Many legends of Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya

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A bell tower with a stupa on the top with a roof at the Hindagala Rajamaha Viharaya
A bell tower with a stupa on the top with a roof at the Hindagala Rajamaha Viharaya
photo by Sampath Samarathunge

primary root main first article The Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya is situated a little over six miles from Kandy on the Galaha Road just beyond the University of Peradeniya. There are two approaches to the viharaya. One, a rather steep road and the the other a flight of 228 steps from near a small ambalama. Set on a higher elevation, the viharaya surrounded by hills is a quiet place. Many believe it was once a hermitage where bhikkus meditated hundreds of years ago.

Ven. Embilmeegama Devarakkhita Thera, Viharadhipathi of this ‘len’ viharaya (rock cave temple) spoke of its history, famous paintings and the fire that destroyed some of these paintings. Archaeologists have traced the history of this Viharaya to the 6th – 7th Century by the paintings and the two rock inscriptions found there. The letters on these rock inscriptions are said to be of Brahmi script.

There are two main paintings and it is stated one depicts two merchants Thapassu and Bhalluka offering alms to the Buddha and the other is believed to be when ‘Sakra Deiyo’ the Supreme Deity visited Buddha to listen to a sermon in the Indasala Cave.

Prof. Senarath Paranavithana was of the view that the name ‘Hindagala’ had been derived from the word Indasala. However, according to folklore there are many other versions.

Many in the village have their own beliefs. 63-year-old K.G. Ratnayake who lives at Hindagala stated that King Walagamba had gone to the jungle and when he shot his arrow it had fallen quite a distance away. When the king went to look for the arrow or ‘eeya’ it had fallen near a large rock. It is believed that the rock looked like a seated elephant. Ratnayake stated that this village was first known as Vidigala as in Sinhala the word Viddha is used when an arrow is shot. Later it became Hindigala and now it is known as Hindagala. The Ven.Vihara-dhipati too shares this view.

Entrance to the rock temple
Entrance to the rock temple

The Hindagala Viharaya is affiliated to the Malwatu Maha Viharaya, Kandy and the Viharadhipathi Ven. Embilmeegama Devarakkhita Thera resides in Kandy most of the time. The Ven. Thera explained that a very important event had taken place in 1815, when Kandy was ceded to the British Raj. The British had decided to bring the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha to Kandy. The Ven. Thera says that this may have been because John D’Oyle knew about the previous Kings and the duties that were performed by them to the Sacred Tooth Relic. It is stated that on April 22,1815, the Sacred Tooth Relic which was hidden in the Pusulpitiya Viharaya in Kothmale was brought in a perahera (procession) to Kandy. When they came to Hindagala, it was late in the evening and the Sacred Relic was placed for safety in the Hindagala Viharaya and all the rituals were performed until the following morning. The next day it continued on its onward journey to Kandy. The clay casket where it is believed that the Sacred Relic was placed is still in the Viharaya.

It is stated that from the time the Viharaya was established, people had gifted lands , paddy fields etc. and at one time the whole Hindagala village was known ‘Vihare Gama’ – village of the Viharaya. Though there were ‘Rajakariya’ families – who performed duties, today there is hardly anyone involved in these duties, stated the Viharadhipathi.

The Ven. Thera recited the story of Henakadha Biso Bandara who was associated with the Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya and who is believed to have lived in the latter part of the 9th Century. One day she had visited Hindagala and as it was getting dark she had waited in the ambalama near the walauwa and sent a message to the walauwa to send a ‘Hulueliya’ (a light)and an assistant to help her go up to the Viharaya. But the Walauwwe Nilame did not abide by the Royal lady’s request. He sent a message saying that she can get the ‘Hulueliya’ from the ‘lokkan’ in the cave.

This was an insult to her as the Nilame knew her and he should have gone to receive her. Henakadha Biso Bandara’s real name was Leelawathi. But as she had a very commanding personality and was a brave and active lady, the people addressed her as Henakadha Biso Bandara. She has constructed a reclining Buddha statue at the Hindagala Len (cave) viharaya says the Ven. Thera.

There is also a seated Buddha statue with the ‘Rali Sivura’ (wavy robe). A few years ago a fire had started in the forest and spread up to the Hindagala temple destroying some sections of the cave temple and some paintings. But fortunately, says the Viharadhipathi, these paintings had beenphotographed earlier by the UNESCO.

When we visited the Viharaya there were many people who had come there to meet a young Thera, a graduate who is now practising native medicine. There were three other resident theras in the Viharaya who conduct the daily rituals and ceremonies.

By Udumbara Udugama
Kandy Times

Also See

  • Kandy – The Last Kingdom of Sinhale

Map of the Hindagala Temple

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Driving Directions to Hindagala Temple

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