Kirinda is a village at Sri Lanka’s southern coast. It is located 10 km south of Tissamaharama, just in between the national parks Yala and Bundala. Though a picturesque sandy beach framed by rocky outcrops, Kirinda is not crowded with tourists. The main attraction is a Buddhist shrine perched atop such huge rocks right at the shore. It is dedicated to Queen Viharamahadevi, mother of the Sinhalese national hero, Dutthagamani.
Queen Viharamahadevi was the youngest daughter of the king in Kelaniya in the west of the island. When this king once punished an innocent monk by boiling him in oil alive, the gods caused a kind of Tsunami. Soothsayers said that a princess had to be sacrificed to the sea to stop the flood. So Viharamahadevi was placed in a golden vessel and set adrift on the sea, resulting in a sudden calming of the waters. The innocent princess miraculously survived finally reached the shore again in Kirinda, She was spotted by a fisherman - or, according to another version, by birds - who informed King Kavantissa, who was the ruler of the island’s southern kingdom, Ruhuna. The King, when he was told her story, decided to marry Viharamahadevi. She bore the King two sons, the future Anuradhapura kings Dutugemunu and Saddhatissa. “Viharamahadevi” means “monastery great goddess”. Ironically, the high location of her temple was the reason that it became a refuge during the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.
Visible offshore is a lighthouse belonging to the Basses reefs, where several historical shipwrecks were the finding place of treasures. The Basses reefs were the favourite diving area of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, author of famous science fiction novels such as “Space Odyssee”. Diving out on these reefs is indeed ranked as about the best in the country, but due to rough conditions it’s only recommendable for very experienced divers. The best season for scuba diving at the Basses Reefes is in March and April.
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