Saturday, March 20, 2021

Weligama Agrabodhi Viharaya

Weligama Agrabodhi Viharaya is a Buddhist temple situated in Weligama in Matara District, Sri Lanka. The famous Kushtarajagala is located near this temple.

History
There is a reference to this temple in Sinhala Bodhivamsa (Abeyawardana, 2004; Samanthi, 1999; Wikramaratne, 2015). It says that the very first sapling out of the first 32 saplings of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi-tree at Anuradhapura was planted in this temple premises (Abeyawardana, 2004; Wikramaratne, 2015). As it is the first Bodhi-tree sapling, the temple is said to have been known by the name Agrabodhi Viharaya (Wikramaratne, 2015). However, according to another view, this temple is called by that name because of the belief that this temple was built under the patronage of King Aggabodhi IV [(667-683 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004]. A verse written by a monk from Aggrabodhi (Agbo) of Weligama has been found among the graffiti in Sigiriya (Abeyawardana, 2004).

Chronicles reveal that a Pirivena or a religious school for Aggrabodhi Viharaya was built at Weligama by a general named Swaraja Kulawardhana Devadhikari during the reign of Queen Kalyanawathi (1202-1208 A.D.) of Polonnaruwa (Abeyawardana, 2004; Nicholas, 1963; Wikramaratne, 2015). The present Rajakulavadana Viharaya which is located in close proximity to Aggrabodhi Viharaya is considered by many as that monastic site established by the general (Abeyawardana, 2004). King Parakramabahu IV (1302-1326 A.D.) of Dambadeniya is believed to have erected a two-storied long building named Parakramabahu Pasada at Weligama temple and granted it the village of Saligiri [(present Algiriya) Nicholas, 1963; Wikramaratne, 2015]. There are further records regarding donations made to this temple by King Bhuvanekabahu IV (1341-1351 A.D.) and General Lankadhikara (Abeyawardana, 2004). 

The temple is believed to have been partially destroyed by the Portuguese who landed in Sri Lanka in 1505 (Abeyawardana, 2004; Samanthi, 1999). They had control of some parts of the island until they were expelled by the Dutch in 1658. The destroyed temple was re-erected by Ven. Agalakada Dhammarakkhita Thera under the patronage of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe [(1747-1782 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004; Samanthi, 1999; Wikramaratne, 2015]. A stone slab inscription found in the temple premises reveals some donations made to the temple by several donors including King Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha [(1782–1798) Dias, 1991]. This inscription has been dated by scholars to the 19-20th century A.D. (Dias, 1991).

The temple is mentioned in some Sandesha poems, such as Tisara, Paravi, and Kovul (Abeyawardana, 2004; De S. Manukulasooriya, 1978).

Artifacts and other structures
Donations by Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha
A golden statue, casket, a pair of tusk, two Semaras, and two ivory monks' fans are presently preserved in the temple (Wikramaratne, 2015). These are believed to have been donated to the temple by King Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha [(1782-1798 A.D.) Wikramaratne, 2015].

The Ashta-Mangala slab
A rectangular slab of limestone containing symbols of Ashta-Mangala (Eight Auspicious symbols) has been unearthed during an excavation done at a spot near the preaching hall (Karunaratne, 1973). 

The Stupa
The Stupa of the temple is said to have been erected in 1890 (Wikramaratne, 2015). 

The image house
The two-storied image house contains several Buddha statues in seated, standing, and reclining positions. Images of Sariputta and Moggallana, the two chief disciples of Gautama Buddha are also found. The murals that adorn the inner walls depict features of the Kandyan Art tradition (Wikramaratne, 2015). The image house was completely renovated in 1914 (Abeyawardana, 2004).

References
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Ruhuna: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-073-4. pp.54-55.
2) De S. Manukulasooriya, R.C., 1978. Transport in Sri Lanka in ancient and mediaeval times. Journal of the Sri Lanka Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 24, pp.49-85.
3)  Dias, M., 1991. Epigraphical notes (Nos 1 -18). Colombo: Department of Archaeology. pp.33,35-36.
4) Karunaratne, T.B., 1973. A unique Astamangala relief from Weligama. Journal of the Sri Lanka Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 17, pp.46-54.
5) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). p.72.
6)  Samanthi, L.K.N., 1999. Architectural concepts of Buddhist places of worship: an examination of the architectural concepts of Buddhist places of worship in rural and urban settings with special reference to Southern Province. A dissertation submitted to the University of Moratuwa as a partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Architecture. pp.79-89.
7) Wikramaratne, I., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Matara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-54-2. pp.10-12.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 6 April 2021
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

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