Maligathenna Rajamaha Viharaya, situated in the village of Malwatuhiripitiya, is one of the many ancient cave temples of an area historically known as Siyane Korale. Though located not far from Gampaha and near the A1 mainroad from Colombo to Kandy, the archaeological sites of Siyane Korale are rarely visited by foreigners, because they are not mentioned in ordinary pocket guides. However, Maligathenna as well as Pilikuththuwa and Varana and Petthagangala are extraordinarily beautiful sites and well worth a detour.
Maligathenna is the highest hill in Gampaha District. The monastery officially recognized as an archaeological site is located at ist eastern foot. The history of Maligathenna Rajamaha Viharaya goes back to the early times of Buddhism on the island. According to Brahmi inscriptions found in the nearby temples of Pilikuththuwa and Varana, the temples of the Siyane Korale served as abode of reclusive Buddhist monks as early as in pre-christian centurues. The temples are ascribed to Valagamba, the famous king known as Vatthagamni Abhaya in the ancient chroinicles. Maligathenna is said to have served as one of his hiding places during his years in forced exile from Anuradhapura. However, many cave entrances can be dated to the late Anuradhapura period.
Another legend has it, that Maligathenna Rajamaha Viharaya was a place honoured by the presence of the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha, which is now enshrined in Kandy. When the Christian King Don Juan Dharmapala of Kotte helped the Portuguese to destroy Buddhist culture, the guardian of the Sacred Tooth brought this national palladium to Maigathenna for safekeeping for a while.
The main temple complex of Maligathenna consists of two terraces called Pahala Maluwa and Ihala Maluwa. On the very top of the Maligathenna hill is a stupa plus the site of an ancient Bo-tree.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka