Wegama Rajamaha Viharaya – වෑගම රජ මහා විහාරය
Wegama Rajamaha Viharaya is believed to be built during the Gampola era by ‘Henakanda Biso Bandara’ whome some believe was the queen of king Wickramabahu III (1357-1374). But the drip ledged caves in this temple are believed to be build during the reign of King Walagagamba (89-77 BC). Ancient texts writes that during a famine called ‘Baminithiya Saya’ which lasted for 12 years during the reign of King Walagagamba, some of the priests living at the Sithulpawwa retreated to these caves at Wegama.
Based on the ‘Kothmale Purawurtha’ written by a P. B. Kehelgamuwe in 1935, the legend of the birth and life of Henakanda Biso Bandara is an interesting one. During the Gampola Era, an unusually large beli fruit was grown on a Beli tree in the Beligala Temple.-0-
One day, a deity appeared in a dream of the head priest and stated that a lucky child will be born from this fruit and the Beli fruit should be plucked and kept on a alter in the temple. The priest followed the instructions and one night the fruit cracked making a sound of a heavy thunder. When the priest and the villagers went in, they saw a baby girl had be born out of the fruit. Since this baby came out to the world making a sounds of thunder, she was named Henakanda Biso Bandara.
The villagers looked after this baby and she grew to woman of unparalleled beauty. She was a devoted buddhist and supported many temples in the area. Many princes came in hope of marrying this beauty but nothing but bad luck came upon them. Finally she left the village and went to live in Hindurankanda mountain.
She used to visit the Embakke Devalaya often to worship the Kataragama deity. Kataragama deity was mesmerized by her beauty, he too started visiting her frequently. To avoid the advances of this deity, she moved to Kothmale so she can worship the ancient Pusulpitiya Rajamaha Viharaya and built a inconspicuous palace at Meddegoda. This area became to known as Maligathanne and the ruins of this place was reported to be in existence till 1930’s.
Another legend states that Henakanda Biso Bandara married Wicramabahu III (1357-1374) at some point of her life.
The Wegama Rajamaha Viharaya which is believed to be one of the many temples built by Henakanda Biso Bandara is the only place that a statue of this queen existed.
Unfortunately, this temple has faced seven attacks by treasure hunters in the past. In 1932, left shoulder of the statue of the Henakanda Biso Bandara was broken and treasure hidden in the statue was taken, later the statue has been dragged out of the temple and broken in to pieces looking for more treasures. In around 1952, a 30 kilogram gold plated ancient Buddha Statue had been stolen. Once the Makara Torana ( the dragons arch) in the temple was broken looking for treasures. Another time the ancient Samadhi Buddha Statue near the stupa was broken. The final attack by the treasure hunters occurred in 2007 where the statue of Henakanda Biso Bandara and a Buddha statue believed to be made by her was destroyed.
This temple has also housed the sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha during the British invasion of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1803. The massive Sapu Tree where the Tooth relic was hidden from the British, still can be seen in the temple. Close to this is a massive sweet mango tree which is said to be rooted out from a seed of sweet mango offered to the Tooth Relic.
The Bo tree of the temple is too believed to be a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi.
Alternate names : “Wagama Rajamaha Viharaya”
Map of Wegama Rajamaha Viharaya
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Travel Directions to Wegama Rajamaha Viharaya
Route from Kandy to Wegama Rajamaha Viharaya
|Through : Ampitiya – Mailapitiya – Hanguranketha – Ekiriya|
Distance :37 km
Travel time : 1 hour
Driving directions : see on google map