The rock, ancient white building, and the Buddha statue at the Aluvihara rock temple.
Aluvihara Rock Temple, One of the Wonderful Religious Sites in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a country with a majority of Buddhist population. Thus, the country’s culture and lifestyle have a strong influence from Theravada Buddhism. Many tourists visit Sri Lanka to study Buddhist philosophy and lifestyle. Also, there is a long history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Therefore, there are many iconic Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka to visit. Aluvihara rock temple is also one such iconic Buddhist site that would reveal to you a lot about Sri Lanka’s Buddhist heritage.

It is also famous as the Matale Aluviharaya. Besides, it is among the most popular Buddhist temples in the Matale district. Moreover, the Aluvihara rock temple is also one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the country. In fact, its history traces back to the 3rd century BC.

So, the rock cave temple is certainly a must-visit ancient site if you are visiting the Matale area. If you also have an interest in visiting historical Buddhist sites, Aluvihara rock temple should definitely be on your list.

Continue reading to know more about this wonderful religious attraction!

History of Aluvihara Rock Temple

During the reign of King Walagamba, Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka faced many challenges. That was mainly due to severe famine and foreign invasions. Afterward, the Buddhist monks who could survive this challenging period decided to transcribe the Tripitaka (philosophical doctrines of Buddhism) for the benefit of future generations. In order to perform this important event, they needed a very secure place and they chose the Aluvihare rock temple to carry out this event.

According to historical beliefs, King Devanampiyatissa built this temple during the 3rd century BC. During the Matale rebellion in 1848, the old library and many other parts of the Aluvihare temple were destroyed. It took centuries to recompile the old temple. Today, the Aluvihare rock temple is preserved and is considered a heritage representing Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The long history of the temple makes it one of the most significant locations in the country.

Significance of Aluvihara Rock Temple

As mentioned earlier, the Aluvihara rock temple is very significant for Sri Lankan Buddhism as it is famous as the birthplace of Tripitaka. Tripitaka consists of three sections the Vinaya Pitaka (Basket of Discipline), Sutta Pitaka (Basket of Discourse), and Abhidhamma Pitaka (Basket of Metaphysics). More than 500 Maha theros got together at the Aluvihara temple to transcribe the Tripitaka which used to come down by mere word of mouth from the memory of the Buddhist monks. Hence, Sri Lankan history introduces the Aluvihare rock temple as an iconic location where the Pali canon was first written down completely.

Apart from that, there are many ancient inscriptions, paintings, and statues related to a very important period of Buddhism in the temple. Furthermore, its unique structure also brings a lot of attention to the Aluvihare temple. The beautiful ancient site will prove to you why it is one of the most significant Buddhist sites if you visit it!

The Structure and the Features of the Aluvihare Rock Temple

One of the most striking features of the Aluvihare rock temple is its caves. There is a belief that they were caused by a landslide. There are many caves with inscriptions within the Aluvihara temple premises. So, there is simply a lot to see in these caves. However, modern wall and ceiling paintings cover these caves.

In addition, there are several Buddha statues in these caves. Specifically, inside the main cave, there is a large reclining statue of Buddha and also other standing and seated Buddha statues as well. Then, in another cave, there are terrifying depictions of what seems to be hell. One of the other caves is dedicated to the famous Indian monk, Buddhagosha thero. To the eastern side of the main rock cave, there is a huge rock that surprisingly doesn’t cut out the lights to the cave. Also, it is a must note that this temple is in such a beautiful location with picturesque surroundings. So, altogether, there is indeed a lot for you to explore in this wonderful religious site.

Location of the Temple

The sacred Buddhist temple is in the Aluvihare area of the Matale district. To be specific, it is in a village which is famous as Thotagamuwa. It is situated exactly 3 kilometers away from Matale and 30 kilometers south of Kandy on the Matale-Dambulla road. There are several other tourist attractions located close to the historic temple. They are Padiwita Ambalama, Hunnasgiriya waterfall, Sri Muthumari Amman Kovil, and the Balakaduwa Ella waterfall.

How to Reach the Temple

Reaching this temple is never a big deal! You can easily reach it from any of the main cities of the country. The following sections will make you realize it!

From Colombo

Aluvihare rock temple is situated 148 kilometers away from the main city of Colombo. So, if you are traveling from Colombo, the cheapest option would be taking the train from Fort station to Matale station and taking the rest of the distance to the temple by taxi. If not, you can also travel by bus where you can get the bus from the Colombo Bastian Mawatha bus terminal to the Kandy Good Shed bus station. From there, you can again take a bus to Matale. However, if you don’t like traveling by public transportation, you can also arrange private transport from the airport itself as well.

From Kandy

The distance between Kandy and Aluvihare rock temple is just 28 kilometers. So, if you are traveling from Kandy, the easiest option is taking the train from the Kandy railway station to Matale station and traveling the rest of the distance by taxi. If not, you can also take a bus to Matale from the Kandy Good Shed bus stand. The journey will only take about 1 and a half hours. From Kandy also, you can easily arrange private transport. 

The Bottom Line

Sri Lanka is popular as the wonder of Asia for a very good reason. Simply, the number of tourist destinations that you can visit in this island nation will surely prove this fact. The historic and religious locations take an important place in this list. In fact, your trip to Sri Lanka won’t be complete without paying a visit to a Buddhist temple. So, if you are wondering about which Buddhist temples are best to visit in Sri Lanka, you should really consider paying a visit to the Aluvihare rock temple in Matale for the above-mentioned reasons. Happy and safe traveling!