The Sapugoda Raja Maha Viharaya in Nallahena, Beruwala is a several century old temple built during the Kandyan Era. Established in 1750, it was built with the patronage of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe who ruledKandy in the late 18th and early 19th century.
The Sapugoda Temple has an interesting tale behind its creation. When the Portuguese invaded the coast of Sri Lanka; places of Buddhist worship in those coastal regions were scarce. The fishing folk and seamen who lived there followed a myriad of religions. Worship of Pagan gods, and random superstitions prevailed in these areas. The Buddhists living here did not have a proper place of worship.
During that period, Galapatha was the only temple in the area where Buddhists were able to carry out poojas. This temple functioned under the noble patronage of King Rajadhi Rajasinghe, who was the king during that period. Many devotees had to travel a huge distance to reach the temple and underwent many difficulties. When they related, to Galapatha Temple’s Chief Incumbent Monk, the difficulties they had to face just to perform religious activities; he made arrangements to set up a temple in Nallahena village.
Accordingly, this historic temple was established under the guidance of the Venerable Monk Sapugoda Ananda (1750-1775), and thereafter the villagers named this temple Sapugoda Vihara as a mark of respect him.After constructing the temple with the assistance of devotees, the venerable monk was offered the position of Chief Incumbent of Galle in October 1758. Five disciples named Kuruvita Revatha, Dompe Aththadassi, Vadiye Somananda, Malewana Dhammapala and Kalupahana Kondagna also joined monk-hood and lived in this temple under his leadership.
After several years of dedicated service the Venerable Sapugoda Thera passed away in 1775. After that his disciples and their disciples continued to care of the temple; and made many developments. The period before 1930 is believed to have been the golden period for Sapugoda Sri Maha Vihara. During that period, a large number of new sections were added to the temple with the support of Buddhist devotees in the area.However, later the temple lost its glory and fell into decay; until the late 1900s when the Temple was renovated to its peak form by Ven Thiniyawala Ratanajothi Thera. And so this historic temple stands to this day.
The Features of the Temple
One of the building in the temple shows the features of this era and has a drawing of 2 British men. Its said that all temples and such built in the coastal regions after 1842 has the picture of Queen Victoria. Two British male figures imply that this temple was built before 1842 which was the year the Queen Victoria was consecrated in Britain. It was King George III who ruled Britain before that.
The buildings, paintings, protective walls and stone pillars of Sapugoda Temple are all precious artefacts dating back to over two and a half centuries ago.One of the special features seen here is that there are two stupas, a larger one and a smaller one. The small stupa was the originally built one; while the other stupa is a recent addition.
Another feature of note is the solid stone door frames. The skilled engravings on these door frames resemble ancient traditional carvings and all the doors are beautifully painted. Sapugoda Sri Maha Vihara has three large Buddha statue; the Samadhi statue, the Standing statue and the Reclining statue.The Samadhi statue is six feet tall and the standing statue is 17.5 feet in height. The reclining statue is the largest at 27 feet of length. The walls of the main shrine are beautifully painted with images of influenced by the period. Included in these paintings are two British men. All temples and special structures built in the coastal regions after 1842 till the time Sri Lanka gained independence have an image of Queen Victoria. The two British male figures confirm that this temple was built before 1842 which was the year the Queen Victoria was enthroned in Britain. It was King George III who ruled Britain before that.
All these creations clearly depict the historic and artistic value of Sapugoda Sri Maha Viharaya. As such, this is one of the oldest and most interesting Buddhist temples seen in Sri Lanka’s coastal regions.