Kandy, apart from the main attraction of the city, Temple of Tooth, is home for many other cultural and archaeological sites with high importance. Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya is one such Buddhist temple, situated in the village named Hindagala. It is famous among the tourists for its historical value, artistry and the beauty of the environ surrounding the temple.
The temple can be reached by travelling around 4km up along the Galaha road from Peradeniya town. The road is not in the best condition, but still is able to allow a smooth ride, despite the narrow and numerous bends.
It is difficult to decipher the original time period to which the construction of this temple belongs. Nevertheless, village folk as well as some academics believe that the temple belongs to the ruling era of King Walagamba, though the site doesn’t provides much evidence to prove it.
However, the temple provides evidence to locate it in the Anuradhapura period, as there are two inscriptions dated back to 6th and 7th centuries AD, one of those, records about a joint-grant offered to the temple in order to construct a Bodhighara (a protection-wall around the Bodhi tree), by a minister who had been in charge of a lodge called Patasala Abala. There is also a fragment of an ancient rock painting which belongs to the same period. Hence, it is evident that the temple’s establishment runs to the very early ages of civilisations.
It is mentioned that the sacred tooth relic, while it was conveying from Pusulpitiya Viharaya to Kandy in 1815, has been kept in the Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya for one night. It has been a reason for the high importance and respect that the temple receives from the locals.
Hindagala temple has few fragments of paintings, which are indeed great manifestations of ancient artistry. There is an old mural upon the surface of the hood of a cave, just below the drip ledge. The mural depicts two important incidents in the life of Buddha, i.e. the alms offered to Buddha by the two trader brothers, Thapassu-Bhalluka and the god Indra and other gods worshipping Buddha during his visit to Indasala cave. Though, parts of the paintings have been destroyed by a bushfire occurred in the area, they still showcase the beauty and the elegance of the original paintings.
The significance is that these paintings have been identified to belong to the period of Anuradhapura with the artistic features of the paintings found on the walls of Sigiriya.
While these two paintings belong to the Anuradhapura era, the paintings observed inside the caves are recognised to have artistic features of Kandyan Era as well as of the Gampola Era. At to that, there is a set of images drawn on the outer walls facing the verandah, which are mentioned to have been done in 1917. Therefore, Hindagala Temple‘s artistry is a blend of four periods that has been assorted perfectly.
The cave temple is another beautiful sight to see in here. It is located in the shadow of a huge boulder, and has a separate entrance doorway. It is decorated with an elegant makara thorana, decorated with pretty carvings and traditional art designs. There is another mural above the doorway demonstrating a scene of heavens where the lord is sitting in between two divyaangana (heavenly women) fanning him. Two images of Buddha, one seated and the other recumbent are found inside the cave temple, of which the seated Buddha statue is said to have been done by the famous queen, Henakanda Biso Bandara, during the era of Gampola Kingdom.
Several portions of the land of Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya have been declared as national archaeological sites and protected, but it does not prevent tourists from profiting the temple’s beauty and performing religious activities.
By Induwara Athapattu