Built in the 2 nd century BC by the first Buddhist King of Sri Lanks King Devanampiyatissa as a tribute to the budding Sinhalese Buddhist tradition Warana Rajamaha Viharaya is one of the oldest, revered and picturesque of all the cave temples in the Gampaha District.
Situated nearly 90 minutes away from Colombo in the rural village of Warana the road to the temple from Colombo – Kandy road unfolds amidst sprawling paddy files and shaded villages. The temple is situated on a rocky mountain with a bird eye view of the villages, forests and paddy fields around. The Brahmin inscription on the rock announces the visitors that the temple was donated Tissa Datta Thero the brother of Majjhima Thero and the archeologists believe that them to be the two brothers who were among the first students Arhath Mahinda, who brought the teachings of the Buddha to the country.
The temple is built on three levels and a climb of fifty steps brings the pilgrims to the first level, which consist Monks’ abode and hall of preaching.
Another climb leads to the middle level or the mada viharaya where stand an 800 year old Stupa and a shrine room of immense splendor. A cave from the original monastic meditation complex built during the 2nd Century BC had been modeled into a shrine room during the period of King Nissanka Malla in the 9 th century AC with intricate use of stone and wood carving and mural painting. The roof and walls of the cave is adorned with murals while the Buddha statues of various eras crowd the shrine.
The final climb of 150 steps leads to the top of the rocky mountain and the third level of the temple opening great vistas to behold. The third level holds a stupa built in the last century and the remnants of the original monastic meditation complex of 12 caves fashioned into chambers for meditating monks.
Abandoned today these caves still reflects the serenity and peace the meditating arhants radiated to the surroundings of Warana.