Rajagirilena (Mihintale)

Monastic ruins at Rajagirilena (Photo credit: Google Street View)

Rajagirilena or Rajagiri cave mountain/ Rajagirilenakanda (Sinhala: මිහින්තලේ රාජගිරිලෙන) is a site with a ruined Buddhist cave temple located near Mihintale Monastery in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka.
Chronicles reveal that during the reign of King Saddhatissa (137-119 B.C.), the Rajagirilena cave had been used by Kala Buddha Rakkhita Thera as an abode of living (Nicholas, 1963). The kings are said to have visited this site frequently for the observance of the higher precepts and to listen to the Buddhist preaching. Brahmi Inscriptions that have been discovered from the site indicate that during the initial stages the site was inhabited by the monks of the Theravada tradition. However, it became an institute of the Mahayana Buddhist sect in the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. (Dhammaratana, 2000).

The ruins of an image house constructed during the Kandyan Period have been identified on this premises. The site was declared an archaeological reserve in 1926.
A number of early & later-Brahmi inscriptions have been found on the site (Paranavitana, 1970).

Period: 3rd-century B.C.-1st century A.D.           Script: Early Brahmi          Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript:  Damaguta-teraha lene agata-anagata-catu-di[sha]-shagasha
Translation:  The cave of the elder Dhammagutta, [is given] to the Sangha of the four quarters, present and absent.
Citation: Paranavitana, 1970.p.5.
Besides the Brahmi inscriptions, there is a Sanskrit inscription written in Devanagari characters (Dhammaratana, 2000). It is said to be one of the two inscriptions in Sri Lanka written in Devanagari characters (Dhammaratana, 2000). This inscription confirms the fact that Rajagirilenakanda was under the influence of Mahayana tradition during the 9th-10th centuries A.D. (Dhammaratana, 2000).

Period: 9th century A.D.                Script: Devanagari               Language: Sanskrit
Content:  The inscription is worn and some parts of it can not be read. The remaining part contains the Sanskrit stanza which is frequently observed used in epigraphs belonging to the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist sects.
Reference: Dhammaratana, 2000.
1) Dhammaratana, I., 2000. Sanskrit Inscriptions in Sri Lanka: A thesis submitted to the University of Pune in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sanskrit. Department of Sanskrit & Prakrit Languages, University of Pune, India. pp.357-364.
2) 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). pp.163.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). Department of Archaeology Ceylon. pp.5,87.

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This page was last updated on 20 January 2023

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