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Buddhism in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a leading Buddhist country in the region and the majority of Sri Lankan’s are believing in Buddhism. A large number of Buddhist temples, Buddhist teaching centres, universities, meditation centres, Piriven or schools for Buddhist monks and many other institutions closely related to Buddhism are to be found throughout the island. It is estimated that more than 3000 Buddhist temples are scattered around the island.
Sri Lanka is a leading destination in the regions for Buddhist pilgrimage tours. A large number of Buddhists arrive on the island from countries like Thailand, Burma, China in order to visit popular Buddhist religious sites such as Tooth relic temple, Sri maha bodhi.
Buddhism is the base of Sri Lanka society. According to the Buddhist ideology the religious equality, gender equality, ethnic harmony, freedom of expression are among the main characteristics that should be visible in society. Buddhism is the most ancient religion in Sri Lanka, which was introduced into the island in the 2nd century BC by Srahat Mahinda. Since then Buddhism is the state religion of Sri Lanka.
Today, I’m making this note about Seruwuila Raja maha vihara. Seruwila Buddhist temple is one of the most ancient temples on the island and has a very important historical background. In the backdrop of high religious and historic importance, the temple is still not in the radar of travellers. It remains as one of the beaten path tourist attractions in Sri Lanka despite its historical importance.
The reason I believe that it remains an unpopular tourist place due to its remoteness. The temple tucked away in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka demanding the visitors to make well over 6 hours trip from Colombo. It is not a Sri Lanka day trip attraction. A trip to Seruwila Tempel should at least be a 2 days Sri Lanka trip.
If you visit a Sri Lanka Buddhist temple, there are few facts that you need to know. Especially the dress code, which should be in the prefered manner, so that it does not harm the feeling of the devotees.
All visitors to these sacred places suppose to dress in a particular manner to uphold its religious value. There is a set of rules that every visitor of religious site observe while visiting sacred places in Sri Lanka. If you are wondering what these rules are? Check this article “13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE AND TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRESS CODE“.
Seruwila Buddhist Temple
Seruwila Raja Maha Vihara is a historically important Buddhist temple located in eastern Sri Lanka in the district of Trincomalee. Seruwila Raja Maha Vihara is one of most sacred places for the Buddhist on the island and it is a place for pilgrimage tours. Seruwila Raja Maha Vihara is a popular temple among the local travellers but it is rarely included in Sri Lanka tour itineraries made for foreign travellers, due to the remoteness from Colombo.
This ancient temple is one of the few places on the island, where Buddha had been to, in the 6th Century BC. Seruwila Raja Maha Vihara is one of the good examples to show the occupation of Sinhala Buddhist in the Eastern Province from the early days of the civilization on the island. Even though about the Sinhala Buddhist in the region first being mention with the arrival of Buddha, historians believe that the area was inhabited by native indigenous people since the beginning of Stone Age.
History of Seruwila
Historical evidence suggests that the temple was inhabited by a large number of monks. The temple with 500 monks had been well-developed monastery complex; it was consisting of living quarters for monks, image house, Dagoba, Bo-tree and other amenities required by the monks. King Kawantissa had granted a number of villages to the temple. The earnings from the villages had been used to maintain the temple.
The most important element of this temple is the Dagoba, which enshrined the hair relic of Buddha. Part of the hair relic of Buddha that was received by Thapassu, Balluka (two Indian merchants) are enshrined in the Dagoba. The ancient chronicle Dhatuwansa claims that the dagoba was built by King Kawantissa (205-61 BC).
According to the historical evidence a Bo-tree was planted in a nearby Buddhist village in 3rd century BC. The village, where the Bo-tree was planted is identified as the modern Kiliveddi by the historians. The Bo-tree was known as Sri Wardana Bodhi and was managed by Seruwila Raja Maha Vihara; the Bo-tree was destroyed by the terrorists during the civil war.
Archaeologists have found the number of artefacts during the excavation at the Seruwila Raja Maha Vihara. Based on the findings at the site, archaeologists believe that the temple had been an important religious place for the Nagas tribe.
Two rare Buddha statues were among the valuable items that were unearthed at the site, one statue is protected by a nine hooded cobra and another one is protected by a cobra with seven heads. There is a large number of monuments are still hidden in the jungle. Hundreds of houses made of stones, stone ponds, and remnants of Buddhist temples are among the valuable items found during the excavations.
The revival of the temple
The modern revival of this historical, sacred place starts with the arrival of Sumedhankara Maha Nahimi (chief monk) in 1921. Initially, the sacred area was inhabited by wild animals such as elephants, bear, and leopards etc. furthermore there were lots of hardships for the monks during the thirty years civil war in eastern Sri Lanka.
A large number of people fled villages around the temple due to threats from the terrorists. But the braveness of the monks made them stay behind and help the remaining families of the nearby villages. Thanks to the number of Buddhist monks, it has become a well built Buddhist temple today and which helps to prove the inheritance of Sinhalese Buddhist in eastern Sri Lanka.
How to get there
There are two main routes to reach Seruwila Raja Maha Vihara. one is from Trincomalee while the second route begins in Kantalay. In the first route, one needs to go by boat to Muttur, which is located around 14 km from Trincomalee then a 16 km long drive to Seruwila Raja Maha Vihara. Kinniyatota and Uppuarutota are two important landmarks that are passed along this way. Most Buddhist are using the second route which starts from Kantalay and the drive estimated to be around 90 km.