The Aancient Cave Temple


In any reference to Aanuradhapura the picture that immediately flashes into one’s mind are the majestic monuments such as Ruwanweliseya which are symbolic of the country’s rich Buddhist cultural heritage. Their overpowering presence in a way has hidden the existence of many other hallowed and sacred places of historical and religious value of that ancient era. These remains to-day mostly in ruins scattered all over the environs and neighboring regions of the holy city which continued to be the capital of the Anuradhapura kingdom for over two thousand years commencing from King Pandukabhaya’s region in fourth century BC.

One such lesser known place that lay mostly in ruins today is situated in a serene forest-clad area called Handagala cave. Several centuries ago a cave temple of much religious and cultural value which had existed here now remains mostly in ruins. The rocky hill on which the cave temple existed rises to a height of around three hundred feet from the surrounding plain and reaches height of 648 ft above mean sea level. It stands out prominently from the locality that is typically representative of a purana viilege in the North Central Province. The hill is studded with as many as forty-five caves almost all of which are drip- ledged that is indicative of human intervention to assist in the occupation of the caves .Some of the caves located at a considerable height from the surrounding plain could be reached only with much effort. In the very ancient past these caves had served as an ideal haven that provided a serene atmosphere for priests deeply immersed in meditation. The name Handagala (meaning moon –rock) may have been coined because of the prominently located circular boulder on the hill crest that could be seen from a considerable distance over the surrounding forest cover the resembling the full-moon.

Nearly two thousand years later ,to coincide with the 2600 Buddha Jayanthi, a vast renovation and development project to restore ‘Handagala Gal-len Raja Maha VIharaya’ to its former glory has commenced in January 2011 under the energetic leadership of Ven.Kndewe Samitha thero with advice from the Archaeological Department