The Aluviharaya Rock Cave Temple is situated in Aluviharaya, Matale District of Sri Lanka, surrounded by hills and around 30 km north of Kandy on the Matale-Dambulla road. There are many more frescoes and monastery caves are exhibited in this place.
Aluviharaya Rock Cave Temple is a most important sacred Buddhist temple which has a host of rich literature in the history of world Buddhism, which was the historic location where the Thripiţaka was completely written down in text on palm-leaves by Buddhist monks during the ruling period of King Walagamba. Such Thripitakas are classified into three divisions. They are:
- Vinaya Pitakaya (Basket of Discipline)
- Sutta Pitakaya (Basket of Discourse)
- Abhidharma Pitakaya (Basket of Metaphysics)
According to the folklores, there are many meanings to the name of Aluviharaya. Based on the legend one of them is that the Aloka Vihara (Luminous Cave) became Aluviharaya. Another thing is that there is a huge rock cave which is faced to the east of the main rock cave and it received the morning rays of sunrise. Finally, it was the reason for the Aloka Lena (cave with light).
Actually, the writing of the Tripiţaka brought doctrinal illumination to the world Buddhism, thus. In Pali, it is called Aloka Vihara which means Alu (Luminous) and Vihara (Temple).
Birth of Thripitakaya
After the Load Buddha’s ‘Parinirvana’ (passing away), Buddhism was verbally passed from generation to generation. In Sri Lanka, during the period of South Indian invasion, the Buddhist monks of that era highly concentrated regarding the dangerous situation of the existence of Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. As a result of the upheaval period, a group of monks left to India and hilly areas of Sri Lanka and finally returned to Anuradhapura.
Also during the reign of King Walagamba, Sri Lanka underwent ‘Baminithiyasaya’ (one of famine) for 12 years. At that time Buddhism was becoming to destroy. Under these conditions, memorizing and repeating the doctrine was difficult for Buddhist monks. Due to the ‘Baminithiyasaya’ Buddhist monks have faced many difficulties, and they had not sufficient alms.
However, the Buddhist monks were got together and decided to transcribe the Thripiṭakaya. This transcription was carried out for the preservation of Buddhism for future generations. The monks selected Matale Aluviharaya Rock cave temple as the most suitable and secure place to carry out this important event.
According to the historic data, it said that there are 500 scholar monks who had congregated at Aluviharaya Rock Cave temple to recite the doctrines and agreed to transcribe the doctrine in books which were made using ola leaves, in Sinhala, it was known as “Puskola Poth. The doctrines were written down in Pali language. They used a metal stylus to inscribe the characters on the ola leaves.
The old library of Aluvihare Rock CaveTemple is the safe house to protect the Thripitakaya. But according to the historical evidence in 1848, during the Matale Rebellion Thripitakaya was totally destroyed. Due to this incident, many parts of the Aluviharaya temple had been destroyed. However, the monks of few generations were again transcribed the Thripiṭakaya. It took a long time and only the first of three baskets of the law has been completed in 1982.
The Thripitakaya has been declared as a world heritage in President Maithripala Sirisena ruling period.
Aluviharaya Rock Cave Temple
When you enter the Aluviharaya Rock Cave Temple, first of all, we can see that there is a queue of elephants are molded at the entrance of the temple. At the entrance, there is a “Makara Thorana”. To enter the Aluviharaya, one has to climb a number of steps. Also, there are two pagodas. One is on the rock and the other one is close to the entrance of the temple. There are too many rock caves are situated in Aluviharaya Rock Cave temple.
According to the ancient inscriptions, the rock caves of Aluviharaya temple was the result of a massive landslide in the hill country. Currently, there are many caves located in the temple. Those caves are enclosed with ceiling paintings and impressive statues and images of Lord Buddha. Both standing and seated images of Load Buddha has been created in the main cave. There is another cave which is depicted of the hellish.
Also, one cave is dedicated to the Indian scholar-monk, Buddhagosha, who was the greatest interpreter of the Pali scriptures and who have spent several years at Matale Alu Viharaya to engage in his scholarly work. In “Sangayana Lena” there is a painting of “Maha Rahathan Throes” who were writing the Thripitakaya. We can see that the Kandyan period painting is covering the rock cave ceilings.
When we climb on one rock there is a “Bo” tree which was carved on the rock. Also, there was a Foot Print (Sri Pathula) and shapes of two oil lamps. Also, we can see that there is a gap which was explained that there is a tunnel which was used by King Walagamba for escape and hide.
In Aluviharaya rock cave temple, there is an old library and it is the safe house to protect the Thripitakaya and which contains a gallery of Buddhist statues made by clay, brass marble. Some of them have been gold plated. Also, there are some valuable Buddha statues and archaeological artefacts gifted by Siam, Cambodia, China, Japan, and Myanmar.
Annual Sangayana Perahera
Sangayana Perahera is the most colourful ceremony, which is annually held at historic Aluviharaya Rajamaha viharaya. The Perahera began its journey from Aluviharaya temple and go through the Matale streets with the placing of the casket containing the relics on the caparisoned elephant. It contains traditional dancing and all other traditional events. Annually, thousands of local and foreign peoples are visited Aluviharaya Rock cave temple to get the traditional knowledge as well as to see the historical values.