Pahiyangala : Fa-Hien Caves (පාහියන්ගල)

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Pahiyangala caves lie in Yatagampitiya, which is a remote village about 5 km away from Bulathsinhala (40 km along Piliyandala-Horana road), in the Kalutara District. Excavation has proved that these caves were inhabited by prehistoric cavemen some 37,000 years ago. This cave is supposed to be the largest natural rock in Asia and this is also known to be the most ancient pre-historic human settlement in Asia.

The cave lies 400 feet above sea level, At its entrance, the cave is 175 feet high and over 200 feet long. It is believed that 3,000 people can be easily accommodated in this cave. The natural tunnels running inside the caves are now blocked and are not accessible. The cave has been divided into four sections of which the left side cave is the largest and is the centre of it. There is a deep pit dug out by the Archaeological Department for an excavation. It is in this pit that archaeologists found five human skulls which were identified as 37,000 years old by carbon dating in the USA. Some weapons made of stone and animal bones were also recovered during the excavation. It has been found that these were used to kill monkeys, deer, porcupines, and others. They have also consumed cavus, a species of edible snail, and wild breadfruit.

Biologically, this cave dweller known as Pahiyangala Manawakaya (Pahiyangala Man) had a short vertebral structure, wide jaw bones, a large palette, and big grinding teeth.

The name of the cave is derived from the name of the Chinese Mahayana Buddhist priest ” Fa- Hsien” who visited the cave in the 5th century. This Chinese scholar- bhikkhu, was a tireless wanderer in strange lands. It is learned that Fa-Hsien, having taken the path of Gautama Buddha, sailed with two friends Bhadantachariya and Buddhaghosa. The latter was a Pali scholar, commentator, and author of Vissuddhi Magga (a classic manual of the Buddhist doctrine and meditation), and they sailed from the mouth of the Hooghly River in Calcutta to Sri Lanka in the year 411 AD.

Fa-Hsien obtained a copy of the Disciplines and Long Agamas when he visited Anuradhapura and from there he was determined to climb the Sacred Mountain “Sri Pada” and pay homage to the Buddha’s footprint. His pilgrimage to Sri Pada lasted several months because the route to the peak was through Bulathsinghala, Kalawana, Nivitigala, Ratnapura, and Gileemale.

On his journey, it is believed that he had lived several months in the Pahiyangala cave and a vessel which was supposed to have been used by him was discovered during the excavations.

According to some Chinese people, in the 1940s, a Chinese monk named Thiashu Sangaraju who visited Sri Lanka stayed in the cave.

Later this cave was converted to a Buddhist temple by a priest called Porogama. Ven. Porogama thera had used a 6 ft. Yakula which was similar to an iron crowbar. This iron crowbar is so heavy that even six people find it difficult to carry it. He used this to push the debris and soil that obstructed the entrance to the cave. He was also able to level the ground. The Yakula is now tied to the feet of the reclining Buddha statue which is 40 ft long. Ven. Porogama thera also made two colossal door frames for the Vihara which can be seen at the entrance.

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Map of  Pahiyangala (Fa-Hiengala) Caves

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Driving Directions to Pahiyangala (Fa-Hiengala) Caves

Pahiyangala caves lie in Yatagampitiya, which is a remote village about 5 km away from Bulathsinhala (40 along Piliyandala-Horana road), in the Kalutara District. There is a motorable road up to the cave. You can use this road or a flight of stone steps to reach the caves.

Pahiyangala (Fa-Hiengala) Caves
Through : Southern Highway – Gelanigama exit – Horana – Ekgal Oya – Bulatsinhala
distance : 70 km
Travel time :2  hours
Driving directions : see on google map


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