May 2013


Maligathenna Raja Maha Viharaya Lingering Through Times
May 2013




Stone steps leading to the summit of the rock

The lone dagaba stood tall against the swirling clouds that shifted restlessly 
in the darkening skies. A small drizzle started to fall lending a cooling hand as 
we stopped our upward ascent to stare at the compelling scenery before us. 
We were at the Uda Maluwa of the Maligathenna Raja Maha Viharya in Gampaha, seeking knowledge of the bygone days while discovering the enthralling mysteries that surround the Temple today. 


Words Krishani Peiris Photography Damith Wickramasinghe


Stepping onto the stone stairway that led to the entrance of the Maligathenna Raja Maha Viharaya, we slowly climbed up savouring the fresh air while looking below at the scenic village of Waturgama encircling the periphery. Seemingly small houses and lush greenery dotted the area and the Temple built atop the tall rock seemed to preside over this landscape bestowing its blessings. 


It is believed that the history of the Maligathenna Temple runs back to the time of the Anuradhapura Kingdom. From that period onwards, time to time, up until the Kotte Kingdom, the Temple has been a refuge for kings and ministers of ancient Sri Lanka as they sought sanctuary from enemies as well as a space for Arhats and meditational monks. However, when looking at the various legends and stories surrounding the Temple, tales detailing the chronicles of King Valgamba I take prominence. After enemies invaded the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, the King journeyed far and wide to several different places seeking protection. 
It is said that Maligathenna Raja Maha Viharaya was one such place and he had remained there under the protection of the Varana Temple located nearby. Some of the drip ledges (kataram) carved on the caves in the Pahala Maluwa are regarded as creations done during the time of the King's stay. 


Traversing through each section, we peered into the old and the new that formed the Temple. Several buildings have faced dilapidation through the long years and devotees have lent a hand in renovating and rebuilding these structures to safeguard the Temple. While some information about the people involved in these attempts are documented, many have been lost.


Pahala Maluwa of the Temple is mainly composed of monks' quarters, The Meeting Hall, Buddha Shrine, Outdoor and Indoor Promenade (Sakman Maluwa), Bo Tree, an ancient Devalaya and the Dagaba named 
Sri Devaraja Aakasha Chaitya Rajaya.


We climbed a stairway bordered with a white handrail to view the 
Sri Devaraja Aakasha Chaitya Rajaya. Showing signs of being recently rebuilt, the Dagaba gleamed white with red trimmings adding contrast to the otherwise unpigmented dagaba. Climbing down, we next made our way to the Bo Tree where a small scenic walkway lined with rocks and a cave on either sides and vines dangling here and there, provided a sense of awe as we walked through. The Meeting Hall located nearby was built inside a cave that was connected to the Budu Geya or the Buddha Shrine where paintings of vibrant colours depicting various stories related to Buddhism blended 
the old elements and the new 
together. The newly renovated Indoor Promenade and the ancient Outdoor Promenade allowed ample space for meditational monks to continue their activities. Though all of these structures were fascinating, the highlight of the Pahala Maluwa was the ancient Devalaya with its door frame made 
of granite and its crumbling walls, 
an attestant to its antiquity. The door frames had delicate engravings and is believed to have been built during the Kingdom of Kotte. Adjacent to this Devalaya, we further observed a stone with 25 squares, carved in, considered to be the nidan gala or the rock of treasures.


The Temple is shrouded in many legends and accounts related to the Dantha Dathuwa or the Tooth Relic of Buddha. Towards the end of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom in order to protect the Tooth Relic from a siege of Magha, an invader from India, it is 
said that a monk by the name of 
Sri Vachissara Sangaraja had brought and hid the Relic in the Temple. Another story tells of the flight during the time of the Kotte Kingdom when the country was inhabited by the Portuguese. The Island was divided into several kingdoms at the time and when King Don Juan Dharmapala embraced Christianity, other Kings such as King Mayadunna of Seethavaka conspired to conceal the Tooth Relic in the Maligathenna Temple. Therefore, one night Diyawadana Nilame of Hiripitiya received a message that read "kotte kalale, datha mada ganna rale", which meant that there was much disturbances in Kotte, please bring the Tooth Relic to the middle of the country. Accordingly the Tooth Relic was first brought to Maligathenna before being carried to Delgamuwa and finally to Kandy. It is believed that the name Maligathenna was derived as the Temple provided a haven to the Tooth Relic.


Having completed our journey through the Pahala Maluwa, our quest next was to discover the Uda Maluwa, which is positioned, according to many, at the highest point of the Gampaha District. Our climb towards the topmost, took us through a path bordered by a few caves and equipped with stone steps and rocks at certain points. 
At times grabbing onto rocks and pushing our way up and at times resting we continued onwards. 
On the way we came across a wind gap called Old Degaldoru Kurubil stone steps. It is mentioned that a monk named Mittasabha, who had lived in the Temple for seven years (903 BA), attained nirvana here. Next we passed a patch of Na and Araliya trees to halt in wonder at the panoramic vistas that greeted us. While a flight of steps etched in stone led towards the Uda Maluwa dagaba, on the other side greenery of different shades stretched as far as the eye could see.


Climbing towards the Dagoba and going around to the other side, we encountered an ancient rock pond with water lilies and an old Bo Tree with a terrace. The tale around the Bo Tree and the terrace relates how King Mayadunna commissioned Diyawadana Nilame of Hiripitiya to build a temporary palace, a Dalada Maligaya, to keep the Tooth Relic. 
The tale goes on to say that a monk from Nittambuwa, who lived in the Temple about a century ago, had planted the Bo Tree and used the bricks and stones from the broken foundation of the Dalada Maligaya to build the terrace.


Going towards the edge of the rock, we looked over to the village lying below that contrasted vastly 
with the lush greenery present on the other side. Figures of people, moving vehicles and criss crossing roads heightened the charm surrounding the Temple. As the skies darkened and a soft breeze blew by, my mind drifted to the past glory days that would have surrounded the Maligathenna Raja Maha Viharya imprinting a magnificent history for the current and future generations.

 

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    Pathway to the top of the rock, where the lone dagaba stands

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    A cave along the way...

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    Different structures that are beign renovated in the Temple

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    Sri Devaraja Aakasha Chaitya Rajaya

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    The century old Bo Tree and some other buildings atop the rock

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    The old rock pond filled with water lilies

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    The outdoor Promenade (Sakman Maluwa)

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    The different shades of greenery visible from what is said to be the highest point in the Gampaha District

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    The Meeting Hall built inside a cave

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    Vibrant paintings in the Buddha Shrine

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    The ancient Devalaya

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