Just like Rome, Asokarama Maha Viharaya was not built in a day. It all happened when virtuous Buddhist monk named Ven. Aluthgama Sangharathana came to the area with a begging bowl (a custom among Buddhist monks). This was 1873 in Etanamadala, Kalutara. The Buddhist monk would receive alms in the morning, and in the evening the residents of the area would throng around his small hermitage.
Among these residents was Elliyas Fernando who soon became the monk’s patron. With his personal wealth, Fernando built a small hall where the hermitage was. And that hall gradually turned into the Asokarama Maha Viharaya you see today. The monk used to deliver the sermons inside the hall. His popularity reached beyond Kalutara, and attracted crowds to Kalutara. The hall gradually became larger with ten rooms added for monks to live in. In the middle another building was erected to house the relic chamber, you will find many small halls along with a drawing room.
The temple is now a centre of study for those interested in Buddhism. Stay at any of the Kalutara Hotels, and the temple is within easy reach. The temple is a famous place, to which even non-Buddhists will be able to give you directions.
Patron Fernando also built a hall for the Buddha. That now stands as the shrine house of the temple. The locals would call it Vihara Mandira. If you can read Sinhalese, enlist the sevices of a guide or translator from somewhere such as Anantara Kalutara Resort, you will discover that the stone inscription on shrine’s front wall reads that Elliyas Fernando offered the temple to the monks in 1867. So to say, this temple was built when the country was still under British rule.
Several monks headed the temple following the demise of Ven. Aluthgama Sangharatne Thera. Many new additions such as Dagoba, preaching hall and Bo tree were added to the temple over the course of time. And today it is a hive of activities with crowds, both devotees as well as students of Buddhism frequenting it. When you step into the temple, you will feel a sense of serenity and calmness wash over you.
Catalina Forbes is a travel writer who bases her content on many thrilling escapades experienced across the world.