Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya

Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya
Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: හිඳගල රජ මහා විහාරය) is an ancient Buddhist temple situated in the village of Hindagala in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. The site can be reached by travelling about 4 km along Galaha Road from Peradeniya town.

A rock inscription at Hindagala Viharaya
The history of Hindagala Viharaya is dated back to the early Anuradhapura Period as locals link the temple to King Valagamba [(103, 89-77 B.C.) Senanayaka, 2018]. Although no historical references are available (Wijesekara, 1945), two rock inscriptions belonging to the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. and a fragment of rock painting belonging to the same period indicate the early establishment of the temple (Abeywardana, 2004; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). Among the two inscriptions, one is a Vaharala-type inscription of which first-line contains the word "Vataka-vahara", probably the name of the ancient monastic establishment at this place (Paranavitana, 1958). 

The other inscription consists of 5 lines of writing and reveals details about a joint grant for the purpose of building a Bodhighara (a Bodhi tree shrine) by a minister who was the custodian of a lodge named Patasala-abala and by a resident of Kanamudu (Nicholas, 1961; Paranavitana, 1958).

Cave temple
The large cave at Hindagala temple has been converted into an image house (Pilima-ge) in the 18th century A.D. (Paranavitana, 1958). It can be entered through a doorway decorated with a Makara Thorana [(Dragon arch) De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009]. Above the door frame is a mural representing the lord of Totisabhavana heaven, being fanned by two heavenly females. Inside the cave, recumbent and seated Buddha images are visible. The seated Buddha image is believed to be built by Queen Henakanda Biso Bandara during the Gampola Period [(1341–1412 A.D.) De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009].

The cave of the temple was restored during the time of Governor Barnes [(1824-1831 A.D.) Wijesekara, 1945]

The old painting fragment, Hindagala Viharaya
An old painting fragment
On the surface of the hood of the rock cave, just below the drip ledge, is an old mural depicting two episodes of the life story of the Lord Buddha (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). Of them, one mural shows the offering of alms to the Buddha, by two trading brothers named Tapassu and Balluka (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). The other mural depicts the worshipping of the Buddha by the god Indra and others during the Buddha's visit to Indasala cave (Paranavitana, 1950; Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). However, the painting was burnt by a forest fire in the 1960s (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018).

The two paintings show artistic similarities to those of the paintings found in Sigiriya and Ajanta in India (Paranavitana, 1950; Rajapakse, 2016; Wijesekara, 1945) and are said to be drawn in the style of Toluwila (Wikramagamage & Wijesekara, 1990). They belong to the 6-7th century A.D. or probably to a later period (Coomaraswamy, 1927; Paranavitana, 1950). The present name of the temple, Hindagala, according to S. Paranavithana, has been derived from Indrasala Guha which is depicted in one of the paintings. However due to the environmental weathering, presently, about one-tenth of the original painted surface is remaining (Wijesekara, 1945). This fragment of the painting, "Visit of Buddha to Indasala Guha", was copied in 1918 by W. M. Fernando for the Department of National Museums (Abeywardana, 2004; Rambukwella, 2014; Wijesekara, 1945). Another set of figures of Divinities belonging to the 12 century A.D. was copied by Stanley Abeysinghe in 1948 (Rambukwella, 2014).

Four periods
The paintings at the Hindagala temple belong to four major periods. The fragment of a mural found just below the drip ledge belongs to the Anuradhapura era and the paintings inside the cave belong to the both Gampola and Kandyan Periods (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The outer wall paintings facing the veranda are said to have been done in 1917.

The Tooth Relic
On 23 April 1815, the Tooth Relic of the Buddha which was conveyed to Kandy from Pusulpitiya Viharaya in Kotmale was kept in the premises of Hindagala Viharaya for one night.

A protected site
The drip-ledged cave temple, two drip-ledged caves, and rock inscriptions belonging to the Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya cave temple in the No. 267, Hindagala Grama Niladhari Division in the Gangawata Korale Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 24 July 2009.  

The Makara Thorana (Dragon arch), Hindagala temple The lord of Totisabhavana heaven is being fanned by two heavenly females, Hindagala temple A stone lamp, Hindagala temple Outer wall paintings, Hindagala temple The copied painting (Colombo National Museum)
1) Abeywardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka.  pp.38-39.
2) Coomaraswamy, A.K., 1927. History of Indian and Indonesian art. London. p.163.
3) De Silva, N.; Chandrasekara, D.P., 2009. Heritage buildings of Sri Lanka. Colombo: The National Trust Sri Lanka, ISBN: 978-955-0093-01-4.  p.72.
4) Nicholas, C. W., 1961. Additions and amendments to the Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VII. Part 2). Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). p.227.
5) Paranavitana, S., 1950. Sinhalese Art and Culture. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 98(4822), pp.588-605.
6) Paranavitana, S., 1958. The Hindagala Rock-Inscription. University of Ceylon Review. Vol.XVI, Nos. 1 & 2. pp.1-5.
7) Prematilaka, L., Hewage, R., 2018. A guide to the National Museum, Colombo: Department of National Museum. ISBN: 978-955-578-035-3. pp.43, 45.
8) Rambukwella, M.W.C.N.K., 2014. Heritage representation in culturally diverse societies: a case study of the Colombo National Museum in Sri Lanka (Doctoral dissertation, School of Museum Studies). pp.362-363.
9) Senanayaka, P., 2018. Senkadagala Mahanuwara pradeshaye peranima Bauddha Vihara Arama (In Sinhala). Samodhana, The Journal of Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities. Vol.7 (1). pp.55-83.
10) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1612. 24 July 2009. p.1022.
11) Wijesekara, N., 1945. Early Sinhalese Paintings. A thesis submitted for the Ph. D. of the Culcutta University. pp.13-14, 114, 189.
12) Wikramagamage, C.; Wijesekara., N. (editor in chief), 1990. 500-1000 A.D. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series: Volume Four: Sculpture. p.61.

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This page was last updated on 6 May 2023
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