Matale Alu Viharaya

Matale Alu Viharaya
Alu Viharaya, popularly known as Aluvihare Rock Temple (Sinhala: මාතලේ අළු විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Matale in Matale District, Sri Lanka. It is widely known in the Buddhist world as the venue where the Fourth Buddhist Council was held in the 1st century B.C. (Abeyawardana, 2004).

The history of this site runs back to the pre-Christian era (Paranavitana, 1970). A few inscriptions written in the Early Brahmi Scripts are found engraved under the drip ledges of the caves of this site (Paranavitana, 1970).

Matale Alu Viharaya
Aluvihare cave inscription of Sumana & Deva

Period: 3rd century B.C.-1st century A.D.
Script: Early Brahmi
Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: (Upasaka)-Shumanaha.........Deva-teraha lene
Translation: The cave of the lay devotee Sumana and of the elder Deva.
Citation: Paranavitana, 1970. p.63.

As recorded in Sri Lankan chronicles and texts such as Pujavaliya (13th century ) and Asgiri Talpata (18th century), 500 Buddhist monks gathered at Alokalena or Alulena (present Alu Viharaya) and reduced the Tripitaka (Pali Theravada Canon) and its commentary to writing, for the first time ever, under the protection of a chieftain during the reign of King Valagamba [(89-77 B.C.) Abeyawardana, 2004; Bowden, 2009; Nicholas, 1963]. They wrote on ola-leaves the Dhamma words pronounced by the Buddha and passed down by word of mouth (Bhanaka system) nearly five centuries after the conclusion of the Buddhist Council held at this site (Abeyawardana, 2004). This event of writing down the Canon, according to popular belief, was done after the 12 years long famine called Beminitiyasaya that occurred in the first century B.C (Abeyawardana, 2004; Bowden, 2009). The early chronicles of the country such as Dipavamsa (4th century), and Mahavamsa (5th century) also have brief references to this event but they do not mention the venue (Abeyawardana, 2004; Bowden, 2009).
Matale Alu Viharaya
The translation of Sinhala commentaries into Pali by the Buddhaghosha Thera in the 5th century A.D. for the benefit of the international Buddhist community is said to have been done in the Alu Viharaya premises (Abeyawardana, 2004). As a result of the contribution of devotees, the temple gradually developed into a monastery complex over the next few centuries. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the temple was vandalised several times by colonial invaders (Abeyawardana, 2004). However, after the year 1896, the temple received better patronage from the Buddhist community (Abeyawardana, 2004). 

In 1956, a project was begun to establish an international Buddhist library at Alu Viharaya and it was completed by 1974 (Abeyawardana, 2004).

A protected site
The drip-ledged caves and the caves with inscriptions situated in Alu Viharaya temple premises in Alu Vihare village in the Divisional Secretary Division of Matale are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 11 October 1974. 
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.309-312.
2) Bowden, R., 2009. Writing down of the Pali Tripitaka at Aloka Vihara in Sri Lanka. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 55, pp.115-167.
3) 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.114.
4) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). Department of Archaeology Ceylon. p.63.
5) The government gazette notification, no: 133. 11 October 1974.
Location Map
This page was last updated on 4 June 2022
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

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