Beligala Sri Vijaya Sundararama Rajamaha Viharaya at Kegalle

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Beligala Sri Vijaya Sundararama Rajamaha Viharaya popularly known as Beligala Rajamaha Viharaya is an ancient temple lying between Alawwa and Nelundeniya in the Kegalle District. According to historical records, the Beligala Temple is one of the places where the first 32 shoots of the Sri Maha Bodhi (Dethispala Maha Bodhi) were planted which dates this temple to pre pre-Christian era.

There are many legends about the connection of the name Beligala to this area. In the ancient book Kadaim Potha, the name is derived because of pearls, beads and Sathruwan (seven precious items, wiz gold, silver, pearls, gems, diamonds, diamonds, pearls – gold, silver, pearls, gems, diamonds, cats-eyes and coral) appeared from Beli Fruit trees and caves in this area, because there were four stone pillars with carvings of Beli fruit trees to mark the boundaries here, and because a merchant had previously bought this land and paid by filling a beli fruit shell with precious items, and because there was a Beli Tree in a crevice on the west of Beligala rock and because the garden which supplied Beli Flowers to the palace was in this area.

R.W. Ivers who was the Assistant Agent in Kegalle at that time published a detailed account of Beligala in the 1884 issue of the Sri Lanka Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. He discusses the origin of the name and states that the rock seems to have got this name because it looks like a Beli fruit shell. It is clear that this explanation is possible as other rocks in the district such as Alagala, Batalegala, and Urakanda have taken the names due to their shape. In addition, there is a folklore that a Brahmin who was carrying a Bo plant stopped to have his meals below a Beli tree finding that the Bo tree was rooted to the Beli tree when he was ready to leave. When he returned to the Beli tree and tried to pick up the Bo plant, he saw that the Bo plant had pierced the container and pulled the roots out of the Beli tree. But today there is no bark or bo tree on this rock.

The first king associated with Beligala was King Gajaba I (112-134). The Rajavali records how he freed 12,000 Sinhalese who had been taken to Soli country (in India) during his father’s reign and returned to Ceylon with 12,000 Tamil prisoners as compensation.

Kurunegala Vistharaya” states how after the return of King Gajaba I to Sri Lanka, a new seven storied palace was built on Beligala rock and the houses and other associated buildings were built for the city of Beligala deserting the city of Dedigama. Thus, by the 2nd century, Beligala appears to have been a complete city with a royal palace.

When Kalinga Maga captured the Polonnaruwa Kingdom in 1215, the Sacred tooth relic was moved to Kotmale. With Polonnaruwa under invaders, King Vijayabahu III (1232-1236)  decided to move the capital to Dambadeniya and the king picked Beligala Rock to build a magnificent Relic House along with all the buildings and monasteries to complete a town.

And further, during these disturbed times all the Grand theras with Vacissara at the head, had carried away from Pulatthinagara the Alms-bowl Relic and the Tooth Relic of the Master, had gone forth, had betaken themselves to Mayarattha and there on the mountain Kotthumala in a safe region had buried both the relics carefully in the earth and so preserved them. Now some of these Grand theras with Vacissara at the head, who sought that protection for Lanka on which depended the continuance of the Order, had crossed the vast ocean, despite its raging waves, had betaken themselves to the lands of the Pandus, Colas and other (peoples). Now Vijayabahu sending forth his great dignitaries, summoned all these theras who were a mine of mercy back from there. When the Grand tberas arrived he greeted them with reverence and asked them: “Where are the two relics, the Tooth and the Alms-bowl preserved”? At their answer, “In such and such a place”, the Monarch’s whole body was filled with a fivefold joy. Led by the crowd of the Grand tberas, the Ruler set forth with his army for the Kotthumala mountain. After he had performed a great sacrificial festival” round about the mountain, he beheld there gazing with bis whole soul, the, two relics of the Tooth and of the Alms Bowl. With a heart as full of joy as if he had found a jewel like the wheel and the rest or a great treasure, or as if he had attained Nirvana, the Sovereign took unto himself the two relics and blessed like Mandhatar, he bore them with great celebrations from village to village, from town to town and brought them to the beautiful city of Jambuddoni where the pious people began a great and splendid festival. Now while the wise King day by day celebrated a great sacrificial ceremony for the relics, he thought thus: “In order that if in future time another interregnum occurs, no evil from alien enemies shall befall these relics of the Sage, I will carefully provide for them a still more inaccessible place, fast and sure.” Thus pondering he had the Billasela (mountain) made fast on every side with walls, gate-towers and the like, that save by the gods in the air, it could not be trodden by any human foes. And on the summit of the rock he built a superb temple for the Tooth Relic, ravishing as a divine palace descended from the world of the gods. Around this he laid out a park for the community with divers pasadas and madapaa, delightful for taking an airing when passing the day or when passing the night therein, provided with lakes and bathing-ponds. In this relic temple the wise (monarch) had the two relics, Tooth and Bowl, carefully placed with great solemnity. After making over the park for the community to the faithful theras who were charged with the care of the relics, be decreed a regular offering of alms. Also he commanded that a sacrificial ceremony of surpassing kind should be performed for the relics day by day in, most perfect fashion.

Culavamsa Being the More Recent Part of Mahavamsa : Volume 2 (1929)

There is no inscription or historic record of this temple before the revival of Beligala with the two Dhatu being housed at the Beligala Rock. However, Mr H.Wace has recorded the following on his diary entry for 6 February 1885;

On the way, he visited Beligala Vihare, situated in a fine and cleanly kept square compound, an old temple founded in the time of King Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BC). He again records on 16 December 1885 that at the foot of the Beligala Rock lies Beligala Viharaya, originally founded it is said in 59 BC, and that there are numerous stone pillars (plain) and two fine balustrades.

in 1894, Mr. R.W. Ivers provided a detailed report of a field visit to Beligala and stated that the Beligala Viharaya was being ascribed to King Kalinga Bahu (?).

No matter the date of its establishment, there is no doubt that the temple had its most glorious days during the few years during which the Temple of Tooth Relic was held and worshipped at Beligala Rock. Beligala Temple would have definitely played a crucial role in running this establishment.

Culavamsa and Pujavaliya state that heir-apparent Bhuvanekabahu who was the brother of King Pandit Parakramabahu (1236-1270), the son of Vijayabahu III, built a monastery at with various halls in Beligalvehera which was named after himself, Bhuvanekabahu Pirivena.

The King made his yuvaraja erect in the Billasela-vihara the parivena called Bhuvanekabahu after him, embellished with prasadas, mandapas and the like and then celebrated in the town called Sirivaddhana in the manner described, with all votive offerings with care seven days long a great sacrificial festival for the three (sacred) objects.

Culavamsa Being the More Recent Part of Mahavamsa : Volume 2 (1929)

According to the Kegalle Report of HCP Bell, there were five bo trees out of which was a shoot of the Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura. There is a two-story building with the upper floor made of wood. The wooden story has originally been supported by 26 stone pillars 11 feet 6 inches in height and 10 inches square. Some of these pillars have been replaced by wooden pillars. There has been a half-wall verandah all around the building supported by similar pillars 8 feet high and 10 inches square.

Another important artefact at the site is the Sandakadapahana or the Moonstone. The stone craftsman who had chiseled away this moonstone had escaped from the styles of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa moonstones. Mr Bell describes it as having a distinct individuality recalling the lower medallions in the Amaravati railing. Anuradhapura moonstones are divided into four concentric bands surrounding a lotus. But in lieu of the familiar rows of animals (elephants, lions, bulls, and horses) and hansas (with lotus) sprig in its bill) passing across the field from left to right, alternating with bands of conventional leaves, and a foliaged scroll, on the Beligala moonstone, the three inner rows of animals (each line differing from the others) meet in the centre; only the outermost band retains the leaves, eight on either side of a central Makara face. The second band has fourteen tigers with heads reversed, except the last two. The next has twelve elephants, with their left back legs raised, as if running. The third and innermost row has ten horses saddled and bridled. At either side where it abuts against the door sill the moonstone is finished by a makara with unusually long legs, head thrown back, and extended jaws, stretching across the two outer bands. The lotus, 2 feet 1 inch in diameter, rises from 2 inches to 3 inches above the rest of the surface. The true radius of the stone is 3 feet 1 inch, but it departs from the customary semi-circle in projecting 3 feet 10½ inches from the base which measures 7 feet 6 inches across the makaras. The carving is spirited and life-like, and in fair preservation, considering the wear the stone has received from the feet of generations of worshipers at the temple.

This moonstone is now protected by an iron fence and the legend says that a treasure is hidden underneath it. In 2013, the head priest of the temple complained to the police that the chairman of the Ruwanwella Pradesheeya Saba Sudath Majula came to him and requested his help to dig the treasure beneath the moonstone.

Unique Moonstone of the Beligala Viharaya as seen by HCP Bell in 1894
Unique Moonstone of the Beligala Viharaya as seen by HCP Bell in 1894

Today the temple is scattered with ruins belonging to pre pre-Christian era to the Dambadeniya Era. A granite Bodhigara around the Dethis bo tree, granite steps, balustrades and moonstones of the bygone era can be seen all around.


  2. H.C.P බෙල් (සිංහල පරිවර්තනය කොත්මලේ කේ. බී. ඒ. එඩ්මන්ඩ් ), 2005. ලංකා පුරාවිද්‍යා ගවේෂණය කෑගල්ල දිස්ත්‍රික්කය පිලිබඳ වාර්තාව (Report On The Kegalle District – 1892 : සිංහල පරිවර්තනය). 1st ed. කොළඹ: පුරාවිද්‍යා දෙපාර්තුමේන්තුව.
  3. GEIGER, W., 1929. Culavamsa Being the More Recent Part of Mahavamsa : Volume 2. London: Pali text Society.

Also See

Map of Kegalle Beligala Rajamaha Viharaya

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Travel Directions to Kegalle Beligala Rajamaha Viharaya

Route from Nelundeniya to Kegalle Beligala Rajamaha Viharaya
Through : Nelundeniya Road
Distance :5.8 km
Travel time :  10 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map


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