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Aluvihara- where Tripitakas were written



A rock-cave shelter where Buddhist monks in Valagambas reign wrote the Tripitakas in Pali on ola leaves as indicated on the cave in Sinhala. 

(@ Sunday Observer) The epic reign of king Valagamba/Vattagamani (104-77 B.C.) would go into the annals of the Buddhist literary history as the Tripitakas (Buddhist scriptures) were written down on ola leaves in Pali by a conclave of Buddhist monks of the Aluvihara Temple, lying close to Matale.

These Tripitakas originally had come down by mere word of mouth by being committed to memory by Buddhist monks of the time. Such Tripitakas are classified into three divisions. They are Vinaya Pitakaya (Basket of discipline), Suthra Pitakaya (Basket of Discourse) and Abidarma Pitakaya (Basket of Metaphysics).

The entrance canopy has a prominent Pandal with an arch constructed out of concrete. From there is a steep ascent of stone steps leading to the meda midula - frontage terrace. Here looms a mass of rock boulders harbouring cave shelters.

Then from there, rises round and round steps of stone giving way to the other rock caves having well chiselled drip ledges on the apex. Mr. W. Edwin is in charge of the library housed in a commodious building which is named as the International Library and Museum for writing the Tripitakayas on ola leaves in Pali.

The foundation stone for this International Library and Museum was laid by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia on 17.2.1957.


Ancient stone steps leading to the rock cave of the temple.

He had been in Sri Lanka then to attend the Buddha Jayanthi Celebrations held in February 1957. This edifice was inaugurated by the late Premier, Srimavo Dias Bandaranaike on 1.9.1974. It was constructed with state funds.

Mr. W. Edwin, Librarin there, is a real repository of all Buddhist philosophy and other historical episodes connected with this Aluvihara Temple and other archaeological artifacts of cultural value. He was receptive to me and briefed me its origins.

There is an influx of tourists both home and abroad flocking to this historic temple. The library contains a gallery of antiques ranging from Buddhist statues, seated, standing made out of clay, brass, marble, while some of them have been gold plated.

There are priceless Buddha statues gifted by Siam, Cambodia, China, Japan, and Myrama (Burma), together with other archaeological artifacts pertaining to old Lanka, as well. Then there is also displayed Buddha statues of Mahayana sect gifted from countries like China, Japan, Cambodia and Korea. There are well bound Tripitakas on ola leaves written in Pali displayed in a separate bookshelf.

Then next comes an array of heaps of talipot leaves (fresh ones processed into ola leaves on which the scriptures are written with the aid of the panhida-stile.

These specimens are in the form of display to visiting tourists as Mr. Edwin, the Librarian has to explain to them in his lectures as to how these ola leaves are processed from the tali-pat palm-leaves. Besides. Mr. Edwin being proficient in Sinhala, Pali, Sanscrit, he is also well-versed in foreign languages like French, Italian and German as he delivers lectures in these languages on all aspects of making of ola leaves from scrap, and about the origins of Buddha statues and other stone monuments.

Among the antiques displayed are old brass lamps, arecanut cutters, swords, knives, ceramic ware, and other ornaments and implements of antiquity, as well.

This Aluvihara temple from ancient times had been called as Aloka vihara. Mr. Edwin told me that during the reign of Valagamba of the 1st century A.D., the Buddhist scriptures, those Tripitakayas were originally written on ola leaves in Pali at seven of those rock caves by an assembly of erudite Buddhist monks who were resident in those very caves. Of those seven caves, only three are remaining.

In the first cave about 25 feet long and 10 feet high was one of the venues where some of these archaic Tripitakayas were written on ola leaves in Pali by a team of Buddhist monks. On its apex is written in bold Sinhala letters that the Tripitakayas were written during the reign of king Valagamba at this cave shelter.

The rock cave shelter harbours an Image House. Its entrance doorway, overhead is surmounted with the typical Makara Thoranay motif flanked by janitors. There are also seated standing and recumbent Buddha statues of terra-cota, while the murals are adorned with paintings of Jataka stories. The cave ceilings are studded with fascinating paintings of lotus flowers in full bloom - all dating back to the Kandyan period of time.

Next comes a spiral stone staircase that terminates on its summit where the sacred Bodhiya stands cloistering an image house in this rock cave shelter.

The third cave is met amidst a conclave of rock boulders where is sheltered another rock cave where the Tripitakayas were written on ola leaves by the ancient Buddhist monks. Lying in the same premises where the Library stands, is another commodious building sheltering the Sanga Nivasa (Monks Residency).

This Sanga Nivasa was completed on 14.7.1994.

Inside the hall is placed a bronze plaque against its wall in which are inscribed both in Sinhala and English the following nobel but immortal words: "This Sanga Nivasa dedicated to the Sanga Fraternity became a reality on 14.7.1994 with meritorious act completed with the support of the Ven. Son Song Nayaka Thera, members of the Dayaka Sabha Hynn Bulsung Temple of Bulsung Sect in Korea and the Aluvihara Temple Development Fund initiated and constructed during the incumbency of Ven. Ethipola Sri Medhankara Nayake Priest, Chief High Priest, Matale District.

@ WWW Virtual Library Sri Lanka