The island of Sri Lanka, renowned for its diverse landscapes and rich cultural history, holds many secrets. One such captivating secret lies in the depths of the Kotmale Reservoir—the submerged Kadadora Viharaya. Shrouded in mystery and revered by locals, this long-hidden Temple only reveals itself in rare instances of drought. In this travel guide, we'll delve into the fascinating details about Kadadora Viharaya for visitors seeking to experience this unique marvel.
Kadadora Viharaya, also known as Kadadora Sri Priyabimbaramaya Vihara, was a prominent Buddhist temple situated in Kadadora, within Sri Lanka's Nuwara Eliya District. This temple experienced a dramatic change in its fate due to the construction of the Kotmale Dam in 1979. As a direct consequence, the temple became submerged and has remained underwater for extended periods since then. The temple only resurfaces when water levels in the Kotmale Reservoir are significantly reduced, a phenomenon that occurs mainly during drought conditions.
The temple was initially a central religious and communal site in Kadadora, with a history that traced back several centuries. It was a spiritual sanctuary, drawing visitors for prayer, meditation, and community gatherings. It gained further prominence as it was part of a network of temples that contributed to the religious fabric of the region.
It was only in 2009, after being submerged for approximately 30 years, that the temple resurfaced due to a prolonged drought. This event renewed interest in the temple, and it earned the name 'the hiding temple' for its unique ability to disappear and reappear. When it does resurface, it becomes a pilgrimage site, especially during the months of March and April when the water levels are typically at their lowest. At these times, visitors, including locals and tourists, come to witness this rare sight. They offer flowers and light candles placed on the Buddha statues in the temple, adding to its ethereal beauty.
Interestingly, while the temple's primary access points were severely affected by the dam project, the Kadadora entrance remains the only visible approach to this day. The resurfacing of the temple also revealed remarkable Buddha statues and other sculptures, which serve as a poignant reminder of what the temple once was.
Originally constructed on the banks of what is now the Kotmale Reservoir, Kadadora Temple exhibited classic Sri Lankan temple architecture. The primary building material consisted of local stone and wood, making the temple both aesthetically pleasing and ecologically considerate.
The temple's design featured a main shrine room, or 'Garbhagriha,' which housed a principal statue of Buddha. This central chamber was surrounded by smaller rooms and outdoor areas dedicated to various community and spiritual activities. Murals and frescoes often adorned the walls of the main shrine, depicting key moments from Buddha's life and the Jataka tales.
Height and elevation played a significant role in the temple's layout. A series of steps led up to the main shrine, symbolizing spiritual ascent. Additionally, a stupa was often located at the temple's highest point, serving as a prominent landmark within the temple grounds.
Another element that distinguished Kadadora Temple was the presence of 'Devalayas,' or smaller shrines dedicated to various deities. These secondary shrines featured elaborate sculptures and artwork, each uniquely designed to represent the deity to which it was dedicated.
Even in its submerged state, the temple retains elements of its original architecture. Stone Buddha statues in various poses can be seen during times when the water level recedes. These statues bear detailed features and postures, indicating a high level of craftsmanship consistent with traditional Buddhist art.
Aside from the central Buddha statue, there are other architectural remnants that capture attention when they become visible. These include a dragon pandal at the entrance, intricately designed sculptures of deities, a Bodigaraya (the Bo tree protecting wall), and a Puujasanaya (structure for offering flowers). During droughts, locals gather around these ruins to pay homage, making the area a hotspot for both religious devotion and touristic curiosity.
Location and How to Get There
Kadadora Temple is situated in the Kadadora village within the Kotmale area. The temple is approximately 38 kilometers away from the city of Kandy, making it a convenient day trip option. To reach the site, it takes about an hour's drive from Kandy.
For those coming from Colombo, the journey is a bit longer, covering a distance of 140 kilometers. The route passes through towns such as Kegalle, Mawanella, Peradeniya, and Gampola before reaching Ulapane. From Ulapane, travelers need to take the Pussellawa road for another 10 kilometers, followed by a short walk to the temple.
Best Time to Visit
The visibility of Kadadora Viharaya is dependent on water levels in the Kotmale Reservoir, which in turn are influenced by the seasons. The temple is usually submerged but becomes visible during the dry months, particularly from March to April.
During periods of drought, the water level recedes enough to expose the ruins of the temple, drawing both local and international visitors. Therefore, planning a visit during these dry months increases the likelihood of witnessing this submerged marvel.
Tips and Advice
- Local Customs: When the ruins are visible, locals often conduct religious ceremonies. Participate respectfully or observe from a distance.
- Footwear: Wear comfortable, easy-to-remove footwear, as you may need to take them off when walking near religious structures.
- Dress Code: Remember to dress modestly as you would for any religious site, even though the temple is largely submerged.
- Guided Tours: Opting for a guided tour can provide additional insights into the temple's history and significance.
- Floral Offerings: If you wish to partake in local customs, you can bring flowers to offer at the temple ruins.
- Safety Measures: Always follow local guidelines and notices, particularly those related to water safety if you are close to the reservoir.
- Check Current Conditions: Before planning your trip, it's advisable to check current water levels and any other conditions that might affect the visibility of the temple.
- Kotmale: This area is more than just the home to Kadadora Viharaya. Kotmale offers scenic beauty and the significant Kotmale Mahaweli Maha Seya, a grand stupa built as a tribute to the submerged temples.
- Nuwara Eliya: Known as "Little England" of Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya is a hill station with colonial architecture and tea plantations. It's ideal for those looking to explore gardens, enjoy boat rides on Lake Gregory, and visit tea factories.
- Devon Falls: This waterfall is a popular tourist attraction. The falls are 97 meters high and offer a spectacular view, especially during the rainy season.
- Ramboda Falls: Situated between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, Ramboda Falls is a breathtaking waterfall standing at 109 meters. It offers excellent photo opportunities and is also home to a viewpoint and a small garden.
- Ambuluwawa Tower: Located in Gampola, this tower is part of a biodiversity complex and serves as a multi-religious sanctuary. The 360-degree view from the top covers a range of landscapes from mountains to valleys.
Kadadora Viharaya stands as an important landmark, both religiously and historically, in the heart of Sri Lanka. Whether you're interested in history, architecture, or simply just visiting a remarkable and unique site, the temple offers a rich experience for all visitors. With its serene atmosphere and cultural significance, Kadadora Viharaya is undoubtedly a must-visit location when you're traveling in Sri Lanka.