Thumbewula Raja Maha Viharaya

Thumbewula Viharaya
Thumbewula Kirti Vijayabahu Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: තුම්බැවුල කීර්ති විජයබාහු රජමහා විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple in Mologgamuwa village in Matara District, Sri Lanka.

According to folklore, the history of this site runs back to the Polonnaruwa Period (Ranaweera, 2015). It is believed that the drip-ledged cave at this site was used by Prince Kitti before he defeated the South Indian Cholas in Polonnaruwa where he was crowned as the King of the whole island by the name King Vijayabahu I [(1055-1110 A.D.) Ranaweera, 2015]. After liberating the country from South Indian Chola invaders, King Vijayabahu I converted this site into a Buddhist temple (Ranaweera, 2015).

Thumbewula Viharaya
Although there is no firm evidence to confirm, locals believe that the small pond on the present temple premises was used by Prince Kitti for bathing (Ranaweera, 2015). Further, they believe that the cave of this site originally belonged to a monk of the Dimbulagala fraternity, but at the request of Sitnaru-bim Budalnavan, the cave was given for the usage of Prince Kitti (Ranaweera, 2015). Sitnaru-bim Budalnavan was the one who provided protection to Prince Kitti, his father and the other members of the royal family when they were in hiding during the Chola invasion. This story is clearly recorded in the earliest copper-plate charters so far discovered in the country, Panakaduwa Thamba Sannasa.

Over time, the site became deserted and swallowed by the wild. It was rediscovered around 1916 by a person named Vattuhami Suraweera (Ranaweera, 2015). He cleared the site and bestowed it to Gathare Saranapala Thera (Ranaweera, 2015). It is said by locals that the Panakaduwa Thamba Sannasa was originally preserved at this site along with several other artefacts which were supposed to be used by Sitnaru-bim Budalnavan (Ranaweera, 2015).

The temple
The temple consists of a drip-ledged cave (Len Viharaya) which is the main monument of archaeological value. Inside it, a large reclining statue of Buddha, a standing statue of Buddha and a seated Buddha statue in Bumi-sparsha Mudra (earth-touching gesture) are found. A Stupa and a Bo tree are also found within the temple premises. The small pond at the site is said to have been used by Prince Kitti. 

A protected site
The drip-ledged cave temple (Len Viharaya) belonging to the Mologgamuwa, Thumbewula, Vijayabahu Raja Maha Viharaya premises situated in the Mologgamuwa Grama Niladhari  Division in the Pasgoda Divisional Secretary’s Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 24 July 2009.

Thumbewula Viharaya
#) extends its gratitude to V. M. Vidanapathirana for providing the necessary photographs required for this article. All the photos are published here with the permission of the author.

1) Ranaweera, D. D., 2015. Matara Urumaya (in Sinhala). ISBN: 978-955-30-6285-7. S. Godage & Bros. pp.109-111.
2) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1612. 24 July 2009. p.1023.

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This page was last updated on 24 December 2023

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