Reverently called “Kalutara Bodhiya” by the locals, you will come across the Kalutara temple as you drive towards Galle from Taprobana Wadduwa, one of the famous hotels in Wadduwa. Extending to the period of time when Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka, the Kalutara temple holds a special place in the hearts of the Buddhists as well as the historians alike.
The premises is sacred to Buddhists because according to Buddhist chronicles, this is one of the sites where Arahat Mahinda Thera advised the King to plant one of the thirty-two saplings of Sri Maha Bodhi tree – a branch of the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. Following this advice, a sapling of the Bo tree was planted in Kalutara, which was regularly attended to and worshipped by the masses until the foreign invasions of Sri Lanka commenced in 1500’s. Due to the unique location of the Bodhiya premises, the Portuguese had converted the place into a fortress in the 16th century. This had seen an end to all the worshiping and reverence extended towards the Bo tree. The Dutch utilized the premises in the same manner after Portuguese, with the English taking it a step further and establishing a government office in the upper terrace of the temple.
The transformation of the once religious place from a government office to a place of worship took place only after Sri Lanka gained its independence. The government withdrew the office as per the request of the locals, and in 1942, the pinnacle of the chaitya (Stupa) was laid, officially establishing the place as a temple. The Bo tree, however, is believed to have stayed intact during all these years of constant struggle for power, making it even more sacred among the believers.
The Kalutara temple is now protected under the patronage of “Kalutara Bodhi Trust”, who also work towards maintaining the temple at its pristine quality. Thus, if you visit this historical landmark on your visit to down-South Sri Lanka, do not forget to pay tribute to years of transformation that the place has witnessed.
Roland Lefevre is a travel writer who specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe. Google+