Fondly known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, the island of Sri Lanka is frequently alluded to by religious epithets as well due to the strong persistence of Buddhism in the country for centuries. Having been introduced to the island during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa by Mahinda Thera and his entourage of Buddhist monks from the Indian subcontinent, the religion has since then been intertwined with kingship. Similar to the western and European notion that the King is divinely anointed and appointed, the person who possesses the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha was considered to be the rightful King. In an effort to maintain and consolidate their power, successive Kings extended royal patronage to Buddhism and this led to the construction and worship of numerous stupas and Sri Lankan Buddhist temples as seen in various parts of the island, in particular Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, two iconic Royal kingdoms.
The Yatagala Maha Vihare located in the South of the country is one such example of the pervasive nature of Buddhism and Buddhist worship in the country as well as the royal, and at present, state patronage it enjoys. Tourists residing in Cantaloupe Hotels in Unawatuna will enjoy the ease of access to this particular Temple.
A mere 4 kilometres away from Unawatuna, the Yatagala Raja Maha Vihare is believed to have been in existence for over 1,500 years. As it is a temple that is built into rock, its reclining Buddha statue that spans an impressive nine metres, is considered a marvel. This rock temple also boasts of walls adorned with murals painted in the Kandyan style and is thus a must-see when visiting the Vihare. For a spectacular view of the paddy fields, tourists should brave the crowds and the long flight of stairs to the top of the temple.
Shehera Fioni is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Catalina Forbes. Her content is based on many thrilling escapades offered to travellers across the world.