Malwathu Maha Viharaya (Kandy) | Headquarters of Malwatta Chapter

Malwathu Maha Viharaya
Malwathu Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: මල්වතු මහා විහාරය) is a complex of Buddhist temples situated within Kandy city limits in Kandy District, Sri Lanka.  It is the headquarters of the Malwatta Chapter of Siyam Nikaya, one of the two Buddhist monasteries that hold the custodianship of the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha housed in the Temple of the Tooth. The Mahanayake Thera (the chief monk) of this temple, together with the Mahanayaka Thera of Asgiri Maha Viharaya and Diyawadana Nilame, play the role of the three custodians of the sacred Tooth Relic.

The Malwatta Vihara complex consists of a collection of Buddhist temples and monk residences located in close proximity to each other. They include Pohoya Malu Viharaya, Sangharaja Pirivena, Malwathu Maha Viharaya and several other temples (Abeyawardana, 2004).

The land where this temple has been established today was originally the pleasure gardens of the Kandyan Kings (Abeyawardana, 2004). In 1753, the higher ordination for six Buddhist monks was held at this premises as a result of the efforts of Welivita Sri Saranankara Thera (1698-1778 A.D.) who was supported by the then Kandyan king, Kirti Sri Rajasinghe [(1747-1782 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004]. At the beginning, this temple was called Dhammikarama but when the king had established it in the royal park, the temple was begun to know as Pushparama (Abeyawardana, 2004). At the time, there had been only three temples donated to Buddhist monks including the temple of Welivita Sri Saranankara Thera (Abeyawardana, 2004). 

The temples of the Vihara complex
Pohoya Malu Viharaya
(7°17'25.4"N 80°38'20.3"E)
Also known as the Uposatha Viharaya, this temple is believed to have been constructed by King Senasammata Vikramabahu (1468-1510 A.D.) or King Vira Parakramabahu (1484-1508 A.D.) of Senkadagala (Abeyawardana, 2004). The Stupa of this site, according to popular belief, contains the collarbone relic of the Buddha (Abeyawardana, 2004). King Vira Parakramabahu is credited with the construction of the Stupa  (Abeyawardana, 2004).

The two-storied Pohoya-ge of this temple is a work of King Vimaladharmasuriya II [(1687-1707 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004]. The upper floor of it has been converted to an image house while the ground floor is used as a Pohoya-ge (Rajapakse, 2016). The image house consists of two sections, the shrine room and the vestibule. A seated Buddha statue accompanied by four standing Buddha statues are found in the shrine room (Rajapakse, 2016). The seated Buddha statue shows artistic features of the Kandyan Period (Rajapakse, 2016).
Sangharaja Pirivena
(7°17'24.9"N 80°38'21.0"E)
Sangharaja Pirivena is located within the Pohoya Malu Vihara premises. Established in 1897, it gradually earned its recognition as a famous seat of religious education for the monks of the 3 main sects (Abeyawardana, 2004). In 1947, it received recognition as a government-aided educational institution and in 1959 it was linked to the Vidyodaya University (Abeyawardana, 2004).

Malwathu Maha Viharaya
(7°17'26.3"N 80°38'27.4"E)
Buddhism in Sri Lanka witnessed a serious decline by the 17th century. However, as a result of the hard efforts by Welivita Sri Saranankara Thera (1698-1778 A.D.), there was an emergence of Buddhism again in the country. As there were no monks in Sri Lanka who had received the Upasampada (the higher ordination), Saranankara Thera and King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1782 A.D.) managed to get down monks from Siam (present Thailand) with the assistance of the then ruler of Siam, King Borommakot (1733-1758 A.D.). In 1753, the higher ordination ceremony was held in the Seemamalaka building at Malwathu Maha Viharaya by a delegation of Siamese monks headed by Upali Thera (Abeyawardana, 2004).

The annual higher ordination ceremony of the Malwatta Chapter is still held at this historic Seemamalaka building (Abeyawardana, 2004). Inside the building is a seated Buddha statue of the Kandyan art tradition. The residential quarters of the present Mahanayaka of the Malwatta Chapter is located in the Malwathu Maha Vihara premises.

A protected site
The ancient Pohoya Geya with image house belonging to the Malwatta Pohoya-malu Vihara premises situated in Kandy city in the No. 254, Malwatta Grama Niladhari Division in the Gangawata Koralaya Divisional Secretary’s Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government notification published on 21 October 2010.

1) IMG_3625b by Denish C is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.21-24.
2) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.44-45.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1677. 21 October 2010. p.1750.

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This page was last updated on 25 December 2022

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