Lenawara Rajamaha Viharaya is one of the most picturesque temples within my electorate. Situated in a pleasant village environs 5 km along Anguruvathota Road, from the Raigama junction in Panadura – Horana Road, this temple virtually takes one to Rajarata. It is difficult to think such environment ever exist so close to Colombo.
Lenawara Temple is positioned at the top of a natural rock. It can only be reached by climbing a long flight of steps similar to what one sees at Mihintale.
There is enough evidence that this had been a flourishing religious institution during the days of king Parakramabahu VI. An inscription by the king at Sunetradevi Pirivena at Pepiliyana records grants made to “Raigam nuwarabada Lenawara gallena Viharaya”. Archeological Department goes even further in naming it the foremost temple in the Western province during the Polonnaruwa period.
Difficult to think it survived the Portuguese era during which almost all Buddhist buildings were demolished. Some ancient arts in a cave can clearly be dated to few centuries back. This can be one artifact that remained. It is more logical to assume that the other parts of them temple was built more recently. The shrine room was built in 1946, as indicated above the main entrance to it. Perhaps the other buildings can be dated to earliest 1930s except the cave with arts – including the images of the Gods Vishnu, Kataragama, Saman and Vibhishana.
The sections of the temple are at several different levels. Lowest level hoses the ‘avaasa geya’. This shows some signs of 1040s architecture. Then one climbs few steps to reach the next level with ‘bana maduwa’. About 10 m above is the shrine room, with a long reclining Buddha statue. The door way made of carved stones. Bo Tree is nearby but to the Chaithya is another drastic climb. At this top level one can have a panoramic view of Bandaragama.
If one takes a turn to right about 30-40 m from the road to shrine room, few more caves on the crock can be seem. The largest is known as ‘Bamunu Lena’ or the cave of the Brahmin. According to local legends a Brahmin with South Indian origins named ‘Ramasundara’ has once lived in this cave. His specialty was treating catarrh. (catarrh = inflation of the mucuous membranes lining the nose and throat, causing an excessive discharge of thick mucus. In Sinhala we call it ‘peenasa’) This Brahamin was also believed to have complied a book on treating catarrh called ‘Peenas Vedakama’ in gold plates to be donated to the king. As this ‘waraya’ (donation) took place in a ‘lena’ the place is believed to have the name ‘Lenawara’.