The Gadaladeniya Vihara – also referred to as the Saddharmatilaka Vihara or Dharma Kirthi Viharaya – is one of the most ancient Buddhist temples found in Sri Lanka. Considered to be one of the largest rock temples found on the island, a stop here is a must if you’re touring through Kandy.
The origins of the temple can be dated all the way back to the 14th century, back during the reign of King Bhuvanekabahu IV. Under his patronage, the temple was built in 1344 by the Ven. Seelavamsa Dharmakirti – a renowned Buddhist monk of the time. Evidence of this is found via an inscription carved onto a rocky outcrop above the temple – it details the names involved in the temple’s construction. During the late 17th century, the temple was abandoned and began to fall into ruin. However, in the early 18th century, King Vira Parakrama Narendra Singha renovated the site and handed it over to Weliwita Sri Saranankara Thero – a pioneer of the Buddhist revival movement during this age. The monk’s disciples inherited the temple and have continued to care for it to this day.
There are many sights to see here at the Gadaladeniya Vihara, but you’ll want to make sure that you experience the full majesty of the central temple first. Here, everything is carved or sculpted out of granite and it makes for quite an impressive viewing. Several prominent Buddha statues are found within the temple, often flanked by sculptures of the devas such as Vishnu.
The Gadaladeniya Vihara is considered to be an architectural landmark for Sri Lanka. It showcases the craftsmanship and skills of ancient Sri Lankan artists and their ingenuity when it came to creating distinct structures. You’d be remiss to miss out on this amazing cultural attraction during your visit to Kandy.