Kelaniya Temple built on the banks of the Kelaniya River is one of the most sacred sites of Sri Lanka. It is believed Buddha together with 500 Arahats (Supremely enlightened beings) visited Kelaniya on the Wesek day of the Buddhist Era 2531 and expounding of the Dhamma, the Buddhist doctrine to the inhabitants of the island.
Buddha’s timely visit to the island resulted in quelling an imminent war between two kings named Chulodara and Mahodara over a jewel–encrusted throne. Buddha having preached the doctrine on the disputed throne offered to him ensued lasting peace between the two kings. The great stupa built upon the site enshrining the throne was since then called Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara.
The Bo tree and the court yard at the Kelaniya Temple
The entrance to the temple yard is over the park across the main street. The arched grill gate opens upto the lower terrace of the temple yard. The lower terrace leads four sets of flight of steps in four carinal directions to the Upper terrace which features the Image Hose, Dagaba and the Bo Tree (Peepal tree) with other buildings.
History of Kelaniya Temple
Kelaniya Temple believed to had been built in the era prior to the chronologically recorded history of Sir Lanka (since 543 B.C) was renovated by Prince Uttiya, brother of King Devanampiyatissa following the arrival Arahat Mahinda in 307 BC. According to the Mahawansa, King Devanampiyatissa’s brother Uttiya renovated the vihara for the first time. Prince Uttiya also built the first ever residential quarters of the Buddhist monks (Sanghawasa) there.
The ancient temple was destroyed time and again by the Dravidian invaders from Southern India. Each time the temple had been reconstructed. The medieval temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1510 yet reconstructed by King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha in the year 1967. New Temple was initiated in 1927 and completed in 1946 under the patronage of philanthropist Mrs. Helena Wijewardene.