Sunday, September 12, 2021

Beligala Raja Maha Viharaya

Beligala Viharaya
Photo credit: Google street view

Beligala Vijayasundararama Viharaya (popularly known as Beligala Raja Maha Viharaya) is a Buddhist temple situated in Beligala village in Kegalle District, Sri Lanka.

History
According to Bodhivamsa, one of the 32 saplings of Sri Maha Bodhi Tree had been planted at Beligala during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa  [(250-210 B.C.) Abeyawardana, 2002; Bell, 1904]. However, the first temple to be built at Beligala is attributed to King Gajaba I [(117-136 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2002]. It is said that the Bowl Relic of the Buddha that had been brought to the country from Cola country (South India) was enshrined at this place during that period (Abeyawardana, 2002). As mentioned in Rajavaliya, Dantakumara and Hemamala, the royal couple who brought the Tooth Relic of the Buddha to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Kitsirimevan (301-328 A.D.), lived in Keeravalipattu of Beligala (Abeyawardana, 2002).
 
Beligala was written in the pages of history again in the 13 century or the Period of Dambadeniya. As mentioned in chronicles, King Vijayabahu III (1232-1236 A.D.) built a fortress on the Billaselapabbata (Beligala) mountain to deposit the Tooth and Bowl Relics of the Buddha safe during the turbulent period after the fall of Polonnaruwa Kingdom (Abeyawardana, 2002; Nicholas, 1963). The ruins of this ancient fortress still found on the Beligala mountain located in close proximity to the present Beligala Viharaya. The eldest son of King Parakramabahu II (1236-1271 A.D.) is said to have built Buvanekabahu Pirivena at Beligala Viharaya for Buddhist monks (Abeyawardana, 2002; Bell, 1904; Nicholas, 1963).

Beligala Sannasa
The temple possesses a copper Sannasa granted in 1958 A.B. (1415 A.D.) by King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.) of Kotte Kingdom (Bell, 1904). It records the construction of a shrine for two figures of Buddha (a sedent and standing) in consequence of the deposition of the Bowl Relic of the Buddha in Beligal Nuwara (Bell, 1904).

Ruins & structures
Bodhi-Kotuwa
The wall around the Bodhi tree of Beligala temple is made of stone blocks. It is believed that this tree was originally associated with a Bodhighara or a roofed structure built around the tree for the purpose of ritual worship (Cooray, 2010). 

Sandakada Pahana
Beligala moonstone
The Sandakada Pahana (the moonstone) of Beligala temple is considered a rare sculpture (Abeyawardana, 2002; Bell, 1904). Belonging to the Dambadeniya Period, this artefact has some exceptional features that are not found in other moonstones in the country. Deviating from the traditional half-circle, the moonstone at Beligala covers an area of two-thirds of a circle with four rows depicting flames, lions, elephants, and horses (Abeyawardana, 2002). The first two peripheral rows emanate from the mouths of Kibisi figures at the two ends of the stone (Abeyawardana, 2002). Unlike in the conventional type, where the animals are depicted to move in one direction, the animals in Beligala moonstone are sculptured to move from either end to meet at the middle of each row (Bell, 1904; Cooray, 2010). A bloomed lotus is depicted in the centre of the moonstone.

A protected site
Beligala Vijaya Sundararama Vihara situated in Beligala village in the Divisional Secretary Division of Warakapola is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 1 November 1946. 

References
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.  pp.62-63.
2) Bell, H.C.P., 1904. Report on the Kegalle District of the Province of Sabaragamuwa. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: XIX-1892. Government Press, Sri Lanka. pp.27-28,95-96.
3) Cooray, N., 2010. Quarterly Tours – No. 15. The National Trust Sri Lanka. pp.6-7.
4) 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.124.
5) The government gazette notification, no: 9624. 1 November 1946.
 
Location Map
This page was last updated on 12 September 2021
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

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