Dimbulagala Buddhist Monastery
Location of Dimbulagala Buddhist Monastery
Dimbulagala Buddhist Monastery, a forest hermitage then in the ancient era, and now a Buddhist temple as well as an archeological site is located 20km south east of Sri Lanka Holidays Polonnaruwa, the ancient kingdom of reservoirs (846 AD-1302 AD). Dimbulagala was known as Dhumarakka Pabbatha in The Mahavamsa or Great Chronicle, Sri Lanka’s non-stop epic. It was also known by the names “Udumbara Giri” [Sinahala: Hill of Woodapple] & “Dola Pabbatha”
Physical nature of the site
Rising 545m above the denuded surrounding plains, the imposing rock spire of Dimbulagala is surrounded by over 100 rock caves.
Off the beaten track Monastery
The rock caves at Dimbulagala have been in continuous use since the 3rd century BC. While the caves are intact, the scattered ruins of buildings surrounding it have been discovered from various periods between 300 BC- AD1200
Monks who lived at Dimbulagala monastery during ancient and medieval eras.
Dimbulagala also made its name for being the abode of Buddhist monk Ven. Kuntha Gantha Tissa who summoned a council of monks & set about to inscribe the Tripitake,(three books of Buddhist doctrine) in the ancient script of Pali without leaving same to oral tradition that had been continued since the time of Buddha. The monumental work was completed under the patronage of King Wattha Gamini Abhaya (Valagambahu) [89-76 BC] at Aluwihare Temple, Matale, Kandy
‘Saddharmalankarya’, one of the prominent literary works in Sinhala language narrates that the last arahat (the supremely enlightened one who broke free from the almost eternal cycle of birth & rebirth), Maliyadeva Thero lived in Sandamaha cave in Sri Lanka Holidays Dimbulagala. It is recorded, in the thirteenth century Buddhist monk Maha Kassapa Thera at Dimbulagala assisted King Parakrambahu the Great [1164-1197 AD] to summon a Vinaya Sangayana (reciting of the code of discipline) & to engage in renewal of Buddhist order.
Royals at the Dimbulagal monastery
It is believed that King Pandukabhaya [437-367 BC], son of Princess Unmada Chithra & Prince Diga Gamani, lived at Dimbulagala with Princess Swranapali for a brief period in the 4th century BC, hospitality being accorded by two demon captains Chitra Raja & Kala Vela, in human form. King Mutasiva, the successor of King Pandukabhaya was born to Princess Swaranpali at Dimbulagala.
King Devanampiya Tissa [307-267] in whose reign Buddhism took root in the island, was credited with the establishment of monastery at Sri Lanka Holidays Dimbulagala.
Being pleased with the contribution towards the Buddhism by Ven. Kuntha Gantha Tissa at Aluwihare Temple , King Wattha Gamini Abhaya (Valagambahu), nephew of the hero of the nation, King Duttha Gamini, had the caves had renovated & donated to the Order of Buddhist Bhikkus (monks), one of the triple gems of Buddhism, the other two being Buddha, the founder & his Doctrine.
During the 2nd century 1057 BC, King Vijayabahu [1065-1120 AD] restored the Dimbulagala monastery which had suffered at the hands of marauding Dravidian invaders from Southern India.
Rock Inscriptions at t Dimbulagala
A number of caves with inscriptions over the drip ledges provide the historians valuable information. One Brahmi inscription indicates Queen Sundari, daughter-in-law of King Vijayabahu of Polonnaruwa, once lived at Sri Lanka Holidays Dimbulagala of. An inscription at Sundaramaha devi cave in the 12th century indicates that 500 monks resided there at that time. The Brahmi inscriptions depict the earliest form of Sinhala writing.
Irreverence at Dimbulagala by the British colonialists [1815-1948]
The legendary ancient monastery of the order of Buddhism, a non-violent doctrine, was rechristened “Gunner’s Quoin” by the British in Ceylon. During the colonial era, the island of Sri Lanka was known by the name of Ceylon. Such was the unfathomable irreverence of the British during the colonial era.
The modern Dimbulagala temple
The temple at the base of the rock is built in a large cave where over 300 pilgrims could be accommodated. With a bit of bent of adventure, you can take the path past a sequence of caves to a stupa at the summit of the rock. The hot climb with Sri Lanka Holidays is rewarded with grand views of dry-zone landscape at the summit.
Pulligoda Rock Cave close to t Dimbulagala Monastery
On a rocky outcrop next to the lovely Hitcha Pitcha weva reservoir is a shallow rock cave, home to a series of frescoes, though in a much dilapidated state unable to hide its artistic elegance and archeological value. According to the archeologist Dr. Raja de Silva the artistic style is of some similarities to that of acclaimed Sigiriya frescoes at Sigiriya Lion Rock Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka.