Henanigala Raja Maha Viharaya – Dehiattakandiya (හේනානිගල රජමහා විහාරය – දෙහිඅත්තකන්ඩිය)

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Henanigala Raja Maha Viharaya ( sometimes referred to as Senanigala Raja Maha Viharaya) is a temple complex believed to be one of the 64 temples built by King Kawanthissa in the 3rd Century BC.  Due to the strategic location, the temple was later used by his son, Prince Dutugemunu as an assembling point for his troops during his preparation to liberate the country from the Tamil Invading King Elara.

Due to this reason, the location was known as Henanigala (Senanigala). The complex was abandoned at one point probably due to the people migrating to the South and was lost in time until the Mahaweli Scheme started re-colonizing the Dehiattakandiya area where they found ruins of a vast temple complex scattered around a large area.

Today a 40-acre area surrounding the temple has been designated as an archeological reserve. The main temple (Uda Maluwa)  lies on a rocky plateau covering about 2 acres protected by a thick protective wall made out of rock. Even today, this wall rises to 25-30 feet in some places. On this plateau, you will find ruins of a stupa, a shrine room, a Bodhigara or house around the Bodhi tree, a gathering hall, and a preaching hall ( චෛත්‍ය, බුදු මැඳුර, බෝධිඝර, සන්නිපාත ශාලාව සහ ධර්ම ශාලාව ) which is together called a Panchawasa. It is said that ancient Sri Lanka had  40 Panchwasa temples and 38 of these have been already lost. Only 2 complete Panchwasa Temples remain today with one being the Henanigala Raja Maha Viharaya. The other place is Menikdena Viharaya where the only other complete gathering hall can be found of the Panchwasa  Temples.

Entrance to the main temple is by climbing the rocky slope. At the entrance is a 5-foot-tall standing Buddha statue carved out of rock. On the left of the Statue is a man-made 9 feet deep pond now referred to as Kalu Diya Pokuna. On the sides of the rocky wall is a carving of  Cobra.

Over 24 ancient rock inscriptions have been found scattered around the 40-acre reserve and a drip ledged cave over 95 feet long has been discovered in the recent past.

Out of the vast amount of ruins in the Henanigala Raja Maha Viharaya, the most intriguing is the two Balustrades ( Korawak gala) at the entrance to the image house. These Balustrades with the features of a Makara ( Dragon) is almost 5 feet tall making them probably the tallest Korawakgala in the country.

The moonstone to the image house too belongs to the early Anuradhapura era with only a row of elephants at the outer ring. The moonstone is damaged and is in pieces today. Sadly most of the statues and Stupa have been destroyed by the treasure hunters and priceless valuables plundered.

Photos curtsey of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

Also See

Map of Henanigala Raja Maha Viharaya

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Travel Directions to Henanigala Raja Maha Viharaya

The Vihara can be reached on Mahiyangana Dehiaththakandiya road and from New Medagama town (near the 28th km post) , turning right and proceeding 4km. From there the picturesque Raja Maha Vihara on a rocky surface can be seen from a distance.

Route from Mahiyangana to Henanigala Raja Maha Viharaya
Through : Mahiyangana
Distance : 34 km
Travel time : 40 minutes.
Driving directions : see on google map

Henanigala [2] : The ancient grounds of King Dutugamunu, where he gathered his men

By D.B. Kappagoda
Daily Mirror

Henanigala Raja Maha Vihara has a long history dating back to the days of King Dutugemunu (161-131 BC) when he was on his way with his army to wage war against Elara who reigned supreme in Anuradhapura.

The ruins scattered over 10-15 acres were found 17 years ago when settlers began to live in the newly-cleared land in Dehiaththakandiya, in the Mahaweli ‘C’ Zone.

The Vihara can be reached on Mahiyangana Dehiaththakandiya road and from Medagama town, turnning left and proceeding 4km. From there the picturesque Raja Maha Vihara on a rocky surface can be seen from a distance.

Henanigala literally means the rock on which the armies were recruited. This was done by King Dutugemunu (161-131 BC) on his final onslaught to gain control of Rajarata and become the supreme ruler of Lanka.

Among the findings and the ruins are: compound laid with stone slabs, a cave with drip ledges, five feet tall Buddha image, pieces of broken images, six feet statue believed to be Datugemunu’s, 22 rock inscriptions, ruins of four buildings, moonstone only with figures of elephants, Koravakgal , devala, guard rooms and a number of other buildings. [h]

The stone pond in which the figure of a cobra is carved, is nine feet deep. Close to it lies the Bodhighara where devotees came to worship in their numbers now no more except the ruins scattered about for the place. Around the Bo tree there had been stone slabs paved round it.

There had been a wewa to irrigate the fields and also a road paved with stone slabs for horse carriages. The place had been called Acenagala in ancient times. It has been established that King Datugemunu (161-131 BC) gathered his men and formed into a formidable army under his 10 giants.

The rock inscription in which King Udaya had mentioned that there had been market towns surrounding Sorabora Weva. There are references to Henanigala where king Dutugemunu (161-131 BC) organized his army under ten giants to fight Elara. In the ancient times the area between Maduru Oya and Mahaweli Ganga was referred to as the interim area of the rivers.

It was through this area that linked the northern part of Lanka with Rohana.

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