August 14, 2020

Aluvihare is a rock monastery located in a picturesque valley 3km north of Matale on the Kandy-Dambulla section of the A9 route, so it is conveniently located for those traversing the Cultural Triangle. It is easily recognised from the road as it has a boundary wall with a frieze of elephant heads. This sacred place is remarkable for the huge rocks that are an integral part of it, which is why it is classified as a rock temple. Aluvihare is one of the most important cultural sites in Sri Lanka, for it was here in the 1st century BC that the Buddhist doctrines -comprising the Tripitikaya or “three baskets of the law,” along with the commentaries – were first transcribed after having been handed down orally for several centuries.

This transcription was carried out for fear that the doctrine would be lost during the upheaval caused by repeated South Indian invasions. It is said that 500 scholarly monks congregated at Aluvihare to perform the onerous task of first reciting the doctrines and agreeing on an acceptable version before writing them down. Where they assembled for the work is a puzzle, as the only flat area available does not accommodate so many. No doubt most perched on rock ledges and in rock crevices.

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