Asgiriya Raja Maha Viharaya (Gampaha)

Not to be confused with Asgiriya Viharaya (Kandy)

Asgiriya Raja Maha Viharaya, Gampaha
Asgiriya Raja Maha Viharaya, also called Asgiriya Purana Gallen Viharaya (Sinhala: ගම්පහ අස්ගිරිය රජ මහා විහාරය), is a Buddhist temple situated in the village of Asgiriya in Gampaha District, Sri Lanka.

According to popular folklore, the history of this temple is related to King Valagamba (103, 88-77 B.C.). It is said that the caves of this place were the abodes of Valagamba during the time he was in hiding from the South Indian invaders who were ruling the Anuradhapura Kingdom. It is also believed that this temple received the patronage of the viceroy King Sakalakala Wallabha (or Sakalakala Wallakabahu), one of the sons of King Vira Parakramabahu VIII (1484-1505 A.D.) of Kotte. Several historical sources such as Rajavaliya and Alakeshwara Yuddhaya (The battle of Alakeshwara) and archaeological ruins at Maligagodella and Udugampola reveal that Sakalakala Wallabha ruled this region.

Two inscriptions, one belonging to the 5th century A.D. and the other to the 19th century A.D. have been discovered on the temple premises.

Temple layout
The temple mainly consists of three terraces, viz: the lower, the middle, and the upper.

The lower terrace
An old image house, a Devalaya building, a rock inscription, a stone column, and a pond are identified on the premises of the lower terrace. The ground level of the temple is connected to the lower terrace through a flight of steps consisting of about 110 rock steps. Some of these steps contain the names of unknown people who probably are the donors of this temple. The image house, constructed by covering a drip-ledged cave, contains paintings and sculptures belonging to the Kandyan Period. A rock inscription is found inscribed on a rock surface behind the image house.

Gampaha Asgiriya Vihara rock inscriptionGampaha Asgiriya Vihara rock inscription (left)

Period: 18-19 centuries A.D.
Script: Modern Sinhala
Language: Modern Sinhala
Transcript: (1)Aluthakuruwe (2)natabuwa  tibu (3)me viharedhamma (4)dashashi u... (5)dashashi mulikawasita (6)Gunarathathungake (7) ralage......migel  ko (8)ralasaha thawath aya (9)visinme   vihara
Translation: With the direction of Dhamma Dassi (a Buddhist monk) ......, this temple which was in the state of ruins was renovated by Gunaratna Thunga (a Korala), Migel (a Korala) and others.

Reference: Thennakoon, ?. pp.33,52.

The middle terrace 
The middle terrace consists of a Bodhi tree, a drip-ledged cave, and a few newly built structures including a Stupa and an image house. A rock fragment containing seven Transitional Brahmi Letters has been found on the outer wall 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 indicates an industry; Sala - hall.
Content: This inscription probably mentions a place where clothes were manufactured.
Reference : Thennakoon, ?. p.35.

The upper terrace
The upper terrace is a rock plain where a Sri Pathul Gala (the footprint of the Buddha), a pond, and several pillar holes can be identified.

A protected site
The ancient cave temple and stone inscriptions of Asgiriya Purana Viharaya in the Minuwangoda Divisional Secretary’s Division 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 14 January 2023

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