There is more than 1 „Maligathenna“ in Sri Lanka. One Maligathenna Vihara is a temple close to Veyangoda, 30 km east of Negombo. Another Maligathenna is a locality in Uva Province. According to Wikipedia, there is one more in the Central Province - but we do not know anything about it.
The most interesting one for travellers is the one you will find on Google maps when searching for “Maligatenna” without an “h”. Another latin transcrition of this Sinhala name is “Maligatenne”, and this is how to pronounce it, too.
Maligathenna is the highest mountain in the Gampaha district and home to a typical Sinhalese rock monastery. It is located seven kilometers west of Yakkala and thus remarkably close to the busy main road from Colombo to Kandy A1.
Maligatenna is one of the many cave temples linked with king Walagamba (Vattagamini Abhaya). The king, who lived in the 1st century BC, had to escape and to hide when South Indian invaders captured the capital Anuradhapura. A person called Hiripitiye Rala is said to have helped the king when he was hiding in the Maligatenne temple. After his return to Anuradhapura Walagamba became one of the most significant kings in Theravada Buddhist history by ordering the collection of oral tradition and the textualisation of the Pali canon called Tipitaka. The full text of the Buddhist Holy Scriptures was handed down in written form only in Sri Lanka.
Caves of various sizes and different styles can be seen in the temple area at the western slope of the hill. The largest rock shelter is now an image house, it is believed to have been donated and adorned as a sanctuary by King Walagamba. In the premises is a 6 m reclining Buddha.Smaller caves serve as monk cells, otheres remained natural. Typical drip ledged cuttings prevented water from flowing into the inhabited cave areas. The path to the top of the hill is also running through a cave, too. Further uphill, the steps will lead through a narrow rock chasm.
A one-hour trip (one way) from Colombo is really worth it, in combination with the nearby rock monasteries of Pilikuttuwa, Varana and Pettigangala it will be a perfect full-day excursion. As already mentioned in earlier articles, all these 4 places are situated in a beautiful stretch of land, which is characterized by the alternation of rice fields with coconut groves, and even some wildlife. Maligatenna and neighboring hills are the largest natural forest in the otherwise very densely populated and cultivated Gampaha District. These 4 Viharas belong to the 5 heritage sites called “Siyane Korala”, a historical name from the Kandyan period. The fifth one is Koskandawala Mahavihara.
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