“Ancient historical cultural & religious site, modern town straddling major irrigation projects & serving the irrigation districts the Conqueror, in the ninth month of his buddhahood, at the full moon of Phussa, himself set forth for the isle of Lanka, to win Lanka for the faith. For Lanka was known to the conqueror as a place where his doctrine should (thereafter) shine in glory,… And he knew also that in the midst of Lanka, on the fair river bank, in the delightful Mahanaga garden… The prince of devas, Mahasumana of the Sumanakuta mountain, who had attained to the fruit of entering into the path of salvation, craved of him who should be worshipped, something to worship. The Conqueror, the (giver of) good to living beings, he who had pure & blue-black locks, passing his hand over his (own) head, bestowed on him a handful of hairs. And he, receiving this in a splendid golden urn, when he had laid the hairs upon a heap of many-coloured gems, seven cubits round, piled up at the place where the Master had sat, covered them over with a thupa of sapphire & worshipped them”
Mahavamsa, the great chronicle of Sri Lanka. Translation by Dr. Wilhelm Geiger
The Mahiyanganya Town
Around 7km further east from Hasalaka, the bustling town of Mahiyangana is recorded in the great chronicle of Lanka as the first of the three places in Sri Lanka which the Buddha himself visited. The others are Kelaniya Royal Temple & Adam’s Peak. Following the launch of greatest modern irrigation scheme of Sri Lanka, the Mahaweli Ganga (Mahaweli River) Scheme, the town was laid out to serve the new irrigation districts.
The late president-ever industrious workhorse-indomitable R. A. Premadasa had a new temple built here to resemble the famous Buddhist temple at Bodhgaya in Bihar, India.
Opposite the temple, north of Kandy Road, six statues of Sinhalese leaders have been erected: three ancient kings & two modern stalwarts of the nation.
• King Devanam Piya Tissa (the famous Deer Hunter, first convert to Buddhism in Lanka)
• King Dutugamunu of Ruhuna (the hero of the nation who rescued the island from marauding South Indian invaders)
• King Parakramabahu the great (the great warrior & great tank builder)
• King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (the architect of 18th century Buddhist revival)
• The first Prime Minister of Ceylon Rt. Honourable Don Stephen Senanayake (the irrigation genius who oversaw Senanayake rainwater reservoir, Gal Oya & Uda Walawe irrigation projects) & Prime Minister Dudly Senanayake, who oversaw the Mahaweli Project, the source of the town’s importance & prosperity
The large & beautiful Mahiyangana Stupa a kilometer south of town signifies the spot at which the Buddha preached. Enshrined in the stupa is a lock of blue-black hair of Buddha & a relic of collarbone of Buddha. The area is very attractive-the park with the dagoba in its well kept & is overlooked by the hills on the far bank of the Mahaweli.
History of Mahiyangana Raja Maha Viharaya
The stupa was built by prince Saman of deva tribe of pre-historic Lanka (other two tribes were Yakka & Naga) during the first visit of Buddha to the island. It was rebuilt by the hero of the nation King Dutugamunu of Ruhuna (161-136 BC) & has been restored many times by a succession of kings: King Voharaka Tissa (214-235 AD), King Sangabodhi (251-252 AD), King Sena the 2nd (847-900 AD), King Kassapa the 4th (912-928 AD), King Vijayabahu (1065-1119AD), King Narendrasinha (1705-1737 AD) & King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1746-1778).
In the modern history too it was renovated several times: in 1851, by the Ven. Iddamalgoda Dhammpala, in 1980 by Ven. Yatawatte Sri Candajothi Maha Tera, in 1942 by Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake, minister of Agriculture & land of Ceylon under British rule.
Sorabora rainwater reservoir is just on the outskirts of Mahiyangana on the road to Bibile. According to the legend a giant is said to have created the dam.