Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kudumbigala Monastery - Sri Lanka

A photograph from the Kudumbigala Monastery
Cave temple at Kudumbigala - Sri Lanka

The Kudumbigala Monastery is located along the south east coast of Sri Lanka. The area is very sparsely inhabited and the monastery is in the middle of thick jungle. The complex is said to have been built in 246 BC during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa and is made up of around 200 caves. Inscriptions in brahmini script found in one of the caves, named maha sudarshana lena, and other evidence shows that the cave was "built" and gifted to the priests by one of King Dutugemunu's "yodayas".

More photographs inside.

A photograph from the Kudumbigala Monastery
The entrance to the complex - Kudumbigala, Sri Lanka

The monastery was one of the places which we wanted to visit while we were in Arugam Bay. We had heard several stories about people getting lost in the jungle around Kudumbigala, before leaving Colombo and needless to say, we left with a lot of confidence! Getting to the monastery itself wasn't easy because I didn't know exactly how to get there. Our only directions were vague and obtained from a policeman at the last village we drove past. The only trace of a monastery was a relatively modern meditation hall that visible from the road but with no signposts or people about, there was no way to be certain.

A photograph from the Kudumbigala Monastery
The path to the Monastery - Kudumbigala, Sri Lanka

We walked around looking for someone or something that actually gave us an indication that we had reached the monastery but found nothing. While walking around a small temple built on one of the rocks by the road, we found a path that led into the jungle. Having run out of options, we followed the path (photograph above) up the rock and finally came to one of the cave temples (first photograph). Continuing on beyond this cave we came to a plateau where the main complex was situated.

A photograph from the Kudumbigala Monastery
The main complex - Kudumbigala, Sri Lanka

We spent a fair bit of time climbing the rocks around the plateau and taking in the 360 degree views of the area.

The monastery was abandoned in 1994 after LTTE cadres killed 17 civilians in the closest village. As a last threat to the monks of Kudumbigala the terrorist threw tar on one of the old Buddha statues in the complex. We did come across a couple of priests meditating in the area around the complex. However, I'm not sure if they actually lived at the monastery itself.

A photograph from the Kudumbigala Monastery
Close up of one of the Dagabas - Kudumbigala, Sri Lanka

I have read that this is the only cylindrical dagoba in Sri Lanka but I am not sure how accurate this statement is. 

All photographs on this post were taken with a Canon 7D and the 24-105 mm lens. I also used a circular polariser for all these shots.

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DilsiriW said...

There is a priest who lives there. I met him. Its an amazing place with the best views of Sri Lanka I have seen. Lets hope Sri Lanka maintains these places and are not destroyed.

Good stuff Dev, we must meet up if you are in Sri Lanka.

Dev Wijewardane said...

Thanks for the comment machang. I met the old priest but wasn't sure if he lived there. He encouraged us to climb the massive rock opposite the temple, which we did. I'm back in Aus right now but will meet up when I'm back in SL.

andy said...

I was there post tsunami and the old priest was lovely but warned us to be gone by dusk...LTTE. I felt we were being watched the whole time and our poor driver was chain smoking and was only happy once we left. Stunning place!

Dev Wijewardane said...

The place is surrounded by dense jungle. I can see why the driver was nervous. Thanks for the comment.