Monaragala Rajamaha Viharaya – මොණරාගල රජමහා විහාරය (මයුරගිරි ලෙන් විහාරය)
Monaragala Rajamaha Viharaya, also known as Mayuragiri Len Viharaya lies on a rocky mountain about 1 km away from the Monaragala town.
According to legend this cave temple complex has seen its peak during the 12th century when the heroic Queen Sugala Devi had selected this temple to hold the tooth relic and the bowl relic of Buddha for about 75 years.
Sugala Devi was the wife of Sri Wallabha who reigned the Ruhunu kingdom in the 12th century. The ruling capital of Polonnaruwa had become unstable after demise of the king Vijayabahu I (1070-1110) and the Tooth Relic has been brought to Ruhuna by the custodian priests. After the death of Sri Wallabha, their son Manabharana became the ruler of the Ruhuna.
But unfortunately Manabharana died of a sickness after brief rule. By this time, Parakramabahu had taken up throne in Polonnaruwa but the custody of the Tooth Relic which was considered a primary requirement to be accepted as the rightful ruler was still in Ruhuna under the custody of Manabarana. With Manabarana’s death, the king Parakramabahu invaded Ruhuna to take hold of the Tooth Relic. However the people of Ruhuna requests Sugala Devi to take the throne of Ruhunu kingdom and protect the relics.
For the next few years, the forces of Sugala Devi fought ferociously with the superior army of Parakramabahu but finally was captured along with the relics which were moved to Polonnaruwa.
Mayuragiri mountain consists of a large number of drip ledge caves which had housed many meditating priests for last thousands of years. According to folklore five hundred priests headed by Mayurapada Thero who had achieved Arhath state after listing to Mahinda Thero had lived here during the period of king Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BC).
To reach this temple, from the main road you need to walk through the jungle for 750 meters of continuous climbing to reach the new Sangawasa area.
Just before reaching the temple premises you will find some steps carved on the rock and there is a pre Brahmin inscription on it (there are 6 more inscriptions found in the premises). After you reach this premises you will find the Sangawasaya which has a site map, which is a helpful guide for anyone who wishes to explore this vast complex.
Mayuragiri Lena is one of the main image houses of the temple. This is the largest of the 70+ natural caves on this hill. The interior of the cave is very spacious reminiscent of the Dambulla Cave Temple.
Entrance to the cave is through a door guarded by two guardian deities. Two lions stand next to these deities. The colors on these statues have faded over time. The cave roof at the entrance is painted with strange black humanoid figures with animal heads.
This image house had gone though renovations during the Kandyan era and paintings and the statues display features of this era. A large number of statues are seen inside this cave but most of them destroyed by nature and by treasure hunters. Some of the statues including the main reclining Buddha statue has been restored. The roof is heavily covered in designs from the Kandyan era.
There are few other caves surrounding the Mayuragiri Lena but all these are now disused.
Returning back to the Sangawasa and traveling further uphill in the opposite direction will bring you to the ruins of the ancient Dalada Maligaya. This building was where the holy tooth relic was consecrated for almost 75 years in the 12th century. Today only the granite pillars which held the building remains to be seen.
Passing this you will come across ruins of a ancient Natha Devalaya and a smaller Cave Temple called Amaragiri Len Viharaya. This cave temple too has been vandalized by treasure hunters. Most of the statues have been completely or partially damaged looking for treasures inside them.
Next to the the Amaragiri Len Viharaya lies a tunnel now sealed which is said to be leading to Viharamulla Rajamaha Viharaya 4 km way.
Climbing further up you will come across the Rock Bed and Ruins of 2 Stupas. Both these stupas too have been vandalized by treasure hunters.
An Akasa Chetiya has been built at the very top of this hill now known as Balumgala (Obervation Rock) which provides an 360 degree birds eye view of the surrounding area. However this stupa has been completely washed away but the cuts made into the rock for building the stupa can be seen today.
Map of Monaragala Rajamaha Viharaya
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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Traveling Directions to Monaragala Rajamaha Viharaya
Route from Monaragala to Monaragala Rajamaha Viharaya
Time to spend – 2-4 hours
Distance :1 km
Travel time :5 mins
Driving directions : see on google map