Devagiri Raja Maha Vihara - Bingiriya
Devagiri Raja Maha Vihara in Bingiriya is one of the ancient temples in Sri Lanka. It is situated in Kurunegala District in the North Western Province. The temple is situated on Chilaw –Kurunegala Road 16 miles off Chilaw and 16 miles off Hettipola. One has to travel about 1.6 km off the main road to reach the temple. Colombo International Airport is within the distance of about one hours drive from the temple.
The history of the temple dates back to about 3rd Century BC. At that time the traders from a nearby boat harbour called Sala Thota (now known as Chilaw ) have passed this place on their way to and from the harbour. According to the legends they have placed a casket of relics for worship in this place which later developed as a temple. The casket according to the legend has sunk into the earth and consequently the place was called Bingiriya- (Bimgiliya – Bingiliya-Bingiriya). Today Bingiriya is known as a centre of government administration.
The stupa and the other buildings in the temple have been built in the third century BC by the traders under the guidance of King Devanampiyatissa. Later King Agbo I (6th century AD) also built a two storied building to the west of the stupa, a shrine with three stone Buddha Statues and a small dome to the East of the Stupa. The Bo Tree which has been planted by that time still exists today. Now ruins of a building (Uposathagara) and some stone Buddha statues can be seen in the temple premises. A ruined brick wall encircles the whole site. In addition King Agbo I has donated a tank and some paddy lands to the Vihara (Temple).
King Parakramabahu I who is well respected for uplifting the agriculture of the country has built some buildings, tanks and ponds. The ancient city of Panduwasnuwara, where he was staying as a prince is 11 kms away from the temple. Although a stone inscription is reported to have been done, Solee invaders have destroyed them. The old Arama has existed until the Kotte Era (11th century AD ) but today only the ruins are visible.
Later, King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe who ruled from Kandy (18th century AD) has repaired this temple under the supervision of Rev. Saranankara Sangharaja thero and built a shrine on stone pillars equal in structure to the Temple of the Tooth.
Plan of the Temple.
The site is encircled by an old brick wall. The buildings are situated on a sand courtyard. The neighboring courtyard too contains ruins of some old buildings. The stupa surrounded by Eth Paura (Elephant Wall) is situated towards the North of the site.
The ancient columns where temple bells were fixed is near the Stupa. The columns bear the evidences of Dutch archaeological signs. In the center of the courtyard the shrine can be seen. This is the largest shrine on pillars in the country. In the two storied shrine, the ground floor is meant to be a meeting hall. The upper story, made of wattle and daub has been decorated with beautiful wall and ceiling paintings that reveal the artistic traditions of the area at the time.
In the south of the courtyard (Maluwa) is the Bo Tree, (Bodhi) which is reported to be 2000 years old. In the adjoining compound the archaeological excavations have revealed the existence of some ancient buildings. The Avasa (House of the Clergy) also is situated in the courtyard. The new proposed Avasa is to come up outside the courtyard. The Devala is situated out of the courtyard.
The Land Area
The British Administration has allocated an area of 952 acres of land in deed No. 91160 in 1873. The area is a part of the original land allocated by King Agbo I. The land is now under the ownership of the successful incumbent priests of the temple.
Kolamunu Oya, a branch of Deduru Oya joins the main river close to the temple. Still people get water from this place. The place is called Kinda which is full of fresh water fish like Lula, Ara and Crocodiles. Also Kinda is a good breeding place for inland fish.
Three tanks and 12 ponds, now in ruins can be seen in the temple premises. One end of the premises extends up to Deduru Oya, where natural local aquatic and other plants could be seen. The flora and the sand in the Oya help retain water in the dry season. Now the haphazard sand mining industry is doing much damage to the environmental balance in the area.
Natural Flora and Fauna
About 160 acres of land in the temple land is a natural forest. The illegal fellers of trees and hunters are threatening the existence of the small forest area. A small herd of deer could be seen roaming in the jungle.
Source : http://www.devagirifoundation.org/
Updated February 13, 2007