Dowa Raja Maha Viharaya

Once a sanctuary to a defiant king of Sri Lanka, the Dowa Raja Maha Viharaya is one of the more mysterious and legendary temples in the hill country of the Paradise Isle. Its history stretching all the way back to the 1st Century BC, the temple’s unique Mahayana sculpture and murals tell an intriguing story of the previous lives of the Lord Buddha. Boasting of artifacts still preserved from 2000 years ago, the ancient temple is an idyllic location for the history enthuse.

Best Known For

  • The Dowa Raja Maha Viharaya is famed for its ancient history that can still be witnessed today, with its typical Mahayana sculptures and paintings, along with a large carved image of the Lord Buddha from the hard granite rock. The temple is a treasure trove for the history enthusiast.
  • Coupled with the presence of a cave that is believed to have secret tunnels built for the king, in case of any attack, the temple certainly proves to be one of the more mysterious temples in the country.

Interesting Facts

  • The Dowa Raja Maha Viharaya has its beginnings in the 1st Century BC, during the reign of King Walagamba of the ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom.
  • The king is believed to have taken refuge in the temple, as a result of his kingdom being overrun by South Indian Invaders.
  • The temple was known as the Kumbaltissa Ariyagala Vehera, however, it was subsequently changed to ‘Dowa’, in honour of the chief priest who took the king in.
  • During his exile in the temple, the king amassed troops to take back his beloved kingdom, however, during his free time, it is believed that King Walagamba himself took to arts and crafts.
  • The iconic 38-foot carved image of Lord Buddha on the granite outcrop is believed to be the work of the king, however, he could not complete it, due to his premature departure to Anuradhapura to claim his kingdom back.
  • Apart from the intricate rock sculptures, the king is also believed to have been the master of some of the murals, sculptures and certain artifacts within the rock temple, thus the reason as to why the depiction of the previous lives of the Lord Buddha follows a typical Sinhalese Mahayana style.
  • It is also believed that the rock temple was one of the entrances to a series of secret tunnels that is 11-kilometres long.
  • According to legend, these tunnels were meant to be escape routes for the king, in case of a South Indian invasion.
  • The tunnels are considered to be connected by a secret pathway to Ravana Falls in Ella, however, it is not confirmed due to the sealed entrance.
  • Although sealed, the entrance can still be observed and one can still imagine how it would have looked like during its heyday, making it perfect for the history buff.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The heritage site in Sri Lanka can be visited throughout the year, however, the ideal time to visit the historical temple is during the wee hours of the morning or in the late afternoon, since it is deemed the best time to witness the rustic surroundings and peaceful surroundings.
  • Since it is a sacred place of worship, it is imperative that you adhere to modest attire permitted by Buddhist religious tradition, when entering the temple.
  • Do keep in mind that this sacred temple has artifacts and paintings that are more than 2000 years old, therefore please do not do anything that can result in the defacing of the artifacts.
  • Please refrain from bringing any plastic or polythene within the temple premises, since the temple is surrounded by untarnished foliage.

Although quite a small complex, the Dowa Raja Maha Viharaya is packed with artifacts and legend that would make any and all who encouraged to understand its artistry and legend-filled folklore.

Title image by: KNOWSL The information displayed is provided by Dowa Raja Maha Viharaya

Location info



LKR 100

Tickets At


Culture and Heritage

38 Adds
25 Loves

A bit more than a thumbs up. Show some Love!

... Shares