Matale is reputed owing to one of the important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. Temple is called Matale Aluvihara temple and one of the temples that travellers should include in their Sri Lanka tour package. The nearest city, as well as the place where the temple located, is called Matale. Matale is a beautiful city that lies between Kandy and Dambulla on A9 main road. The travellers who are travelling to Dambulla and Sigiriya from Kandy and vice versa encounter this beautiful city.
Aluvihare temple is located in a rocky outcrop and the part of the temple is located within natural caves. It is believed that the bo-tree and the Dagoba of the temple were built by King Devanampiyatissa. Due to the close proximity of Aluvihare to the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, the temple is rarely overlooked by the travellers who visit the world heritage sites in the cultural triangle.
During the excavation at the site, the archaeologists found 2 granite slabs (Chatragala and Yanthragala) and they were located in the dagoba. These stones were preserved at later date. These stones prove the opinion that King Devampiyatissa has erected the temple because these chartragal and yantragala were buried within the dagobas during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. Aluvihara abounding in regional assets gradually became a famous cave temple consisting of image houses, meditation cells and monasteries.
It is believed that the temple was built during the Anuradhapura period in the 3rd century B.C. Temple had been used as a monastery in the 3rd century B.C and the temple was patronage by King Devanampiyatissa. 5th Buddhist council took place in Aluvihara temple in the 5th century during the reign of King Walagambahu. First 3 Buddhist councils held in India and the fourth Buddhist council in Sri Lanka.
In the 1st century B.C, this temple had been a hiding place for King Vattagamini Abhaya. The king found shelter with the Buddhist monks at Aluvihara. King Walagambahu was helped by the monks in the temple in order to organize his army against the invaders from south India. Sri Lanka was controlled by the south Indian army for 16 years and the whole country was paralyzed by a severe famine.
After 16 years king managed to regain his throne by that time most of the elderly learned monks had died owing to sicknesses and famine. Since only the elderly monks knew the recitation of the Tripitaka, the king ordered the remaining elderly monks to write down the ancient text.
There had been 500 monks at the 5th Buddhist council at Aluvihara and lasted many years. Thereby this temple became a Buddhist learning centre in Sri Lanka. Aluvihara temple was rebuilt in recently after burnt down during the colonial period in Sri Lanka. Original Tripitaka written during the 5th council was destroyed and Tripitaka has been re-written. The Tripitaka incorporated the highest philosophy of the Buddha, Rules for the monks and rules for the laymen. It is also called the three baskets in Buddhism.
Sri Muththumari Amman Kovil
Sri Muththumari Amman Kovil is located in the city of Matale and its history goes back to the early 18000. The location of the present temple was used by the south Indian immigrants, who came to the island looking for employment. A small hut was erected for the purpose of worship at the site and it was further developed to a small temple.
The site of the temple was widened by acquiring the adjoining lands in 1852. It was during the riots in the 1980s that the temple was burnt. The present temple was built at the same location with donations and support from the devotee from Sri Lanka and India, today is one of the biggest Hindu temples on the island. Raja gopuram (Temple entrance) is the highest of the temple with 160 feet; the gopuram is made of nine floors. The outer wall of gopuram is adorned with historical events and statues, it said that the artist came from India to build the gopuram.
Kawatayamuna Raja Maha Vihara
The temple is located on Matale-Galewela road and it was built by the giant Sirisewun during the reign of King Gajabahu 1. At the beginning of the site, it was used as a place to gather and organize an army to fight against the South Indian invaders. Giant sirisewun is known to be jovial and like to make jokes with his friends owing to this reason he had a nickname called ‘Kawata’ or joker. Once the giant completes the temple it was named after his nickname and called Kawatayamuna Raja Maha Vihara. Temple is an important historical site and it is one of the few temples that show the different types of tortures in hell.
Nalanda image house is a Buddhist temple but in different architecture than the usual Buddhist image houses found in the country. It is built after the south Indian Pallava style. Every Buddhist temple has an image house with several Buddha statues in different postures. Likewise, Nalanda image house is also sheltering several Buddha statues. In the past, it had been an important Buddhist monastery. The information in this regards can be read in the stone inscription discovered at the site.
Like all other Gedige style construction, the entire building is constructed with stones. The location of the temple considered being the centre of the island and it is thirty minutes drive from the Matale city. The temple shows some Pallava style of architecture. The temple is made of three parts similar to Hindu temple namely inner sanctum, middle area, and the pavilion. The temple represents the Mahayana school of Buddhism, the temple is dating back to the 7th century and it housed images depicting Buddha and Bodhisatwa images. The original site of the temple was submerged in the Bowatenna reservoir, which came to be under the Mahaweli development project. The building was dismantled before the construction of the reservoir and rebuilt at the present site.
Nalanda image house is situated near the popular Matale city and it is about 2 hours drive from Kandy. Therefore most tourists, who make tours on the island, can visit the temple with a small detour. Nalanda is not a top-notch tourist attraction in Sri Lanka but it is worth to visit due to its unique architecture. Being a tourist attraction off the beaten track, most travellers are not willing to drive to the site. At present only the Gedige type building can be seen at the site and there is no other monument left from the ancient constructions.
Nalanda image house shows the characters of both Buddhism and Hinduism. This monument shows the influence of the Mahayana school of Buddhism and Theravada school of Buddhism. According to the archaeologists, Nalanda is dating back to between the eighth and ninth centuries. Nalanda image house is placed on a square platform near the Bowatenna reservoir. Image house is surrounded by beautiful mountains and patches of forests. The architectural design and concept of Nalanda are unique and this type of image house is not to be found anywhere else in Sri Lanka.
You may be surprised to hear that originally it was located in the Bowatenna reservoir. When the Mahaweli diversion project was commissioned, Nalanda Gedige was submerged in the waters of Bowatenna reservoir. But later it was removed from the original location and reassembled at the place, where it stands today.
It is believed that Nalanda was built at the centre of the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. A fortification was built at the site by King Parakramabahu the great during the medieval period. Later at the same place, a fort was erected by British colonial administrators, by considering its strategic location to face the rival forces of Kandyan kingdom. The fortification had been in use during the Kandyan rebellion in 1818.
Nalanda is the only image house in Gedige style built using stones on the island. All other Gedige style buildings on the island are constructed with bricks. According to the architecture, from the basement to the pinnacle Nalanda is constructed using a single material. Archaeologists believe it was due to the south Indian influence and Nalanda is a classic example of adopting the south-Indian knowhow in the Sri Lankan architecture.
There are several Kuvera figures here in a Lalithasana on a lotus pedestal. Several other figures representing God Ganesh, Bodhisatwa and Avalokiteshvara also can be found here. The complete construction is measured to be 900cm in height. At Gedige one can find Kama Sutra sculptures with Kajuravo influence and this is the only place, where you see this particular type of sculptures on the island.
Riverstone is one of the most scenic places on the island with very high biodiversity, which is only behind the Sinharaja forest reserve in terms of ecological importance. The Riverstone is declared as a conservation forest in 2000, Riverstone expands over 17,500 hectares in Matale and Kandy districts. River stone forest is made of different types of forests in the country such as tropical rain forests, intermediate montane forest, dry mixed evergreen forests, dwarf forests, dry path and shrubs forests. The forest is inhabited by large number of amphibian species. There are 1033 flowering plants in Riverstone and 160 species of it is endemic to the island.