Bentota Wanawasa Viharaya

Not to be confused with Tangalle Wanawasa Viharaya

Wanawasa Viharaya
Wanawasa Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: බෙන්තොට යාත්‍රාමුල්ල වනවාස රජමහා විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated on the verge of the Bentota Ganga River  in Yathramulla village in Galle District, Sri Lanka.

According to locals, the history of this temple runs back to the early Anuradhapura Period probably to the time of King Devanampiyatissa [(247-207 B.C.) Ranchagoda, 2015]. It is believed that this temple received the patronage of royals during the reign of King Saddhatissa (137- 119 B.C.) and at the time it served as a Tapovanaya for Arhats of Bemtota Maha Viharaya (Ranchagoda, 2015). Although presently function as separate temples, the four Viharas; Galapatha, Bodhimaluwa, Bem Vehera and Udakotuwa Bodhi Sameepa which are situated in the vicinity of Wanawasa Viharaya are said to have formed one major Buddhist monastery named Bemtota Maha Viharaya during the ancient period.

Wanawasa Viharaya is said to have been developed during the reigns of King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 A.D.) of Polonnaruwa and King Parakramabahu II (1236-1270 A.D.) of Dambadeniya (Ranchagoda, 2015). The name Wanawasa Viharaya is mentioned in Nampota, an ancient Sinhalese text which is considered to have been compiled after the 14th century A.D. (Ranchagoda, 2015). The Wanawasa Vehera that is mentioned in the Sandesha Kavyas of the Kotte Period such as Thisara, Parevi and Gira is believed to be this temple (Ayrton, 1920; Ranchagoda, 2015).

As happened to the many Buddhist temples in the southern coastal region, Wanawasa Vehera also fell victim to the wrath of the Portuguese who arrived in Sri Lanka in the early 16th century. The temple was re-established during the Buddhist revival that occurred in the region in the 18th century (Ranchagoda, 2015). The Stupa at the site has been erected by Bentara Attadassi Thera (Ayrton, 1920).

A protected site
The ancient Buddha shrine within the precincts of Yathramulla Vanavasa Rajamaha Vihara situated in the Bentota Divisional Secretary Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 6 June 2008.

#) would like to thank Lalith Kekulthotuwage for providing the necessary photographs required for this article. All the photos are published here with the permission of the author.

1) Ayrton, E.R., 1920. Antiquities in the Southern Province. The Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register. Vol: VI. pp.44-45.
2) Ranchagoda, T. O., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Galla Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-53-4. pp.11-12.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1553. 6 June 2008. p.524.

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This page was last updated on 26 December 2023

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