Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Asgiriya Raja Maha Viharaya, Gampaha

Not to be confused with Asgiriya Viharaya, Kandy

The cave temple, Gampaha Asgiriya Viharaya
Asgiriya Raja Maha Viharaya (also called Asgiriya Purana Gallen Viharaya) 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 (104-103 & 88-77 B.C.). It is said that the caves of this place had been used by the king during the time when he was in hiding from the 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 (or Sakalakala Wallakabahu), a provincial king appointed during the Kotte Period. Several historical sources such as Rajavaliya and Alakeshwara Yuddhaya (The battle of Alakeshwara) reveal that King Sakalakala Wallabha, one of the sons of King Vira Parakramabahu VIII (1484-1505 A.D.) had ruled this region.

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 in 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 the paintings and sculptures belong to the period of the Kandyan era. A rock inscription is found inscribed on a rock surface behind the image house.

Gampaha Asgiriya Vihara rock inscription (left)
Period : 18-19 centuries A.D.
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 few newly built structures including a Stupa and an image house. A rock fragment containing seven transitional Brahmi scripts 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 about an industry;                                  Sala - hall.
Content : This inscription probably mentions about 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 19 October 2021
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map


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