Maligatenna Cave Temple


Maligatenna Cave Temple, located in the Gampaha District, is a fascinating historical site that holds immense cultural and archaeological significance. Situated in a small village along the Gampaha – Wathurugama Road, this ancient cave temple has stood the test of time for over a millennium. Recognized as an Archaeological Protected Site by the government, Maligatenna Temple is surrounded by other notable cave temples like Pilikuththuwa Cave Temple and Varana Cave Temple.

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History Unveiled

The history of Maligatenna Temple traces back to the Anuradhapura Era, spanning from the 4th century BC to the 11th century AD. The presence of Brahmi rock inscriptions in nearby temples indicates that Buddhist monks once inhabited these caves. Maligatenna, being in the same area, likely served the same purpose as a place of solace and meditation.

Tales of Kings and Ministers

Maligatenna Cave Temple served as a sanctuary for kings and their ministers during war and invasion. One prominent tale revolves around King Valgamba I, who sought refuge in the temple and other nearby caves when the Cholan army invaded the Kingdom of Anuradhapura. The intricate drip ledges carved in Maligatenna are believed to be the King's unique creations, leaving behind a testament to his presence.

The Holy Tooth Relic's Safe Haven

According to folklore, Maligatenna Temple played a significant role in protecting the Holy Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. In the turbulent era of the Kotte Kingdom, when the country faced invasion by the Portuguese, the Tooth Relic was in grave danger. The Village Head of Hiripitiya, Diyawadana Nilame, received a message from the King of Sithawaka, instructing him to transport the Tooth Relic to the country's middle for safekeeping. Maligatenna Temple is considered one of the first stops on the relic's journey before reaching its final destination in Kandy.

A Journey through the Temple

Visiting Maligatenna Temple is a captivating experience that takes you through its ancient structures and natural surroundings. As you approach the temple grounds, you'll be greeted by a magnificent flight of stone stairs leading to a panoramic view of the village of Waturgama.

Pahala Maluwa: The Lower Level

The temple is divided into two main levels, starting with the Pahala Maluwa or the lower level. This section comprises various significant structures:

Sri Devaraja Aakasha Chaitya Rajaya: A Gleaming Stupa

Recently renovated, Sri Devaraja Aakasha Chaitya Rajaya shines with its white exterior adorned with red trimmings. Visitors must ascend a rocky staircase with a white handrail to witness this stupa, offering a glimpse of its grandeur.

The Enigmatic Bo Tree

A visit to Maligatenna Temple is incomplete without exploring the captivating Bo Tree. To reach it, you'll pass through a narrow canyon, with tall rock cliffs on either side, occasionally adorned with hanging vines. The path even takes you through a small cave, adding to the sense of adventure and discovery.

Meditation Centre and Main Shrine

The temple grounds house several caves, some dedicated to meditation and religious practices. The largest cave, the Meditation Centre, is intricately connected to the Main Shrine. Vibrant paintings depicting stories of Buddhism adorn the shrine's walls, creating a mesmerizing ambience. Notably, a chilling sight within the meditation centre is a skeleton placed in a small alcove, symbolizing the transitory nature of life.

Ihala Maluwa: The Upper Level

To reach the temple's upper level, visitors must conquer the challenging climb up the ancient stone steps known as the Old Degaldoru Kurubil Stone Steps. Though the ascent is steep, the reward is breathtaking.

Panoramic Views from the Top

As you reach the summit, you'll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the Gampaha District. The vast greenery, interspersed with paddy fields and distant mountains, creates a picturesque sight.

Ancient Rock Pond and Legends

At the top of the hill, you'll discover an ancient rock pond, believed to have been built centuries ago. According to legends, this pond never dries up, even during the driest of seasons. The local belief is that anyone who bathes in its waters will be blessed with good health and fortune.

The Centuries-Old Bo Tree

Adjacent to the rock pond stands a majestic Bo Tree, estimated to be over a century old. This sacred tree holds immense religious significance for Buddhists, symbolizing enlightenment and spiritual awakening.

The Mystery of the Upper Pagoda

On the upper level, you'll also find a pagoda. Legend has it that a hidden treasure is buried beneath it, adding an air of mystery and intrigue to the temple's history.

The Maligatenna Cave Temple is a testament to Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage and serves as a window into the country's ancient past. From its historical significance to its breathtaking natural beauty, the temple offers visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in a world filled with legends and spirituality. Preserving and exploring such cultural treasures is crucial to understanding and appreciating the roots of Sri Lanka's vibrant history.


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