Aluvihare Rock Cave Temple – Matale
Aluvihare Rock Cave Temple is located in Matale, a significant tourist attraction and a shrine devoted to Lord Buddha. Aluvihare is where the verbal education of Buddhism (Tripitaka) was drafted into Pali on palm leaves.
This monastery complex is a fascinating place with caves, religious paintings, and stupas. The Aluvihare Rock cave temple is adored by both Buddhists and Hindus. There is a little museum on the path, which you can view within a short term.
According to myths, a giant used three rocks as a base for his dish pot, and the name Aluvihare (Ash Monastery) refers to the ashes from the cooking fire. You can see the Buddha paintings and frescoes used to decorate the large caves of the temple. There are lots of steep stairs to the caves.
History of Aluvihare Rock Temple
The history of the Aluvihare Rock Temple extends back to King Devanampiyatissa. It is believed that the King constructed the dagoba, planted the Bo tree, and founded the temple after Buddhism was introduced to the country during his tenure. The temple was a significant location where the Pli Canon, the Buddhist philosophical doctrines, was first entirely written down on palm leaves.
Significance of Aluvihare Rock Temple
The Aluvihare Rock Temple is significant in the annals of Sri Lanka because it was there that the Pli Canon was first written on Ola leaves. During the reign of King Walagamba in the 1st century B.C., Sri Lanka endured a 12-year famine known as "Baminithiyasaya." The Buddhist priests of that period recognised that these issues threatened the survival of Buddha Sasana in the country. Under these conditions, memorising and reciting the Dhamma (doctrine) was challenging. Therefore, approximately sixty of them travelled to Malaya Rata, which is said to be the country's hilly region. Nevertheless, they endured severe conditions on the banks of the Mahaweli River for twelve years until the famine ended.
Preservation of Buddhist doctrine
Additionally, the Aluvihare Rock Temple is important for preserving Buddhist doctrine. During the difficult period of famine and South Indian invasion, the monks who had departed for India and the hilly regions of Sri Lanka returned to Anuradhapura and decided to transcribe the Tripitaka for future use. The priests determined that the Aluvihare Rock Temple in Matale was the most appropriate and secure location for this significant event. Before transcription, it is said that 500 learned monks gathered at Aluvihare Rock Temple to recite the doctrines and concur on an acceptable rendition. Locally known as puskolo poth, ola leaf-bound volumes were used for the transcription. The doctrines were recorded in the Pali language on thick strips fashioned from the Palmyra or talipot palm fronds. The Ola leaves were inscribed with characters using a metal stylus.
Destruction of the temple complex and library
During the 1848 Matale Rebellion, the ancient library at Aluvihare Rock Temple was obliterated, destroying the volumes of these transcribed manuscripts that had been securely stored there for centuries. This was a significant loss, as the library housed numerous important manuscripts and artefacts. However, Tripiaka's transcription had already ensured the doctrine's preservation.
The recompilation of the Tripiṭaka
In the late 19th century, the Tripiaka was constructed following the devastation of the library. A group of Buddhist scholars and monks led this endeavour, working assiduously to recover the scattered ola leaves and recreate the original manuscripts. The recompiled Tripiaka was then published as a book to ensure its preservation for future generations.
The main cave of Aluvihare Rock Temple
The primary cavern of Aluvihare Rock Temple is the largest and most significant cavern within the temple complex. It contains several important artefacts, such as an enormous recumbent Buddha statue and several ancient frescoes depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. The cave also has several smaller shrines and altars where visitors can pay their respects and venerate.
Frescoes and images
The frescoes and images at Aluvihare Rock Temple are among the most significant and well-preserved Buddhist works of art in Sri Lanka. Many of the frescoes depict images from the life of the Buddha, while others depict various Buddhist deities and other mythological figures. The frescoes' intricate details and vibrant colours are awe-inspiring, and visitors to the temple are frequently overwhelmed by their beauty.
The Bo tree and other temple complex features
According to legend, King Devanampiyatissa planted the sacred Bo tree at the Aluvihare Rock Temple. It is one of the oldest and most revered Bo trees in Sri Lanka and a popular destination for pilgrims and temple visitors. In addition to lesser shrines, meditation chambers, and other places of worship, the temple complex contains several additional essential elements.
The temple's architecture and construction
Aluvihare Rock Temple's architecture is a testimony to the skill and ingenuity of the ancient Sri Lankan artisans who constructed it. Several interconnected caverns and structures are carved directly into the rock face, forming the temple complex. The extraordinary carvings and decorations that adorn the walls and ceilings of the caverns are a testament to the ancient builders' skill and artistic ability.
How to reach Aluvihare Rock Temple
To reach Aluvihare Rock Temple, take a tuk-tuk or taxi from Kandy, central Sri Lanka. The temple is about 30 minutes away from Kandy and easily accessible by road. You can also take a bus from the Kandy bus station to Matale and get off at Aluvihare. From there, the temple is a short walk away.
If you are coming from Colombo, you can take a train to Kandy and proceed to the temple using one of the above methods. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi or take a bus directly from Colombo to Aluvihare.
It is always a good idea to check with the locals or your accommodation for the best way to reach the temple, as they may have more updated information on transportation options and schedules.