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Selawa Raja Maha Viharaya

Selawa Raja Maha Viharaya is a Buddhist temple situated in Selawa village in Kegalle District, Sri Lanka. It has been built on the slope of Selawa Kanda mountain bordering Gampola.

A rock inscription by King Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe (1798-1815 A.D.) is found in the Vihara premises (Ranawella, 2015). It records a grant of lands by the king to Ven. Moratota Dhammakkhandha Mahanayaka Thera, the Buddhist monk who was responsible for building the temple at Selawa (Hettiarachchi, 1991; Jayawardhana, 1991; Ranawella, 2015). As further mentioned in it, the construction work of the temple was begun in 2322 B.E. (1779 A.D.) and completed in 2349 B.E. [(1806 A.D.) Ranawella, 2015]. Therefore, the history of this temple can be dated back to the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe [(1747-1782 A.D.) Jayawardhana, 1991; Ranawella, 2015].

The Sangharaja Sadhucariyava, a contemporary work composed in Sinhala, mentions the Moratota Dhammakkhandha Mahanayaka Thera as a highly venerable Buddhist monk living at Malwatta Viharaya in Kandy (Jayawardhana, 1991; Ranawella, 2015). He was also the High Priest of the temples at Gangaramaya and Degaldoruwa (Jayawardhana, 1991; Ranawella, 2015). 

The name of this temple is mentioned in the Nampotha, an ancient text written after the 14th century.

There are two rock inscriptions; one is within the temple premises and the other is on a rock in a paddy field located near the temple (Bell, 1904; Hettiarachchi, 1991; Jayawardhana, 1991).

Selawa Inscription of Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe
This inscription is considered to be the last stone grant engraved under a Sri Lankan king (Abeyawardana, 2002; Bell, 1904). Incised over a rock in the temple premises, it is dated in the year 2349 B.E which is 1806 A.D. (Ranawella, 2015). It contains 19 lines written in Sinhalese scripts of the 18th century (Jayawardhana, 1991).

Rock inscription in the paddy field
This inscription contains 8 lines written in Sinhalese scripts of the 9th century (Hettiarachchi, 1991). It is considered to be the first inscription that contains the word "Puwak" the Sinhala name for areca nut (Hettiarachchi, 1991). As mentioned in it, the Selhogama village (present Selawa) should provide two Amunas of areca nut annually to the Buddhist monastery named Maliwa Arama and supply perpetually the daytime requisites of the monks of the same monastery (Hettiarachchi, 1991; Ranawella, 2001).
Scholars have dated this inscription to the reign of King Sena II [(853-887 A.D.) Hettiarachchi, 1991; Ranawella, 2001].

The cave temple
The cave temple or the Vihara-geya of Selawa Viharaya is accommodated in a complex of four caves. Of them, one is used as a Gabada-ge or a storeroom. In the first cave, a reclining Buddha statue about 20 ft. long and a large sedent Buddha are found (Bell, 1904). In the second cave, which has two entrances, another recumbent Buddha statue (36 ft. 6 inches long) and two seated and standing Buddha images are found with a portrait of Migastenne Adigar (Bell, 1904). These caves share a common spacious verandah about 118 ft. long and 13 ft. wide (Bell, 1904). The roof of it is supported on 18 wooden pillars (Bell, 1904). A date recorded near the paintings indicates that this temple has been repainted and restored in 2417 B.E. [(1878 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2002].

A protected site
The cave temple with ancient murals, sculptures and the inscription in the premises of Selawa Raja Maha Vihara and the rock inscription found in close proximity to the temple situated in the Selawa West Grama Niladhari Division, in the Aranayaka Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by two government gazette notifications published on 8 July 2005 and 24 July 2009.

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. p.80.
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.54,73, 89-90. 
3) Hettiarachchi, A.S., 1991. Rock inscription in a paddy field at Salava (In Sinhala). Epigraphia Zeylanica being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon: Vol. VI, Part 2. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. Sri Lanka. pp.185-189. 
4) Jayawardhana, S., 1991. Salava rock inscription. Epigraphia Zeylanica being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon: Vol. VI, Part 2. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. Sri Lanka. pp.135-139. 
5) Ranawella, S., 2001. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume V, Part I. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 955-9159-21-6. pp.62-63.
6) Ranawella, S., 2015. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. IX. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-9159-98-8. pp.68-72.
7) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1401. 8 July 2005. 
8) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1612. 24 July 2009. p.1021.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 31 January 2021
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

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