Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Asgiriya Raja Maha Viharaya, Gampaha

The cave temple, Gampaha Asgiriya Viharaya
Asgiriya Raja Maha Viharaya (also called as Asgiriya Purana Gallen Viharaya) is a Buddhist temple situated in the village of Asgiriya in Gampaha District, Sri Lanka.

According to a popular folklore, the caves of this place had been used by King Valagamba (104-103 & 88-77 B.C.) when he was in hiding, seeking the security from the threats by Cola invaders who were at the time ruling the Anuradhapura Kingdom (103-89 B.C.). It is also believed that this temple had been received the patronage of Sakalakala Wallaba, a provincial king appointed during the reign of King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.).

The temple consists of three terraces.
Lower terrace - In the lower terrace an old image house, a Devalaya building, an inscription, a stone column and a pond are identified. The flight of steps which leading to the lower terrace from the ground consists of about 110 rock steps and some of them contain the names of the people who had made the donations. The image house, constructed by covering a drip-ledged cave, contains the paintings and sculptures belong to the period of Kandyan era. Near to the image house is an inscription inscribed on a rock surface which contains a figure similar to a horse.

Gampaha Asgiriya Vihara rock inscription (left)

Period : 18-19 centuries A.D.
Transcript : (1) Aluthakuruwe  (2)  natabuwa  tibu
(3) me viharedhamma (4) dashashi mulikawa sita
(4)  Gunarathathungake  (5)   ralage......migel   ko 
(6)  ralasaha   thawath   aya   (7)  visinme   vihara
Translation : With the direction of Dhamma Dassi
(a  Buddhist  monk),   this   temple  which  was  in
ruined state was renovated by Gunaratna Thunga
(a Korala), Migel (a Korala) and few others.
Reference : Thennakoon, ?. pp.33,52.
Middle terrace - The second terrace consists of a Bodhi-tree, a drip-ledged cave and newly built structures including a Stupa and an image house. A rock fragment containing seven transitional Brahmi scripts is said to be found on the parapet of the Bodhi-tree.

Gampaha Asgiriya Vihara Brahmi inscription
Period : 5th Century A.D.
Script : Transitional Brahmi
Transcript : .....patakabirisala......
Translation : Pata - clothes; Kabiri - no proper meaning. Probably indicate about an industry; Sala - hall.
Content : This inscription probably mentions about a place where clothes were manufactured.
Reference : Thennakoon, ?. p.35.

Top terrace - The top terrace is a rock plain where a Sri Pathul Gala (foot print of Buddha), a pond and several pillar holes are identified.

A protected site
The ancient cave temple and stone inscriptions of Asgiriya Purana Viharaya are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a Gazette notification published on 22 November 2002.

Paintings in the image house The Stupa The flight of steps The Buddha statue at the top of the Asgiriya mountain
1) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, no: 1264. 22 November 2002.
2) Thennakoon, T.M.C.K., ?. Asgiriya Purana Gallen Viharaya (In Sinhala). An unpublished report on Gampaha Asgiriya Viharaya. pp. 33,35,52.

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This page was last updated on 6 September 2019


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