Vilbawa Rajamaha Viharaya – විල්බාව රජමහා විහාරය

Vilbawa Rajamaha Viharaya

Vilbawa Rajamaha Viharaya
photo by : Milinda Huruggamuwa

Vilbawa Rajamaha Viharaya is an ancient cave temple on a 200 feet high rocky outcrop 5km off Kurunegala. In dating this site, the oldest artifact which has been found at this site is a pre brami cave inscription which has been dated to late pre Christian era or early Christian era.

Legend connect this temple to Kuveni, the princes of Yaksha Clan who married prince Vijaya around 505 BC. A a copper plate describing a royal grant to the temple written in 1744 by the king Sri Weera Parakrama Narendrasinghe (1707 – 1739)  too states that the body of Kuveni was buried in the village of Vilbawa. It also documents a ancient grant to the temple by a prince called Pussadeva living in the Thalkota village.

Two image houses, a Patthini Devalaya and a small stupa belonging to the Kandyan era can be found some distance away from the new buildings of the temple.

The two image houses and the stupa has been built on 2 adjoining caves which lies at the highest point of the hill. The small stupa is 2.2 meters in diameter and and 2 meters tall. This lies on a 6.7 meter long cave. The cave next to this has been divided into 4 sections.

The first is a 12.2 meter long image house. This consists of 2 sections, inner and outer sections. The outer section is a recent addition and the inner section has been built during the Kandyan Era. The inner chamber is 9.08 long and approximately 5.5 meters wide. Out of the numerous statues inside the temple, only 2 seated Budddha statues, one standing statue and the main reclining statue are from the Kandyan era. Even these have been gone through extensive repairs on the head and body losing most of their original value. The designs on the roof too have been re painted recently but some of its originality has been preserved.

Next to this a 4.02 meter long room which is currently empty. The third section is a smaller image house and is called Kuda Viharaya. This is 5.6 meters long and most of the paintings have been painted over. It is said that these have been painted without destroying the originality of the designs.

There are 5 Buddha statues in this image house. These have been painted recently but it is said that these have not been repaired or modified. The standing statue left to the door is 2.35 meter tall Buddha statue in the Abhaya Mudra posture. On the left wall is a large Samadhi Statue 1.65 meters tall. next to it is a standing Buddha statue with the head missing. Treasure hunters had destroyed the head and the chest in 1999.  There are 2 Samadhi statues of the same size on the cave wall side.

The fourth segment of the cave is a small room currently unused.

A Pattini devalaya has been built on another cave below the image houses. It can be observed that this Devalaya has been built upon a older devalaya. The foundation of the older Devalaya can be still seen from some places.

A large drip-ledge cave can be found about 350 meters east to the Devalaya. This is 10.8 meters 4.5 meters deep. The rock floor surface has been covered with a layer of clay and made suitable for habitation. There are indications of walls built enclosing the cave.

The cave with pre-brahmi inscription lies about 130 meters east of the new living quarters of the priests. This 9.3 meter long cave stands isolated from the rest and any sign of habitation has been long lost. About 50 meters to northeast of this cave there is a natural rock pool called Kuweni Pokuna (pond).

An mound has been identified at a place 140 meters south to the ancient Bo tree. A large hole has been dug at the center of this mound by treasure hunters. Although no bricks have been found in this mound, it is believed this to be an ancient Stupa. This mound lies on a square platform with sides measuring 12.25 meters and 13.9 meters. On the western side of this stupa mound, you will find an granite flower alter. This measures 2.56 meters x 1.06 meters and a plain design of a flower has been carved at the center. More granite artifacts probably belong to the Anuradhapura era are seen at various places of the temple.

The temple lie facing a tranquil paddy field off the Polgahawela – Kurunegala road close Kurunegala.

Primary Source : ගවේෂන – 2 කලාපය – වයඹ පලාතේ පුරාවිද්‍යා ගවේෂන – 1 අදියර විශේෂ කලාපය – පුරාවිද්‍යා දෙපාර්තුමේන්තුව
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Also See

Map of Vilbawa Rajamaha Viharaya and Other Places of Interest


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Driving Directions to Vilbawa Rajamaha Viharaya

Route from Colombo to Vilbawa Rajamaha Viharaya

Route from Kurunegala to Vilbawa Rajamaha Viharaya

Though : Katunayake – Divulapitiya – Giriulla -Narammala
Distance : 106 km
Travel time : 2.5 hours
Time to spend : 30-45 mins
Driving directions : see on google map
Though :
Distance : 5 km
Travel time : 10 mins
Time to spend : 30-45 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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