Asgiri Maha Viharaya

FEBRUARY 10, 2012

Asgiri Maha Viharaya

Asgiri Maha Viharaya is another one of Siyam Nikaya’s monastic centres. This is considered even older than the Malwathu Viharaya, having been founded in the 14th century by Commander Siriwardhana during the inquest of Parakramabahu IV of Kurunegala.
Originally this structure was built to house the Buddhist monks (Bhikkhus) from Valasala hermitage in Yapahuva. The origin of the name Asgiri has a very interesting story as well. It was the translation of the name Valasala in to Pali language which made it in to Acchagiri, further translated to Sinhalese as Asgiri. There is another legend revolving around the origins of the nomenclature.
The mother queen of Vikramabahu, Chandrawathie’s death and subsequent cremation at the Adahana Maluva (cremation ground) is said to have brought about the name Asgiri. She is said to have built a temple, Talagahamulla Viharaya, which became Asgiri Viharaya later on. In the present day, Asgiri temple is also called Heyagiri Wijesundararama. The name Heyagiri is a mistaken Sinhalese translation of the word Acchagiri.
A new temple was built next to the old one by the commander in chief from the last Kandyan kingdom, Urulewatte Wijesundara Rajakaruna Seneviratne. The two temples together have come to be known as Asgiri Maha Viharaya, or its other name of Heyagiri Wijesundararama.
Historically, all the past Kandyan kings have been documented as having some contribution to the development of Asgiri Maha Viharaya. The Relic Tooth of Lord Buddha is said to have been protected from alien hands for several centuries by the monks of this monastery.
Perhaps the most significant part of Asgiri Maha Viharaya remains the cremation ground or the Gedige Viharaya where the queen Chandrawathie was cremated. The structure has three terraces or Maluwas, and all the royal family members had their last rites performed at the middle terrace. 

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