Magul Maha Viharaya

The beautiful and unspoiled Lahugala National Park in the district of Monaragala is home to the Magul Maha Vihara, a place dating back to the earlier stages of the Anuradhapura era when the city was in the hands of the early Cholas. More precisely it lies at least eleven kilometers off the town of Potuvil, down the road of the same name, which runs around the park. The whole monastic complex was in fact built under the patronage and sponsorship of kings somewhat earlier during the Second Century BC by the king of the independent southern kingdom of Rohana (popularly known as Ruhuna, or Ruhunu), King Kavantissa. It was in fact, the supposed place of marriage between the most iconic royal couple in Sri Lankan history, Kavantissa and Princess Vihara Maha. The pair was none other than the parents of the (in) famous Dutugemunu, supposed hero of the Mahavamsa. 

Thus the term “Magul” means marriage and the full name translates as being the “monastery of the great marriage” and it covered an area of over ten thousand acres, with a massive, sprawling developed area including the abbey and its chambers, moonstones, ponds and baths, toiletry stones and stupas. In fact the moonstones are particularly well-done with their impressively detailed carvings which contrast with the relative smoothness of the balustrades that are common. In fact the elephants, a common motif of moonstones, include their mahouts.

It is the only example of this unique phenomenon. In fact there is a staircase which has fallen apart in places and worn down thanks to water-borne erosion, which still preserves one of these unique moonstones at its base. The stupas on the other hand are small brick structures, somewhat featureless, which do not preserve any markings that set them apart from other monuments of their nature. In fact one can safely say that the significance is due more to its other features than the stupas which would otherwise be the centerpieces of the complex. Beside the stupa are two lion guardians on either side, mostly eroded, about as worn down as the customary standing naga guardian stones.

Another unique feature of this complex is the “wedding altar”, so to speak, of the king and queen. It is in a circular structure, and it could be surmised that this is merely the foundation of the place and nothing more. However it is quite interesting in itself, made of otherwise featureless rectangular stones fitted together, with absolutely no surviving ornamentation or the more customary friezes and carvings anywhere to be seen.

There is a square pit within the innermost circle of high-this time carved into a better shape, almost with a narrow waist in the middle as in disproportionate hourglasses-stone blocks which form a sort of semicircle around it. It can be surmised however that the whole pit was sealed off and that the missing stones had been taken and moved away centuries ago. There is also a headless and handless standing Buddha image in this complex.

Written by Vasika Udurawane for

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