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 Post subject: Dowa Raja maha Viharaya
 Post Posted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 2:32 am 
The secrets of Dowa Raja maha Viharaya


by Damitha Hemachandra

It looks too good for a temple built in a hurry. Nestled among the scenic mountains, lush vegetation and the Badulu Oya, Dowa Raja Maha Viharaya, a cave temple built by King Walagamba holds many historic secrets.

The legend holds that the cave temple was built by King Walagamba while he was in hiding from Indian invaders who were ruling the country at the time. Explaining the unfinished stone statue of the Buddha, villagers say that the king left the temple in a hurry using a secret tunnel, which connects Dowa Cave temple to Rawana Maha Viharaya in Ella.

Yet the entrance to the 11 km long secret tunnel guarded by a statue of a cobra has been locked away for nearly four decades and its outlet in Ella too is prohibited to the public for security reasons and earthslips.

"The tunnels, which were in good condition until the 1960s, were used by many including treasure hunters, forcing us to cement and lock the entrance," the guardian of the temple said.

Only the entrance stands today, looking mysterious and strange to the beholder marked by a small stupa and a group of clay cobras.The temple had its own share of vandalism with treasure hunters over the decades ravaging the shrine room in search of hidden gold and gems.

The only treasure the shrine room holds are metal and bronze statues of the Buddha belonging to various ages and exhibiting skilled craftsmanship.

Today the only link the temple holds to King Walagamba, a king of the first century BC, is the half finished statue carved on a fragile granite block. The statue measuring 38 feet resembles the Avukana Buddha statue. Adjoining the statue is a giant sapu tree supported by a granite slab and fighting for its existence with the statue since the roots of the tree are weakening the structure of the granite statue base.

The rest of the temple is mainly of the Kandyan period. The shrine room adorned with two-dimensional Kandyan paintings depicting various Jathaka stories is built into a rock cave by the kings of Kandy.

The rock canopy is painted with lotus and other flowers while a rare painting known as 'Ath-Gon Satana' is hidden among the flowery patterns, illustrating a fight between a tusker and a bull. Other rare sites include two statues of Watuka and Kuvera, two Rakshasa tribal leaders, guarding the entrance to the shrine room.

The historic emblems had been given high importance in the Dowa temple. The temple not only displays Rakshasa leaders at the entrance but uses the sign of the cobra repeatedly demanding respect, reverence and prohibiting intrusion. Not only do they guard the entrance but the jug used for serving water to the Buddha too is made in the shape of a cobra mystifying the outlook of the whole temple.


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 Post subject: Bogoda and Dowa cave temples
 Post Posted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 2:35 am 
Bogoda and Dowa cave temples

As expected, the highlight of my vacation was visiting a few crumbly old cave temples.

By Loki

The first was the Bogoda Raja Maha Viharaya, just off the Hali-Ela junction, famous for its wooden bridge that spans across the Gallanda Oya. It is supposed to be the only roofed bridge in Sri Lanka left over from the Kandyan period. There are rumours of it being the oldest surviving wooden bridge in the world but I have yet to verify that. Another interesting fact is that it has no nails; all the wooden bits slot into each other perfectly.

The cave temple itself was tiny, badly in need of repair. There were two Buddha statues and a few paintings, certainly nothing too impressive to the untrained eye. However, a disturbingly good looking adolescent monk informed me that the reclining Buddha statue has a carved image of Vishnu partially hidden behind it dating back to, get this - 1 BC. Also there’s the small mystery of the “Makara Thorana” (makara is a hodge-podge creature combining features of several animals, generally used as a symbol of protection and thorana means “throne”)*. The one at Bogoda deviates from convention by depicting the mouth and trunk of the dragonlike animal facing and directly above the Buddha statue as opposed to the usual sideways posture. The monk said that Bogoda was the only temple on the island that displays this feature.

The actual temple dates back to King Walagamba’s time although the statues had already been there along with the shrine to Vishnu. The King had built the temple and eventually taken refuge there for several years, while the Indian armies were on the rampage, probably looking to chop his head off.

Now comes the really interesting part; there’s a cave out back where the King is supposed to have camped out. There is also a small, damp, dark, tunnel that leads into the rock. I crawled in, on my hands and knees until the first bend and then chickened out. Its not only supposed to be home to an army of bats but the odd garandiya (rat-snake) is supposed to nest there too. If I had a flashlight I might have dared venture in a little further, but in that utter blackness, I figured I had played enough explorer for the day. If anything encouraged me, it was the folk tales that speak of colourful frescoes on the tunnel walls. Sigh.

The monk also told us that the tunnel has fallen in, in several places and that nobody is quite sure exactly where it leads although his best possible guess is the Dowa Rajamaha Viharaya, by a strange twist of fate, our next destination!

The temple at Dowa, bordering the Badulla-Bandarawela highway, was rather stunning, from the sculptures at the entrance to the gorgeus wall to ceiling paintings on the inside. To my great dissapointment, the alleged tunnel that leads here from Bogoda was all bricked up. The monks at Dowa had been worried about potential rock falls. Bugger. That was the end of my dreams of crawling in musty tunnels, discovering ancient treasures, paintings etc.

The only thing that made me feel better was the standing Buddha (Avukana style) outside, utterly mesmerising at a thumping 36 feet. Those photographs I linked to, dont do it justice. Hopefully mine will turn out better. Anyway, suffice to say that I had a breathtakingly spiritual moment there, the details of which are better left for another post.

So, next time you’re toddling around the Uva province, do try and drop in at Bogoda and Dowa. Even if you’re not as obssessive about obscure little temples as I am, you could at least leave a donation and say you did something to preserve your heritage. Seriously, both places are rather neglected and could certainly use the funding.


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