The Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya or the Kelani Viharaya is a Buddhist temple located in the Kelaniya area near the Kelani River in the Gampaha Administrative District of Sri Lanka. The present Chief Incumbent of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is Dr. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangarakkitha Thero.
According to Buddhist beliefs, Kelaniya is a sacred place of Buddha’s third and final visit to Sri Lanka. The third migration of the Buddha occurred after the 8 years of his enlightenment. The history of the sacred area of Kelenia is about 50 years old.
The timely visit of the Buddha to the island led to a near war between two kings of Chulodara and Mahodara on a jeweled throne. By preaching the doctrine of the controversial throne presented by the Buddha, there was eternal peace between the two kings. The great stupa built on the site of the throne is then known as the Keleniya Raja Maha Viharaya.
BC following the arrival of Arahat Mahinda in 307 AD, the Kalaniya Devalaya was renovated before the chronological record of Sri Lanka (543 BCE). According to Mahavanshaya, this temple was first renovated by King Uthtiya, brother of King Devanampiyatissa. Prince Uththiya also built the first house of Buddhist monks.
The ancient temple was destroyed from time to time by the Tamil invaders of South India. The medieval temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1510, but was renovated in 1967 by King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe. The new temple was opened in 1927 and was completed in 1946 under the patronage of philanthropist Helena Wijewardene.
The new temple section of the Kelani Temple is 150 feet long and 90 feet wide. It is set on a 3 foot high stone pillar. The roof is octagonal in Candian architectural style. Ath Pilma Gela, the oldest part of the temple, has a large statue and two Buddha statues.There is another Buddha statue beside another golden statue of the Buddha.
Two of the Candian-era paintings that are still in existence are housed in stalls. The paintings depict Jataka stories designed to encourage the virtues of compassion. A literary picture of the Buddha’s fight against uncleanness is also on the wall.
The beautiful modern paintings by Solius Mendis from 1927-1946 depict major events in the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. King Devampiyatissa donated the Mahamega Gardens to Arahat Mahinda. Tripitaka, the congregation of monks who write Buddhism; An Indian scholar who offers Buddhist Dhamma Commentaries to the Sangha of the Vishuddhamagama Maha Vihara; The arrival of a Buddhist nun, Terry Sangitta; The Tooth Prince from North India with the Sacred dantha and the arrival of Princess Hemamala.
The modern murals on the ceiling depict planetary gods or new celestial bodies, the nine planets in the astrology and the zodiac. The dagaba or stupa of the Kelani temple is known as ‘Kalyani Chaitya’ and ‘Kelani Seya’. This 90-foot-tall stupa is known as the ‘Dhanyakara’ or ‘the shape of a grain of rice’. This dagaba has been renovated several times by the Uthtiya, Yatalatissa and Parakramabahu 9 kings. It was built on the spot where the Buddha and monks used to live.
The annual Perahera of the
Viharaya in January is celebrated on the full moon Poya (Duruthu) day, which may be second to the Kandy Esala Perahera.