Pilikuththuwa Rajamaha Viharaya, a Buddhist cave temple located roughly 30km from Negombo, is an interesting day excursion for both the cultural enthusiast and outdoor adventurer. On a hike through the forested rocky area, visitors can explore some 77 identified and numbered caves out of an estimated 99 thought to be spread around the 200 acre region. Distinct drip ledges cut into some of the cave tops prevent rain water from wetting the interior and point to possible human occupation in the past.
There are many stories as to how Pilikuththuwa village got its name. In Sinhalese, “Pili”means clothes and some speculate that the village was named such because it provided the king’s apparel. Another tale connects the name to King Valagamba’s reign around 1st century AD, when the king would stay in this area prior to defeating the South Indian invaders. It is said that the queen’s clothes were stored in one of the caves, giving the village its present name.
The area is a main breeding and resting place for many species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The ring -tailed civet, palm cat, barking deer and mongoose are common residence mammals with commonly seen birds being the red wattle lapwing, spotted dove, red-vented bulbul, Asian coal, small bee-eater, magpie robin, hanging parrot and green wood pigeon. The forest is also home to several butterfly species with the grey pansy, blue bottle, the common Mormon, blue Mormon, common sailor and white four ring being the most common.
A smaller temple located 20 steps higher than the main temple houses a small Buddha statue and paintings believed to be done in the Portuguese period. The disfigurement and damage to the paintings have been attributed to Portuguese influence.
Among the noteworthy features is a small wooden bridge linking two awasa (monks’dwellings), believed to have been made during the Dutch period and recently renovated by the Archaeological Department and the ‘awasa geya’ (monk dwellings).
Among the discovered dwellings, one has been identified as dating to the period of the Mahanuwara kingdom, another was built in the Dutch period and the last shows distinct English architectural design. A dilapidated ‘dolawa’ (palanquin) thought to have been used by ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala thero can be seen in one of the dwellings.
(Image source: SriLankaTravelNotes.com)