Ven. Weliwita Sri Saranankara Thero was instrumental in the renaissance of Buddhism during Kandyan era, when there was not a single member of the Sangha who was ordained in the ‘Upasamapada Karamaya’ or Higher Ordination. Several attempts to bring Upasamapada failed until the reign of King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha (1747 – 1781) when Upasampada was brought by a delegation headed by Maha Thera Upali.
During the reign of king Rajasinghe II (1635 – 1687) of Kandyan kingdom, he was befriended by a group of French men. The king had a penchant for these strange humans with ruddy coloured hair, the peculiar mannerisms thus were not allowed to go out of the kingdom.
Some of the French played hide and seek among the lofty hills till they could escape, some married and settled down here taking on Menikes of a high and low breeds as mates. The king liked them so much that some were given rather high posts in the kingdom.
Gascon in this team had married a woman of mixed Portuguese and Sinhalese blood and was given the position of Aspanthi Muhandiram by the king. He bore a son called Pedro De Gascon who was a childhood friend of king Weeraparakrama Narendrasinha (1707 – 1739). He was fluent in number languages and learned Sinhala under the famous Suriyagoda thero. When Narendrasinha became the king, Pedro De Gascon was made a Maha Adikaram of the Kandyan Court after suppressing a plot to kill the new king by the local chieftains.
At one time the queen Premila Devi of king Narendrasinha fell ill and a Bali ceremony was to be performed. An effigy of the queen was being made as the performer or the Bali Adura had to touch different parts of the patient while performing the Yaga Homa. But this was Her Majesty the queen and he could not be allowed to touch her. So an almost perfect effigy with all her features was being made.
Gascon was parading around in the court and saw the effigy, the naked body of the queen. The birthmark on the thigh was missing and to perfect the replica he suggested inserting it. The man working on the replica promptly obeyed for after all it was the Maha Adikaram’s order. Next, the king visited the place and naturally all hell broke loose. How did Gascon know the location of the birthmark?
Gascon was executed along with his tutor Suriyagoda Thero. Dr. Lorna Devaraja, author of “The Kandyan kingdom” however is of the view that this was a political murder initiated by Sinhala chieftains jealous of the growing influence of foreigners in the Court and the perversion of another religion considered alien.
In any event, after the murder of the head priest, all the other priests of the Suriyagoda Viharaya left with the valuable books and hid at various temples. Welivita Samanera thero was also a student of Suriyagoda Thero and was now without a teacher. He had traveled to various temples learning Buddhist teachings and finally reached Mahakehelwela where a lay person called Lewke Rala who had a immense knowledge of Pali was under the house arrest by the king. Welivita Samanera thero had found this cave and made his adobe for next few years learning Pali from Lewke Rala in secret.
Unfortunately this cave is all forgotten by the Archaeological department. Even though it seems just a rock to outside, it is quite is a spacious inside the cave. The cave covers and area of about 600 square feet along with a well. The cave is now filled with bats.
Although this has been ignored by the archaeological authorities, the railway crew clears this area once a month. A protective wall has been built by the same to avoid the top rock toppling over covering the cave.
Map of Ihalakotte Sangharaja Lena
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Travel Directions to Ihalakotte Sangharaja Lena
|Route from Kandy to Ihalakotte Sangharaja Lena|
|Through : Makehelwala|
Distance : 9 km
Travel time : 20 mins
Time to spent : 20 – 45 mins
Driving directions : see on google map