Aluvihare Rock Temple
One of the oldest and most sacred Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, the Aluvihare Rock Temple is a treasure trove of ancient relics from the 3rd century BC right up until the present day.
Founded by first Buddhist king, Devanampiyatissa, the temple remains a place of worship and is laid out over several levels of the lush and mountainous landscape. The temple and surrounding area is a wonderful and intriguing place to visit during any Sri Lankan tour.
A temple steeped in Buddhist history
For over two thousand years Buddhist monks have occupied the thirteen caves of Aluvihare. The old, sacred footprint marks on the rock boulders which represent Buddha stand as a testament to age of the site.
The Aluvihare Rock Temple is revered for being the place in which Buddha’s teachings were first committed to writing, being scribed onto palm leaves during the 1st century. The spur for this historic event was a devastating famine which struck the area and killed many people. Before this time all the teachings of Buddha were passed along orally but it was feared that the famine could wipe out the entire monk population and therefore end the sacred teachings. It was therefore decided to put down the doctrine as a written recording using the palm leaves that grow on the nearby trees, ensuring the teachings would continue.
These historic teachings miraculously survived until the 19th century but were then sadly lost during a rebellion in which the library was destroyed.
The thirteen caves contain many ancient relics and depictions of Buddha. The main cave houses a giant, richly coloured reclining statue of Buddha. Another caves includes paintings that depict hell and grisly looking punishments for those doomed to rest there.
If you’re interested in learning about Sri Lankan and Buddhist history then a trip to the Aluvihare is well worth it. We have taken many travellers here during their tailor-made Sri Lankan tour, so please do get in touch if you’re interested in visiting the temple.