Asgiri Maha Vihara turns 710
Asgiri Maha Vihara in Kandy completes 710 of service to Buddhism,
culture, language and the Sri Lankan society on the Vesak full moon day.
Asgiri Maha Vihara is also the Headquarters of the Shyamopali Maha
Nikaya Asgiri chapter. Three other historical events connected to the
Asgiri Maha Vihara is the arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic to
Senkadagala 419 years ago and the introduction of Upasampada or the
higher ordination ritual for the bhikkhus from the then Rakkanga Desh
415 years ago on the Vesak full moon day.
The Sinhala royal dynasty, one of the oldest dynasties of the
world that lasted for over 2,000 years ended on May 13, 1739,
273 years ago on the Vesak day paving the way to the Waduga
The Sinhala royal dynasty, one of the oldest dynasties of the world
that lasted for over 2,000 years ended on May 13, 1739, 273 years ago on
the Vesak day paving the way to the Waduga dynasty. Sri Weeraprakrama
Narendrasinghe's brother-in-law Vijaya who was in-charge of the royal
Treasury in Hanguranketha at the time succeeded to the throne of Sinhale
as Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has taken steps to improve the
infrastructure facilities of the Vihara complex and declare it as a
sacred area as a tribute to the services rendered to the nation by the
historic Maha Vihara and the Pirivena - the Institute of learning of the
The story of the Maha Vihara is the story of the Kandyan Kingdom and
the people of Dumbara. Kundasala in Dumbara which was the capital of the
kingdom was shifted to Senkadagala by Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe. These three
events are inter-connected like three gems fixed to a gold necklace and
cannot be separated from each other.
Buwaneka Bahu I (1272-1284) the son of Vijaya Bahu III (1232-36) of
Dumbara who inaugurated the Dambadeni dynasty succeeded the father and
ruled from Dambadeniya. Later he shifted the kingdom to Yapahuwa and
ruled for 12 years. He was succeeded by his son Buwanekabahu II
(1293-1302) who chose Kurunegala to be his capital. He is also known as
Vathhimi Buwanekabahu alias Yapahu Buwanekabahu. The Dumbara son is
referred to as Manapathirenehe in the 'Dumbara Kadaimpotha'. Wendaruwa
village now in the Teldeniya electorate was built by him.
He encouraged the Buddhist clergy to start the Upasampada ritual in
the month of Poson under State patronage. He promoted international
trade in the country among countries around the Mediterranean sea. He
was succeeded by his son Parakramabahu IV who was also known as Pandit
Parakramabahu who wrote several books. 'The Dumbara Kadaimpotha' says
that he was the son of Hammershan Khan a Malay army commander who came
to help the king in his war against some invaders and adopted by the
king in his own palace.
The king ordered his Minister Siriwardhana Senadikari to go to
katubuluwa and locate a place suitable to build a monastery. The
minister with his entourage came to the area today known as Watapuluwa
in the Municipal area of Kandy in search of a site for the purpose and
cleared the area going hither and thither when he saw a person in
mediation to the north of it. The following day he returned to the area
and cleared the site and identified an area suitable for meditation,
rest and bathing. Then he informed the king who was in Kurunegala that
his mission was successful. It was a period of unrest and turmoil in the
country due to internal rivalries, threats of foreign invasions and
differences among bhikkhus themselves.
Some of the Maha Theras living in Dimbulagala and Polonnaruwa moved
to Dambadeniya and some to Achchagiri in Yapahuwa, yet another party
fled to India. When the king heard about the situation he informed Ven.
Palabathgala Dharmakeerthi, the pupil of Dimbulagala Mahathera
Deepankara to send some bhikkhus to the new found site.
The bhikkhus to the new monastery were selected by their own will
with a unanimous decision. The team was headed by Dambadeniye Vanaratana
Maha Thera and included Maha Theras. Meegaswewe Medhankara, Hiripitiye
Kashyapa, Kongaswewa Dharmakeethi, Walaswewa Upatissa and novice
bhikkhus Werawela Kolitha. The king ordered the entire route from
Dambadeniya to Kurunegala and Kurunegala to Paranagantota ferry and from
there to Senkadagala to be decorated in a manner befitting the occasion
to conduct the dignified and venerable delegation among the vast crowds
that would throng to witness the event.
The delegation from Paranagantota ferry was conducted to Asgiriya.
The ferry is still to be seen near the Ceylon Tobacco Company buildings
and the present day terminal for the air-taxi flights that brings
tourists to Kandy is also located here. The people of katubulu Danawwa
the present Watapuluwa are served by three Raja Maha Viharas, Embela,
Nittawela and Bomaluwa.
The British troops headed by Major Davie in the Kandyan war of 1802
used the same ferry to cross when they marched to Senkadagala. The
delegation to Asgiriya arrived on the full moon day in the month of
Vesak 1307 completing 710 on the Vesak full moon day.
Period of gloom
The gloomy period to Asigiriya dawns with the reign of Rajasinghe I
from Seethawaka. The king started to burn temples, disrobe the clergy,
put them into prisons and annihilate the Kandyan aristocracy. The
Asgiriya bhikkhus started to flee the area. The Asgiri Mahanayake
Buwanekabahu Thera who was blind at the time fled to Kotakedeniya. The
Anunayaka and some others fled to Hewaheta. Some others led by two
brothers. Ven Suriyatissa and Ven. Irugaltissa fled to Galgepitiya in
Uva. Some went to Medamahanuwara in Dumbara and some to Kotmale.
Ellepola Mangala and Jayaweera Maha Theras accompanied by some other
bhikkhus fled to Mulkirigala. Some of the ancient olas and manuscripts
too were removed from Asgiriya.
Rajasinghe murdered Weerasundara Bandara, father of the Konappu
Bandara and placed Nikapitiye Bandara in the Kandyan Kingdom as
Rajasuriya and went back to Seethawaka to restart his wars with the
Portuguese. People of Dumbara assisted by Godakumbure Ranhoti Mudiyanse
in Ambala Dunuwila killed Rajasuriya and placed Don Phillip alias
Yamasinghe Bandara in the Senkadagala throne. After the incident Konappu
Bandara, son of Weerasundara Bandara slained by Rajasinghe succedded to
the throne in 1592 as Wimaladharmasuriya I. He is also from Deegalla in
Dumbara Gampaha Korale.
Devanagala Ratnalankara Maha Thera who was hiding in Uva came back to
Asgiriya and crowned the king according to Buddhist customs. The king
brought back the Sacred Tooth Relic hidden in Delgamu Vihara in Sitawaka
in 1593 A.D. And deposited it in a palace built for the purpose and
entrusted the performances of rites and rituals associated with the
relic to Kotakedeniya Rajaguru Buwanekabahu Maha Thera.
The services rendered to the Buddha Sasana, language education and
culture, by the Asgiri Maha Vihara from that date upto now is enormous.
It is a fitting tribute to the Maha Vihara and the people of the last
Senkadagala kingdom are grateful for the gesture. Even today the
monastery does yeoman service to improve the academic as well as
religious education of the children in the area.
The Sri Chandananda Vidyalaya under the guidance of the Mahnayaka
Thera Most Venerable Udugama Sri Buddharakkitha under the able
assistance of the founder principal Ven. Dr. Godagama Mangala Thera
conducts educational program according to modern curriculum. The
students are not only provided with an academic education but are also
given opportunities in skills development. Students are exposed to
modern computer knowledge, E-technology, communication and allied
fields. The school has cadetting, western and eastern bands and a host
of extra curricular activities for mental and physical development of
the children. There are also a number of Sunday schools affiliated to
the various temples of the complex.
A bhikkhu education centre - a Pirivena similar to Totagamuwe
Veedagama Gatara Keragala Galatunumula, in the Kotte era is established
in the Maha Vihara premises.
There are over one hundred resident Bhikkhus studying under the
Parivenadipathi Ven. Narampanawe Ananda who has also established a
similar pirivena in Teldeniya.