By Gamini G. Punchihewa
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.
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.
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.
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 - Warana).
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
The four devales
dedicated to gods like Kataragama, Vishnu, Saman and Ganesh are
enshrined in a separate cave.
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.
the temple chronicles preserved at this Warana Len Vihara, its ancient
construction works are attributed to the reign of the following
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.)