KUKULUWA RAJAMAHA VIHARA

This cave temple is located in a forested terrain called “Nirieli Kanda” that is positioned at north direction of the village named “Pimbura” which belongs to Paragala Gramaseva Division in Pallepaththuwa parish belonging to Kukulu Korale in Ayagama Regional Secretarial Division.

 

This sacred sanctuary, which is situated 500 m high from sea-level, is the oldest rock-temple in Kukulu Korale. The attractive vicinity of this holly place is potential of including the delight of esprit de corps in every devout heart of votaries.

 

There are three approach routes to reach this temple. Pilgrims, who come across Kalawana from Ratnapura can approach this temple by proceeding 3.2 km on an arduous route that lies through Samanpura tea community from Rajjuruwaththa, and pilgrims, who come along Ratnapura-Panadura road, can turn left at Heraniyawaka junction that gives way to Ayagama town and again turn left at Pimbura junction in Kalawana route to proceed 6 km through the thick forest to approach this rock-temple.

 

Besides, devotees, who journey across Nirieliya can proceed on Nirieliya estate route and approach the temple along the path that lies across Nirieliya Mountain. Two caverns can be sighted there, that are divided as the larger one is for the temple and the small is for devale.

 

This cave extends about 150 km long and would count 16 m high. A thin stream runs down from the facade of the cave, cooling both vihara complex and premises of devale. These drops of water are collected to use for the oblation done to Lord Buddha.

 

These two caves that would nearly measure 15 m high have been home to timid animals for a long time. It is said that the 18 cubit Buddha image was entirely covered with clay when the villagers of Pimbura area discovered this forested caves in 1892. This can be analyzed as some monks locally called as “Ganinnanse” have done this to protect the sculpture from brigands and the King Sithawaka Rajasinha, who has once abscond here.

 

The cavern with drip-ledges and recumbent image of Lord Buddha are significant elements that raise the delight on Buddhist dispensation. Image house is positioned at the right side of the cave. It is only this destroyed Buddha figure discovered and conserved up to now as an archaic component.

 

There are two viewpoints about the origin of Kukuluwa Rajamaha vihara. One opinion is that King Waththa Gamini Abhaya (King Walagamba 104-88 B.C.) has erected this temple when he has been re-anointed after returning back from hill country (Malaya Rata), where he absconded himself after losing the battle with invaders. But there is not enough archaeological proves to accept that opinion.

 

Ven. Kirielle Gnanavimala thero, who presents the second view, intends that the history of this sanctuary trace even back the Kotte reign as it was a place where monks (Ganinnanse) had used to abscond in the period of King Seethawaka Rajasinha (1554-1593). Another fact that evidences this stand point is the single lined drip-ledge in the cavern, which has no relation with the era by gone.

 

There are historical evidences to confirm that this holly place was named as “Kukuluwa Viharaya” after the reign of King Rajasinha I. Kukuluwa Korale, which had been known as “Diggampotha Korale” earlier, was named as Kukulu Korale due to the game of cock fighting that was very famous in the region. The inscription (gifted by King Rajasinha I) at NiriFalls reads that this temple was known as “Kanaththe Gallen Viharaya” before the area was denominated as “Kukuluwa”. It is inscribed that the Sothern boundary of NiriFalls village also belongs to this sanctuary.

 

A rock called “Natum Gala” and a location called “Maligathenna” are seen from right side of the temple and some ruins like tiles and bricks can be sighted scattered in the vicinity. These facts imply that there might have been a well secured settlement. According to the folklore villages indicate that the real “Kukuluwa” is ulterior inside the thick forest and this might be a duplicate. The literary works written in Mahanuwara era namely “Nam” and “Magul Lakuna” document about Kukuluwa vihara.

 

There is a stupa erected on the rocky plain positioned at the left side of the temple. A historic epigraph can be seen at the feet of the stairs that proceed to the compound of stupa. In constructing the stairs this stone inscription has been destroyed to the extent of seeing only few letters due to ignorance and negligence. Considering the remains of the epigraph, archaeologists indicate that it belongs to 9-10 centuries.

 

For sure that the paintings that can be sighted today belong to recent era as the old paintings in stone ceiling near the recumbent Buddha figure was discolored, although through the dents in some places arts of Mahanuwara era peep out. The timber doorframe, which was once fixed in this place, is now infixed to the entrance of Kalawana Vihara. The first construction after the discovery was done by in charge of Delwala Rate Mahaththaya at the guidance of Ven. Deliwala Siddhathissa thero in 1899 and the secondary constructions were done by the government agent of KiriFalls area at the order of the chief incumbent of Ratnapura Saddharma vihara in 1934. Premises of devale at right side of the cave was erected after the discovery.

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