Bentota Wanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya (බෙන්තොට වනවාස රජමහා විහාරය)

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Bentota Wanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya
Bentota Wanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya
photo by Dilshan Thamara

Bentota is a resort town on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast. Its long Bentota Beach stretches north, where it becomes a sandy strip known as Paradise Island, parallel to Bentota Lagoon. Eventhough this town now best known for its beaches, history of this town goes as far as 2nd century  BC and has been a central city in the Buddhist civilisation in Sri Lanka.

Three hundred meters passing the Bentara Bridge, there is a road to the left called Circular Road which goes around the horseshoe shaped river. Five ancient Buddhist temples can be found along this route.

  1. Udakotuwa Bodhi Sameepa Rajamaha Viharaya
  2. Vanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya
  3. Bodhimalu Rajamaha Viharaya
  4. Galapatha Rajamaha Viharaya &
  5. Bemvehera Gane Rajamaha Viharaya

Although now operating as five different temples, it is believed that these 5 temples had belonged to one large temple complex covering over 6 square kilometers in the the ancient past. Based on the archeological studies, this temple complex  has been found to be built by king Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BC) according to Mr. R. Ayrton, Commissioner of Archeology (1912-1913). During the reign of Polonnaruwa kingdom, all the five temples has been under the Galapatha Viharaya.

During the Portuguese occupation of the low country (1505 to 1658), this temple too faced the same fate of all other Buddhist temples in the coasted areas. Demolished and looted of all valuables by the Portuguese, this temple stayed hidden inside the jungles until it was re-discovered in mid 1800’s.

The Bodhi Sameepa Viharaya is the place where a secodary Bodhi Tree was located, Vanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya is where the Bikkus residential ‘Kuti’ were located, Bodhimaluwa Rajamaha Viharaya is where the sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi was planted, the main image house and the relics of Maha Kasyapa Thero was enshrined at Galapatha Viharaya and Gane Rajamaha Viharaya is where the main Vehera (stupa) was located.

The narrow tunnels of Wanawasi Rajamaha Viharaya
The narrow tunnels of Wanawasi Rajamaha Viharaya
Source :

It was known that all these temples were connected through underground tunnels but any proof of these tunnels were missing until  a garbage pit of Wanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya exposed a tunnel long forgotten.

After facing destruction and looting during the Dutch and the Portuguese occupations, today Wanawasi Rajamaha Viharaya is a normal Buddhist temple in all aspects but the uniqueness of this temple is this tunnel which now has been excavated and restored to a extent. An ancient rock pillar door frame at the entrance to this tunnel can still be seen today.

The temple is located on a rocky hill 100-150 feet above sea level and the tunnel has been cleared up to about 20-30 feet.

The entrance to the tunnel is through a gaping mouth of a lion ( recently built) and the tunnel opens into a circular chamber converted in to mini image house with murals of recent era.

Also See

Map of Bentota Wanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya

ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින් – Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map –

The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Driving Directions to Bentota Wanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya

Route from Colombo to Bentota Wanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya

Route from Bentota Bridge to Wanawasa Rajamaha Viharaya

Via : Panadura – Kalutara – Aluthgama – Bentota distance : 67 km
Travel time :2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Via : Bentota
Distance : 4 km
Travel time :10 minutes
Driving directions : see on Google Maps


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