Gampola, situated on the bank of the river Mahaweli, is considered an important area with historical remains. According to the Brahmi inscriptions discovered from areas such as Raja Ela and Vegiriya, Gampola had been inhabited by the Aryan settlers from India.
Niyamgampaya Vihara is an important historic place at Gampola. It is at Mariyawaththa on Gampola – Nawalapitiya Road. It had been known as ‘Nigamagampasada’ according to the Chulavamsa. But Nampotha has mentioned it as ‘Niyamgampaya Stanaya’.
The most significant event of the Vihara is that it had protected the Sacred Tooth Relic during the reign of king Parakramabahu V of Dedigama and king Vikramabahu II of Gampola according to Sinhala Dalada Vamsaya an eighteenth century work.
Danthure Dhammananda Thera, the incumbent of Niyamgampaya Vihara, said the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic had been built as a seven-storey building put up on stone pillars.
Although there are no clear historical evidence of the origin of the Vihara, the Mahavamsa records that King Surathissa (187 – 177 BC) built Viharas on the banks of the river Mahaweli. Chulavamsa says that king Vijayabahu IV (1267 – 1270 AD) renovated the vihara after returning from his pilgrimage to Siripada.
Jayamale Sitano of Gampola had reconstructed the vihara according to a rock inscription dated 1373 AD. He donated land for the Vihara and built a monastery for the bhikkhus. The Vihara had been repaired again in the regin of the last king of Kandy, Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe. The stone door frame of Niyamgampaya Vihara is unique with swan, snake and festoons engraved on it. Danthure Dhammananda Thera said the paintings of the Vihara belong to Gampola and Kandyan eras. The painting of Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe stands out among other paintings. Also Jayamale Sitano had renovated the Vihara and donated land to it.
Excellent carvings can be seen in the plinth mouldings of the old structure. They depict dancers, drummers, musicians, animals and lotus designs. The Buddha statue in the Vihara had been stolen, says Anuradha Senevirathne in his book ‘Kandy’.
The small museum at the vihara displays an ancient betel stand (Bulath Heppuwa) which belonged to the king Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe. It also has an ancient knife, clothes of the Kandyan era, arecanut cutters, a pistol of the Dutch era, plates of the Portuguese, Dutch and British eras and ancient bangles together with a few curios.
- Kandy – The Last Kingdom of Sinhale