WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka
Varana Rajamaha Vihara
(@ Gamini G. Punchihewa / Sunday Times)
Warana is a majestic, rocky mountain close to Veyangoda, off the Colombo-Kandy road at the Thihariya junction. From Thihariya junction off Nittambuwa, this winding mountain road leads to Kalagedihena where it runs through sprawling rice fields interlaced with coconut plantations. Looming over this is a prominent mountain called Warana in the shape of an elephant's head with its wrinkles carved in the rock. Warana is another name for the elephant. The mountain on its right facing this rock temple is called Miriswattagala.
Warana the rocky mountain in the shape of an elephant's head which harbours this len vihara
In front of this Warana Rajamaha Vihara is the
Avasa (Priests' residency), a rambling old building with prominent gables.
I was introduced to the Incumbent of this Rock
temple - Ven. Dompe Punjananda, a learned Buddhist monk who related the history
of this len Vihara (cave temple). There are altogether 12 rock cave-shelters in
this boulder and besides this Avasa, there are two other viharas.
A commodious Dharmasala (Preaching Hall) stands
in the foreground. Though the Tamba Sannasa (a decree inscribed in granting
lands by the king) shows many acres of lands gifted to the temple, only fifty
acres are now left. A few feet away from the rock temple on its right is a rock
outcrop on which are etched a line of faded away Brahmin inscriptions dating
back to the 2nd-3rd century B.C. Overlooking this boulder is another prominent
mountain called Miriswattagala.
Stone steps leading to the Uda Maha Vihara
Dr. S. Paranavitana in his book Inscriptions of
Ceylon, Part I interprets the Brahmin inscriptions thus: (page 86 - No. 1102 -
"Bata Maj himas batikabata Tissadatta dne".
In English: "The gift of Lord Tissadatta, brother of Lord Magji hima".
It appears that Tissadatta, a Rahatanvahanse (an Arahat) who had gifted the lena
is a brother of Ven. Mahinda Maha Thera who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the
3rd century B.C.
The cave shelters are divided into two sections
- the Meda Vihara and Uda Vihara (the lower and upper terraces). The Meda Vihara,
according to local traditions, was said to have been built by King Valagamba of
the first century A.D. In our chronicles like the Mahavamsa, it is recorded that
King Valagamba had to go into exile when the country was over-run by Chola
invaders from South India.
He had taken refuge in ancient rock caves like
this one, where he built viharas, Buddha and other statues. Later he raised an
army to fight against these invaders, and draw them out of the country.
In the Meda Vihara is a gallery of 24 finely
sculptured Buddha statues - representing the Sivisu Buddha (past and future
Buddhas). Its constructions are attributed to Nissanakamalla's reign of the 12th
century A.D. On his way to Sri Pada, he is said to have stopped here and offered
this Sivisu Pooja in stone.
This Meda Maha Vihara stands on 12 stone pillar
capitals having Pecadas of wood (brackets). In it is a recumbent Buddha statue.
Its ceiling is adorned with lotus flowers while the murals depict colourful
paintings from Jataka stories.
The four devales dedicated to gods like
Kataragama, Vishnu, Saman and Ganesh are enshrined in a separate cave.
The summit of this Warana Gal Lena Vihara has
to be reached by a flight of steep stone steps. It is called the Kande Uda
Vihara (the Vihara on the top). Atop Kande Vihara one has a commanding view of
the whole of the Siyane Korale studded with rice fields, small but beautiful
tanks and coconut estates interlaced with lush jungle vegetation.
According to the temple chronicles preserved at
this Warana Len Vihara, its ancient construction works are attributed to the
reign of the following kings:-
i. Devanampiyatissa - 2nd -3rd century BC.
ii. Valagamba - 1st century A.D.
iii. Nissankamalla - 12th century A.D.
iv. Parakrama Bahu - VI-Kotte Period -15th century A.D.
v. Kirti Sri Rajasinha - 18th century A.D. (Kandyan period.)
WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka