaghara’s have been discovered at Weeraketiya Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya (9 feet 8 inches long and 4 feet 4 inches wide) in Hambantota district, Sigiriya Mahanaga Pabbatharamaya, at Pihimbiyagollewa (8 feet long and 3 feet 10 inches wide) and Veheragala (11 feet 8 inches long and 4 feet 4 inches wide) in the Eastern province, Kokebe (11 feet 5 inches long and 5 feet wide) in Anuradhapura district, Periyankulama Elupothana in Vavuniya District, Thantirimale (9 feet 9 inches long and 4 feet wide), Seruvila, Manik Vatadage, and Rajanganaya Hatthikuchchi Aramic Complex.

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Travel Directions to Weeraketiya Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya

Route from Matara to  Weeraketiya Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya

Through : Tangalle
Distance : 54 km
Travel time : 1.30 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map

Map of Weeraketiya Naigala Rajamaha Viharaya

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