Monday, 9 February 2004  
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Resvehera Viharaya - the radiant rock wonder

by Florence Wickramage

Lesser known Buddhist Rock Temples strewn in different parts of the island still bear witness to a glorious past where a number of Sinhala kings nurtured and protected the country's Buddhist civilization.

One such temple I had the fortune to visit recently is the historic Sasseruwa Raja Maha Viharaya, popularly known today as the Resvehera Raja Maha Viharaya at Kudakatnoruwa, Migalawa. This rock temple is of immense archaeological importance considering its ancient history.

The massive standing Buddha statue

Travelling from Anuradhapura and turning in at the Yapahuwa Road, we reached the temple after about an hour and a half drive. We proceeded along the partly tarred and partly gravel approach road to the temple which was lined either side by jungle land, shrub jungle, paddy fields and dotted here and there with small homesteads. Passing a margosa tree-lined pathway and a pond full of red lotus blooms we stepped on to the temple premises.

Gaining importance after the Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Yapahuwa periods, Sasseruwa Rock Temple has a 2100 year history, dating back to the period of King Walagambahu who was the architect of the temple.

Enveloping an extent of 1468 acres this sacred area is famous for a Dethispala Ruha Bodhi planted by King Devanampiyatissa in 237 BC. Legend has it that "Budu Res" emanated from the Buddha statue when the Bo-tree was planted.

The complex has two cave viharayas replete with a 42'4" tall standing Buddha statue and a reclining Buddha Statue where the original cloth robe which covered it still visible at certain places.

Cave paintings and Makara Thorana at the Resvehera Rock Temple

This is the only Buddha Statue of a rock temple where a pilgrim could walk right round it in veneration. These statues are said to have been erected by King Mahasen. There are also 99 stone caves which provided shelter to 365 Arahat Theras according to chronicles. Colonisation of the area had taken place almost 340 years after the erection of the temple.

The Chief Priest of the temple Ven. Nugegoda Wajiratissa Thera explaining the historical and archaeological importance of this ancient rock temple said that the cave paintings depicted the Anuradhapura and Mahanuwara periods.

The Chief Priest Ven. Nugegoda Wajiratissa Thera

The "Gavaraya" is also found crafted in the Moonstones which is a notable absentee in the Moonstones created after the Polonnaruwa period. A flight of rock-stone steps leading to the Poya Geya has a Makara thorana decorating the entrance.

The furniture in the temple has immense antique value. We also found a heavy wooden bed, ancient and still intact, made of "Ma veval" (a kind of thick bamboo) said to have been donated to the temple by a carpenter.

On one side of the temple is a small rock enclosure said to be the Paththini Devalaya where a replica of the Goddess' symbol the anklet is deposited.

The devalaya door is closed on the `oil-anointing day' from which date the villagers stop all activities in their homes. They recommence home activities after offering vows at the devalaya and cooking milk rice after cleaning the devalaya floor with fresh cowdung.

Legend also says that a `snake' had guarded the temple and villagers say that a 14ft. 7inch discarded snake outer skin had been found in the complex premises in the 1980s.

Wahalkada

The Chief Priest Ven. Wajiratissa Thera said that a Wahalkada is being erected out of granite at the entrance to the temple at an estimated cost of Rs. 4 million.

Considering the historical importance of this rock-temple the Ven. Thera believes in generous assistance from the public to meet the cost. The Archaeological Department had undertaken construction work of the roofs of the two Viharayas recently.

Other activities regularly undertaken are the Daham Pasala attended by around 300 village children and support classes held on Saturdays for students pursuing higher studies. Enthusiastic villagers take part in temple activities and offer their unstinted support to make all efforts a success the Ven. Thera said.

Approach Roads

There are several approach roads to the Resvehera Rock Temple at Migalawa. Sited almost on the boundary of the Vayamba Province and belonging to the Kurunegala District, Migalawa could be reached through Kudakatnoruwa.

Other approach roads to the temple complex are via Kurunegala- Ibbagamuwa; Galnewa - Moragollagama; Talawa Road at Galgamuwa and Anuradhapura - Aukana Road.

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