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Magul Maha Viharaya

By Gaurav Manandhar at
Magul Maha Viharaya

Magul Maha Viharaya: An ancient Buddhist temple of Sri Lanka

Magul Maha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple located at Lahugala, Ampara District of Sri Lanka. It lies on the northern edge of the Lahugala National Park which is about 22 km away from Siyambalanduwa town and about 11 km away from Pottuvil town. It is believed that the temple was established in 2nd century BCE during the period of King Kavantissa. However, there is still confusion regarding the construction of this temple since there are other legends as well regarding the construction of the temple. It is speculated that around 12,000 monks inhabited the complex at some stage in history, which is evident in the largeness of the ancient temple.

At present period, we can only observe the ruins of Magul Maha Vihara which have been transformed into the major tourist attraction and Buddhist pilgrimage sites.

Legends associated with Magul Maha Viharaya

It is believed that the construction of the temple was initiated by the King Kavantissa, the Kingdom of Ruhuna in ancient Sri Lanka. He built the temple on the exact location where he married the princesses Viharamahadevi, the daughter of King Kelani Tissa.

There are other sources which claim that the temple was constructed by King Dhatusena. With the passage of time, the temple was renovated by other fellow rulers. To support this claim, there is a 14 century stone inscription at the site of this temple.

The extended version of the first legend goes like this- once the gods were very angry with the King Kelanitissa because he punished an innocent monk. Therefore to appease them, the King's daughter, Viharamaha Devi volunteered to sacrifice herself to the sea. Since the princess was full of innocence and the pure heart, she was safely carried over the ocean waves to the shore. Later she met King Kavantissa in Pottuvil. The legend also shares that they both got married. To celebrate the auspicious event, the King had later built the temple. It can still be seen the foundations of the Magul Maduwa at the temple premises.

After its establishment, Magul Maha Vihara had been renovated several times. As mentioned in 14th century stone inscription mentions about a queen, Viharamaha Devi, wife of King Buvenekabahu IV of Gampola and Parakramabahu V of Gampola, who renovated and donated many acres of land to this temple. This inscription mentions the temple as Ruhunu Maha Viharaya.

Some sources claim that king Dappula I constructed Magul Maha temple after listening to the teaching of the Buddha through Buddhist monks.

Surroundings and ruins of the temple

At present condition, we can observe there are a significant amount of ruins of the ancient temple on the premises. But there are the structures that are in good conditions, like the image shrine, the Bodhi Tree (sacred fig) and the stupa. The main gate along with a solidly built wall which surrounds the buildings and the remains of a small shrine are some of the structures that we can be seen at the site. These walls were built with moonstone which is equipped with elephants with riders on their backs. This type of image is something unseen in all other Sri Lankan moonstones. The stupa is built on a high terrace with three staircases leading up to it. There are images of grand lion guardians at the top of these stairs.

Apart from these structures, there are other ruins structures of the palace, moonstone, monastery, bo-maluwa, stupas as well. These structures are scattered around 10,000 acres of land which is surrounded by the forest of the Lahugala National Park.

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