Handagala Kanda Viharaya

Handagala Kanda Viharaya
Handagala Kanda Viharaya (Photo credit: Dishan Danushka Ekanayaka, Google Street View)

Handagala Kanda Viharaya (Sinhala: හඳගලකන්ද පුරාණ ගල්ලෙන් විහාරය) is an ancient cave temple situated 4 km northwest of Ratmalgahawewa junction in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka.


Although the person who initiated the construction of the site is not known, the drip-ledged caves with Early Brahmi Inscriptions of the 2-1 century B.C. indicate that this site was a Buddhist monastery of the Anuradhapura Period since the pre-Christian era (Nicholas, 1963). The place names occurring in these inscriptions include the name "Mataligama" which may be the same as "Mahatalitagama" where the Pandyas inflicted their shattering defeat on the army of King Sena I [(833-853 A.D.) Nicholas, 1963].

Handagala Vihara Cave Inscription of Naga and Tissa

Period: 2-1 century B.C.                   Script: Early Brahmi                  Language: Old Sinhala
Transcription: Bata-Nagaha lene shagasha Mataligamika-puta gamika-Tishaha lene
Translation: The cave of lord Naga [is given] to the Sangha. The cave of the village-councillor Tissa, son of the village councillor of Mataligama.
Citation: Paranavitana, 1970.p.10.

Fifteen early Brahmi inscriptions and sixteen later Brahmi inscriptions discovered from Handagala Kanda have been recorded by Senarath Paranavitana in his book "Inscriptions of Ceylon: Volume I" published in 1970 (Paranavitana, 1970).

The Site

The summit of the hill where the monastery has been established is 648 ft. above sea level and about 300 ft. above the surrounding ground level (Nicholas, 1953). There are about 40 drip-ledged caves in all, situated on the summit, on the slopes and around the foot of the hill and some of them contain inscriptions in the Brahmi script of the 2-1 century B.C. and 1st century A.D. (Nicholas, 1953). Also, the ruins of the Stupas, image houses, Chapter Houses and ancillary monastic components have been identified at the site. A cave with its interior partly adorned with paintings of the Anuradhapura tradition has been also discovered. The style and technique of these paintings are akin to those found in the famous Sigiriya Paintings.

The different patterns of the constructions reveal that the site from time to time had undergone renovations. Evidence is there to prove that the monastery had been subjected to development during the Kandyan Period.


1) Nicholas, C. W., 1953. Texts of the cave inscriptions at Handagala Viharaya. The Ceylon Historical Journal. Vol. II. pp.221-224.
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). p.162.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscriptions of Ceylon: Volume I: Early Brahmi Inscriptions. Department of Archaeology Ceylon. pp.10-11,89-90.

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This page was last updated on 1 January 2024
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