The Aluvihara rock monastery just north of Matale is believed to have been the setting of the 4th Buddhist Council, for the first time laying down the Buddhist Holy Scriptures in written form. The Scriptures are called “Three baskets”, known as “Tripitaka” in Sanskrit, but the Scriptures are written in Pali language, the holy language of Theravada Buddhism, hence the correct term is the Pali name “Tipitaka”, without an “r”. The Council took place during the reign of the epic king Walagamba in the first century BC. The popular Sinhalese king’s Pali name mentioned in the ancient chronicles is Vattagamani.
Sri Lanka became the only place in the world, where the original Tipitaka was handed down completely till the present day. The Tipitaka was inscribed on ola leaves, longer lasting than writings on pergament and paper. You can study the technique in the manuscript museum of the Aluvihara monastery. Fresh Talipot palm leaves are processed into ola leaves, the scriptures are written with a panhida-stylus.
The library contains a gallery of antiques including many Buddhist statues, some of them donated by Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, China. Korea and Japan. Well-bound Tipitaka on ola leaves are kept in a separate bookshelf. Among the antiques displayed are old brass lamps, arecanut cutters, weapons, ceramics, and ornamented garments.
The foundation stone for the International Library and Museum was laid by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia on 17.2.1957. Thailand’s neighbour Cambodia is a Theravada Buddhist country, too, with strong religious and cultural ties to Sri Lanka. The Scripture Museum edifice was finally inaugurated by Sri Lanka’s then Prime Minster Srimavo Dias Bandaranaike on 1.9.1974.
The temple's entrance canopy is an arch partly constructed out of concrete. From there a stairway leads to the frontage terrace, Meda Midula. To the right, a deep chasm between the rock boulders harbours cave shelters now serving as Buddhist image houses decorated with statues and Kandyan-style paintings of the rock ceilings. The first of three remaining caves is about 8 m long and 3 m high. This is said to be the place where originally the Tipitakaya was written down.
The rock cave shelter harbours an Image House. Its entrance doorway, overhead is surmounted with the typical Makara Thoranay motif flanked by janitors. There are also seated standing and recumbent Buddha statues of terra-cota, while the murals are adorned with paintings of Jataka stories. The cave ceilings are studded with fascinating paintings of lotus flowers in full bloom - all dating back to the Kandyan period of time.
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