Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Viharaya – Madawachchiya


Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Viharaya more than 2200 years ago by King Devanampiyatissa, right after Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka. The title of the temple translates to “the rock that the sage came down from”. The old stupa had been destroyed over time, and the new stupa is built in the same place, which is on top of a beautiful rock. The temple consists of a dragon entrance, ancient ruins, a statue of King Devanampiyatissa and a sacred bo tree.

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Historical Background

Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya was established when Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. King Devanampiyatissa played a pivotal role in propagating Buddhism and constructing of Buddhist monuments across the country. The establishment of this complex marks a significant milestone in the spread of Buddhism, symbolizing the acceptance and integration of the Buddhist faith into the local culture.

Significance of Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya

Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya holds immense religious and historical significance for Sri Lank Buddhists. It serves as a place of worship and pilgrimage for devotees who seek blessings and spiritual solace. The complex is a testament to the enduring influence of Buddhism in the country and provides a serene and peaceful atmosphere for visitors to connect with their faith.

The Naga Connection

Excavations conducted at Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya have revealed artifacts that provide evidence of the existence of the Naga tribal community in ancient Lanka. Among the discoveries is the Naga Gala, the Snake Stone. This stone is believed to have been worshipped by the Naga tribes before the arrival of Buddhism. The Naga Gala's presence underscores the site's cultural and historical depth.

The Sri Pathul Gala and Lord Buddha

Another significant artifact found at the complex is the Sri Pathul Gala, a footprint of Lord Buddha. The Sri Pathul Gala is a relic of the past, offering a glimpse into the time when Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka. This sacred footprint is important for Buddhists and represents the historical connection between Lord Buddha and the island.

The Entrance and Golden Buddha Statue

As visitors approach Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya, they are greeted by a magnificent entrance adorned with a carving of a white dragon. This entrance sets the tone for the spiritual journey ahead. Upon ascending the steps, visitors are met with a golden Buddha statue and a statue of King Devanampiyatissa, both of which stand near the balustrades.

The Rock Ascend and Balustrades

Ascending the rock leads visitors to the plateau's top, where Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya's main temple awaits. The journey up the rock is a symbolic representation of the spiritual ascent towards enlightenment. The balustrades lining the path hold symbolic significance and provide a sense of protection and reverence as visitors make their way to the main temple.

The Main Temple: Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya

At the pinnacle of the rock stands the main temple of Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya. This temple is the focal point of the complex, attracting devotees and pilgrims from far and wide. Visitors come to seek blessings, engage in religious rituals, and make offerings to honour their faith. The main temple showcases exquisite architecture and intricate designs, reflecting the rich Buddhist heritage of Sri Lanka.

The Cave Room: Arahath Guhawa

Within the complex, there is a cave room known as Arahath Guhawa. This ancient room houses a revered statue that reflects the legendary belief that Arahath and several other Buddhist monks arrived at this historical region before reaching Mihintale. The cave room provides a glimpse into the early days of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It serves as a reminder of the profound spiritual journey undertaken by Lord Buddha and his disciples.

Isinbassagala: The Rock that the Sage Came From

Isinbassagala, the name of the rock on which the complex stands, translates to "the rock that the sage came from." This name holds deep significance, as it is believed that Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment at this location. The word "isi" is derived from the Sanskrit word "rishi," which means "the sage." Isinbassagala stands as a testament to this sacred moment in Buddhist history.

The Cobra Stone and Naga Worship

The presence of the Cobra Stone at Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya represents two stages of worship. It signifies the object of worship for the Naga (Cobra) tribes that inhabited the region before Buddhism's arrival. The Cobra Stone now rests in the "Bo Maluwa," where the Bodhi tree is located, while the Sri Pathul Gala is cleverly concealed beneath a Buddha statue to protect it from treasure hunters.

The Serene Buddha Statue and King Devanampiyatissa

Halfway up the climb to the top of the rock, visitors will encounter a serene Buddha statue and a statue of King Devanampiyatissa. These statues serve as visual reminders of the historical and religious significance of the complex. They pay homage to the ancient era and the revival of the temple that took place in the 1900s. A faded rock inscription beneath a bust provides glimpses into the building's history.

Breathtaking Views and Main Temple Premises

Aside from its religious and historical importance, Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. From the rear of the main stupa, visitors can enjoy a 360-degree view of the entire area, immersing themselves in the natural beauty of Sri Lanka. The main temple premises, located behind the rock, offer further opportunities for exploration and contemplation.

Location and Accessibility

Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya is located along the A9 road, the major highway connecting Kandy and Jaffna. Travelling 1.4 kilometres (0.9 miles) from the small town of Medawachchiya on the A9 highway, visitors will find this beautiful stupa atop a large rock. The site is easily accessible by road, allowing visitors to embark on a spiritual and historical journey to this significant Buddhist complex.

Construction and Excavations

The current structures seen at Isinbassagala Ruwangiri Rajamaha Viharaya were reconstructed in the first half of the 20th century. The reconstruction aimed to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the site. Excavations in the area unearthed the ancient Naga Gala, providing insights into the pre-Buddhist era of ancient Lanka. Additionally, artifacts such as the Sri Pathul Gala were discovered, further enriching the historical significance of the complex.


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