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Lihiniyagala Viharaya

Lihiniyagala Len Viharaya (Sinhala: ලිහිණියාගල ලෙන් විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple in Saresumthanna within the boundary of Victoria Randenigala Rantembe Sanctuary in Nuwara Eliya District, Sri Lanka. Situated in the Belihul Oya valley, the temple is surrounded by fields known as Lamasuriya. The oldest inscription discovered in Nuwara Eliya District is considered to be found here (Abeyawardana, 2004).

The temple complex bears evidence of the existence of human settlements from the 2nd century B.C. (Abeyawardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015). An Early Brahmi Inscription that has been engraved below the drip ledge of the cave at the site indicates that Lihiniyagala has a history running back to the pre-Christian era (Abeyawardana, 2004; Paranavitana, 1970; Wijesinghe, 2015).

Lihiniyagala cave inscription
Period: 3rd century B.C.-1st century A.D.                  Script: Early Brahmi                  Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: Manapadashane
Translation: Of agreeable sight (name of the cave).
Citation: Paranavitana, 1970. p.63.

Folklore reveals that Theraputthabhaya, one of ten paladins of King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.) resided at this temple after entering the Buddhist order (Abeyawardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015).

The image house or the Len Viharaya (the cave temple) of Lihiniyagala temple contains paintings belonging to the Kandyan Period (Abeyawardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015). Jataka stories such as Dahamsonda, Wessantara and Sasa as well as murals showing the 16 places of worship (Solosmasthana) are found among the paintings (Abeyawardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015).

Primitive paintings
A cave cluster with primitive-style paintings has been found at a distance of about 400 m to the northwest of the temple (Ambanwala & Karunarathna, 2017). The paintings are visible upon entering the first cave in an area measuring 1.7 m in length and 0.48 m in breadth (Ambanwala & Karunarathna, 2017). Around 15 primitive paintings including 8 human figures have been identified (Ambanwala & Karunarathna, 2017).

There is also another cave at the site containing traces of faded primitive paintings (Abeyawardana, 2004; Ambanwala & Karunarathna, 2017).

A protected site
The ancient image house and the cave on the Lihiniyagala Vihara premises in the village of Lihiniyagala in Udahewaheta Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 1 November 1996.

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.229.
2) Ambanwala, C.B. and Karunarathna, M., 2017. නුවරඑළිය දිස්ත්‍රික්කයේ ලිහිණියාගල ප්‍රාථමික ශෛලියේ ගුහාසිතුවම්: නැවත සමීක්ෂණයක්. Samodhana, The Journal of Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities. Vol.6 (1). pp.1-24.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscriptions of Ceylon: Volume I: Early Brahmi Inscriptions. Department of Archaeology Ceylon. p.63.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 948. 1 November 1996.
5) Wijesinghe, T.K., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Nuwara Eliya Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-36-4. pp.60-61.

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This page was last updated on 28 August 2023

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