Henanigala Rajamaha Viharaya (හෙනන්නේගල පුරාණ රජමහා විහාරය)

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Henanigala (Henannegala) is a massive rock similar to Sigiriya Rock lying on the Maya Oya – Aralaganwila Road, about 11 km from Maha Oya inside the Maduruoya National Park.  It is believed that this area was the last place where Prince Dutugemunu combined all his forces before launching his final attack on Elara, the South Indian Invader who ruled in the capital of Anuradhapura. Thus this area was known as Senanigala which later became Henanigala.

Below the Hennaanigala (Henannegala) rock lie ruins of an ancient monastery which has been dated back to the 3rd – 1st century BC. Underneath this massive rock which is much larger than Sigiriya is one of the longest drip ledge caves in Sri Lanka which is 1500 feet to 2000 feet long having a height of 10 – 80 feet. 3 drip ledges at different levels have been carved above the cave to avoid any water dripping into the cave.

At one side of the cave is a small stupa partially destroyed by LTTE terrorists and treasure hunters and restored by the Department of Archaeology in November 2014.

Further down the cave, you can observe partial walls of what has been a row of rooms underneath the cave. They have been made using bricks and stone. A thin layer of plaster has been applied on the walls and frescoes similar to Sigiriya can be seen at some places. These ruins reveal at least 21 chambers and at least 300 frescoes. These chambers are believed to have been residences of monks at one time.

At the top of the rock is the foundation of a larger stupa with a circumference of 275 feet, remains of what could be a large image house and a natural pool on the rock.

There are cave paintings on a cave at the top of the rock. These are said to be cave drawings of indigenous Veddhas who had occupied these caves a long time ago.  In addition to the cave and the now restored small stupa, there are parts of ancient Buddhist buildings scattered all around including the remains of 2 Buddha statues broken into pieces by treasure hunters, stone balustrades of ancient buildings and remains of an image house at the end of the cave.

The caves of Henanigala (Henannegala) have produced several pre-historic tools suggesting that Hennaanigala (Henannegala) was a pre-historic settlement before being converted into a Buddhist Monastery. Later evidence indicates that these caves have been used by the Sri Lankan aborigines – the Veddhas.

At one point of the large cave is an inscription about the donation of the cave. Prof. Paranavithana believes the names in the inscription refer to the father of King Kavanthissa ( Grandfather of King Dutugenunu) while Ven. Ellawala Thero believes that the inscription refers to King Yatalatissa and his brother Gotabaya.

Hennaanigala (Henannegala) lies close to the then LTTE Tamil Tiger Terrorist’s stronghold Thoppigala. Despite the risk to his life, a lone Buddhist monk called  Dankumbure Selalankaara Thero dwelled till 1986 in Hennaanigala (Henannegala) with the closest human habitat over 10 kilometres away. True to their definition, the LTTE brutally murdered the priest in 1986 destroyed much of the Buddhist heritage and used it as the base of the terrorists. The temple was beyond reach for almost 25 years until the LTTE was destroyed by the Sri Lankan forces.

With the LTTE terrorists gone, Ven Gonawela Sudasselankara thero cleared the area and took charge of the monastery. Living in a small hut, over 10 km away from any civilization, the monk was barely surviving on the donations of Mahaoya Buddhists and the Maduru Oya army camp.

The temple made headlines in  2011 when this lone thero cried foul to the treatment by Department of Wildlife officials when he put up a banner made out of one of his old robes to celebrate the 2600 Buddhist anniversary which was celebrated throughout the island in a grand fashion. Not only did the wildlife officials destroy all the decorations and banners, but the responsible officials dragged the priest to the courts of Dehiattakandiya as the respondent to a case filed by them. The responsible wildlife official S.P.P Lionel informed that meditating and lighting oil lamps distracts wild animals in the national park and requested the priest to be remanded and not to allow bail.  In contrast to the wildlife department’s hard stance of protecting wildlife, consider the current crisis at Wilpattu National Park where Muslim colonies are being settled by clearing large parts of  Wilpattu National Park where the department is turning a complete blind eye even with such a public outcry.

To reach the Henanigala (Henannegala) you need to take the Maduru Oya Road from Mahaoya. The famous Mahaoya hot wells too lie on this road. Travel approx 10.5 kilometres on this road to reach the Ruins. Today this road is carpeted up to the Maduruoya Dam.

Hennaanigala new paper article
Hennaanigala new paper article
Hennaanigala new paper article

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Map of Hennaanigala (Henannegala)

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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The map above 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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Driving Directions to Henanigala (Henannegala)

Route from Mahaoya to Henanigala (Henannegala) Route from Polonnaruwa to Henanigala (Henannegala)
Through : Maduru Oya Road
Distance : 10.5 km
Travel time : 15 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Manampitiya – Aralaganwila – Maduruoya
Distance : 62.5 km
Travel time : 1.30 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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