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Vattarama Sri Arahanta Maliyadeva Viharaya

Not to be confused with Wattaramtenna Purvarama Viharaya

Kuda Viharaya image house, Vattarama
Vattarama Sri Arahanta Maliyadeva Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: වට්ටාරම ශ්‍රී අරහන්ත මලියදේව විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Wattarama in Kegalle District, Sri Lanka. It has become popular among the devotees as the place where the Arhat Maliyadeva lived.

Vattarama Stupa
Arhat Maliyadeva
The temple is named "Sri Arahanta Maliyadeva Viharaya" due to its close association with Arhat Maliyadeva who is believed to be the last Arhat of Sri Lanka. It is said that Maliyadeva lived here and attained Arhatship at this shrine (Abeyawardana, 2002; Karunatilake, 2014).

King Gotabhaya (253-266 A.D.) is credited with the development of Vattarama Viharaya (Karunatilake, 2014). He founded Peradeni Nuwara, built tanks around it, and thereafter developed Vattarama and donated surrounding villages/lands to the Viharaya under the guidance of Maliyadeva Thera (Karunatilake, 2014).  

It is also believed that one of the four golden Buddha statues brought to the country from India by Arhat Maliyadeva was kept in the Vattarama temple (Abeywardana, 2004). The other three statues are said to be kept at Pusulpitiya Viharaya, Madanwala Viharaya, and Diddeniya Viharaya (Abeywardana, 2004). 

Vattarama Purvarama Stupa
Purvarama Stupa
According to the ancient text Vattarama Asna, there were 12 monasteries in the Vattarama temple. The ruined Stupa which was excavated and conserved in 2012 by the Department of Archaeology is located in the east of the Vattarama temple and has been identified as the Vattarama Purvaramaya, one of the 12 monasteries in the Vattarama temple. This Stupa has been also indicated as the "Purwaramaya" in the report on Kegalle District compiled in 1892 by H.C.P. Bell, the then Commissioner of Archaeology. However, the Stupa had been vandalized by treasure hunters long before its formal conservation.

The investigations revealed that this Stupa is a work belonging to the Anuradhapura Period. According to the chronicles and other resources, this Stupa has been built by King Gotabhaya. The foundation of some buildings that had been built prior to the construction of this Stupa was identified during the excavation. This foundation has been built beneath the foundation of the Stupa and extends towards the South-East from the Stupa. Also, some sculptures of clay swans and pieces of clay pots were unearthed during the excavations.

Sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi-tree
The Mahabodhivamsa mentions Vattarama as one of the 32 places where the saplings of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura were planted (Abeyawardana, 2002).

Kuda Viharaya
The old image house known as Kuda Viharaya has been constructed during the Kandyan Period (Abeyawardana, 2002; Karunatilake, 2014). It is a small rectangular image house with a Mandapa in front. The Mandapa is 26 ft. 3 inches in length and 11 ft. 9 inches in width and said to be a later addition (Karunatilake, 2014). Inside the image house is a Buddha statue seated under a Makara Thorana (the Dragon arch). Two standing Buddha statues about 5 ft. tall are also found on the left and right walls of the image house (Karunatilake, 2014).

Four pillar inscriptions have been found on the temple premises (Karunatilake, 2014). Two of them are presently placed in/near the Kandyan-era image house known as Kuda Viharaya (Karunatilake, 2014).

Vattarama Vihara pillar inscriptionVattarama Vihara pillar inscription
This pillar is found erected near the entrance of Kuda Viharaya.

Period: Abha Salamevan
Period: 10th century A.D.
Script: Medieval Sinhala
Language: Medieval Sinhala
Content: On the full moon day of Medin (February-March) in the seventh regnal year of King Abha Salamevan, three persons named Suvara Amal, Kasi, and Vadur donated twenty Kalandas of gold to the Sirisangabo Raja Maha Vehera of "Dagdar" for the provision of meals to the resident monks. If any monk offers food to others that are prepared with the gold given for the benefit of the monks of the temple, he should be expelled.
Reference: The information at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage.

Vattarama ruins
The Antiquity of the Vattarama temple is evident by the large number of archaeological ruins scattered throughout the Vihara premises. Stone pillars, statues, Kandyan era image house (Kuda Viharaya), inscriptions, Siri Pathula Gal (Buddha's footprints), carved door frames/slabs, and other stone works are found among them (Karunatilake, 2014). A collection of Ola manuscripts is preserved in the two-storeyed octagonal building known as Pattirippuwa (Abeyawardana, 2002).

However, the temple has been modernized without caring for its antiquity, and as a result of that many ruins have been destroyed and displaced from their original locations.

The temple was featured in a stamp issued by the Sri Lanka Post on 9 May 2017, to commemorate the State Vesak Festival of the Buddhist Era 2561.

A protected site
The ancient Stupa, the image house with old sculptures and paintings, the ancient Bo tree, the boundary wall, the four ruined places with ancient stone pillars, four pillar inscriptions, foundation of ancient building and ancient library building in the premises of Sri Arahantha Maliyadewa Raja Maha Vihara in Wattarama village in the Grama Niladhari Division No. 76 of Godapala in Galigamuwa Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by three government gazette notifications published on 22 November 2002, 1 February 2023 and 1 June 2023.

The new image house Vattarama ruins Maliya-maha-paya
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2002. Heritage of Sabaragamuwa: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Sabaragamuwa Development Bank and The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-077-7. p.69.
2) Abeywardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-093-0. p.226.
3) Karunatilake, M., 2014. Urumayen gilihena Wattarama Kuda Viharaye Mahanuwara Sampradaye Sithuwam (In Sinhala). Kauthukagara: 17th Issue. National Museum Department & Ministry of National Heritage. ISSN: 1800-2897. pp.40-57.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1264. 22 November 2002.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: Extraordinary. No: 2317/57. 1 February 2023. p.7A.
6) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka; Extraordinary. No: 2334/41. 1 June 2023. p.2A.

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This page was last updated on 3 December 2023

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