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Home > Heritage > Batathota Lena

Batathota Lena

- A jungle trek to Diwaguhawa -

Entrance to the Shrine Room

The Batatota cave temple which had been neglected in a dense jungle has now become famous as one of the religious sites. It is also held in high esteem by the Buddhist community in Sri Lanka. This cave temple located on a mountainous forest is visited by thousands of pilgrims daily with great devotion and respect.

It was the initiative of the Batatota Ancient Cave Temple Renovation Society (BACTRS) to commence a speedy renovation programme of the cave temple which has been of religious significance to the Buddhist order of the country. Batatota cave temple lies on a rocky mountainous range in a tiny village called Batatota in Kuruwita, in the Ratnapura district.

To visit this temple, devotees, have to travel seven kilometres on a narrow Erathna-Kuruwita road, that leads to Adam's Peak. This road devotees can reach Batatota junction where visitors can proceed half a kilometre arriving at the foot Batatota mountain. A flight of beautifully carved stone steps lead to the Batatota cave temple.

Legend says that this cave temple was built by King Nissankamalla (1178-1207) during the Polonnaruwa period in which the King had accidently discovered the temple, on his way to Sri Pada (Adam's Peak). Batatota cave temple is also venerated for 'Diwaguhawa' where Lord Buddha is said to have spent the rest of his day with 500 disciples on his return from the Sri Pada (Adam's Peak). Legend also cites that Lord Buddha has taken rest in this cave after placing the footprint on Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) on the invitation of God Sumana Saman.

Makara Thorana of the Polonnaruwa Period

It is said that King Nissankamalla had visited this cave temple in the course of his religious expeditions to Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) and had built the temple which stands majestically with religious as well as cultural grandeur. The most impressive architectural feature in this cave temple is its magnificent 'Makara Thorana' that dates back to the Polonnaruwa period and a part of it has been renovated by the villagers, as it had been disfigured.

The cave shrine consists of cross-legged, reclining and standing Buddha statues that belong to the Polonnaruwa period. Most of the statues and paintings in this cave temple have been exquisitely renovated several times, and retouching has also been done at later stages.

Damaged statue

In 1908, this cave which had been isolated had been rediscovered by the erudite monk called Sri Subethi, who took great care to renovate it and built a devale outside the cave shrine. After Ven. Sri Subethi's demise, this religious site was abandoned in the midst of overgrowth. As a result this site had become a haven for treasure hunters who destroyed most of the invaluable statues in the cave.

In 1995 the most Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithreya Mahanayake Thera identified this ancient cave temple as 'Diwaguhawa' hidden in the thick jungle of Batatota. During my short stay at the cave I could experience a sense of Buddhist traits in a serene atmosphere.

The most remarkable feature in this cave temple is that drops of water dripping from the ceiling even in dry weather. There is also a water pond in the cave itself and the sun's rays fall inside the cave from dawn to dusk. In clear weather condition, the Adam's Peak can be viewed from the cave site.

Apart from the Batatota cave, 'Streepura' is another cave situated 200 metres away from the cave site. This cave is believed to be one of the shelters for God Saman's relative.

There is another belief that the Veddha community is of the view that this cave belongs to their forefathers. Archaeological excavations have found traces of human inhabitation pertaining to pre-Christian era.

Although Batatota cave temple's original architectural designs are not to be seen at present, the old Sal trees surrounded by different kinds of vegetation can still be seen with flowers in full bloom.

by by Mahil Wijesinghe
Sunday Observer , 20 August 2006

More Articles

Batathota Lena : Is this the site of Divaguhawa ? Daily Mirror, July 25, 2005

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Updated February 3, 2007
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