A fusion of scenic beauty and the tranquillity of a forest monastery – Nimalawa will undoubtedly leave the weary traveler awe struck. Nimalawa Aranya, adjacent to the Nimalawa Sanctuary, is a forest based monastery, situated about 8 km off Thissamaharama town, in the Kirinda road. The calm ambience of the aranya – which is a branch of the Kalyana Yogashrama Sanstha – will undoubtedly awe any one who visits it.
The history of the monastery runs millania. Approximately 2200 years ago, thousands of great arhaths including Arhath Dhammadinna chose this monastery as a place of residence. It still boasts of stone inscriptions, caves and ponds that were used by arhaths at the time and is commonly referred to as the ‘Holy Land of Ruhuna’. One particular stone inscription makes specific reference to a grandson of King Mahanaga, who is believed to be King Kawantissa. Another stone inscription is evidence that Talaguru Vehera – Arhath Dhammadinna resided in – is in fact Nimalawa Aranya.
Some ancient references to the Talaguru Vehera Buddhist monastery can be traced from the historical literature in Sri Lanka. For example, Mahavamsa refers to a Buddhist monastery called Tuladhara pabbata vihāra situated in the ancient kingdom of Ruhuna in the period between 161-137 BCE (chapter xxiii: 90). Nicholas attempted to identify the Tuladharapabbata vihāra, which is described in Mahāvamsa as the monastery called Talaguru Vehera situated at the present location.
The antiquity of the Talaguru Vehera is further confirmed by the archaeological remains found on at the premises. Among these remains four inscriptions were carved on the natural rock boulders (Muller 1883: 67; Paranavitana 1970:52). One of the inscriptions of the site written using the Brahmi characters of the first century CE clearly describes the ancient name of the present monastery as Talakarapavata vihara. This rock inscription is the only reliable source remaining on the ground, which can be used to give a tentative date for the site. It consists of three lines. On the summit of the rock, which bearing the inscription, there is a heap of ancient bricks probably remains of a small stupa (Somadeva, 2006).
Unfortunately the temp;e was overtaken by the forest, for hundreds of years, as the bhikkhus left it due to famines and other natural disasters. With unrelenting effort, Kadawedduwa Sri Jinawansa Thera had it reconstructed and was re-established as a monastery on December 23, 1950, with the presence of Mathara Sri Gnanarama Thera and five other Bhikkhus. Three new chambers – Meththa, Karuna and Dhamma Vichaya – were built on site and on July 18, 1951 were presented to four bhikkhus including Getamanne Wimalawansa Thera. It is now one of the most famous forest monasteries in the country, complete with a vihara, Akasa pagoda, library, Bo tree, etc… Moreover it consists of 16 caves including the Maharambhaka cave – which is believed to be the cave Arhath Dhammadinna used as his chamber. Its reputation is such that a dayaka has to be in the waiting list for two years to get an opportunity to give alms. There are more than 750 dayakas.
The Nimalawa Sanctuary – a total of 1065.85 ha – adjoining the Yala National Park, is home to a myriad of wildlife. The night jar, deer, Sambur and wild boar are a common sight in the area. Unfortunately Nimalawa, situated in the dry zone has a very arid climate, with only 550 mm of rain, which is restricted to only October, November and December. The whole area is subject to a severe drought every year during July, August and September. Although water is provided to the area by pipes, this is also cut off during the drought. Consequently human and beast alike, have to suffer during the drought. People have to walk for miles in search of water and carcasses of animals who have died of thirst is a frequent sight here in the Nimalawa sanctuary. Animals who enter villages in search of water become easy prey to humans.
- Mah|can|cama and Geiger, W., 1912. The Mahavamsa or the great chronicle of Ceylon. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press.
- C. W. Nicholas, 1963. Historical Topography of Ancient and Medival Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series Volume VI Special Number, pp.56-57.
- Somadeva, R., 2006. URBAN ORIGINS IN SOUTHERN SRI LANKA. Doctoral Thesis in Archaeology. Uppsala University.
Map of Kirinda Talaguru Vehera / Nimalawa Aranya Senasanaya
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
Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.
Travel Directions to Kirinda Talaguru Vehera / Nimalawa Aranya Senasanaya
|Route from Hambanthota to Kirinda Nimalawa Aranya Senasanaya|
|Through : A2|
Distance : 42 km
Travel time :1 hour
Driving directions : see on google map