According to the Mahawamsa, the unusual ” PADDY HEAP ” shaped ( dagoba ) Pagoda at Kelaniya which is 90 feet high, marks the spot, where the Buddha ,on the request of a Naga King, sat on a “gem studded” throne to preach the Damma to his subjects and convert them . It is ascribed to King Yatala Tissa of third century B.C.
The history relates how in the days gone by, a dispute was erupted between Mahodara and Chulodara at Nagadeepa ( Jaffna ) over the ownership of a gem studded throne. The Buddha, on seeing the disastrous consequences, of this battle, arrived in their midst and explaining the futility of their thoughtless actions reconciled them.
The Viharaya which withstood many foreign invasions was renovated again and again by various kings who ruled our country. According to the Mahawamsa, king Devanam Piyatissa’s brother Uttiya, renovated the Viharaya for the first time and it is believed that as a result of these foreign attacks the original Dagoba is lost. King Devanam Piyatissa built the first Sanghawasa (Monasty).
A legend is also recorded in the magnificent chronicle about the consigning of princess of Kelaniya to the sea. Later she became the mother of king Dutugamunu.
Kelani Viharaya is a complete temple complex , which comprises a Pagoda ,an •Image House, a Bo Tree and a Monastery. The shrine hall consists of four halls. The first entering hail is called “Raja Pilimage” (Royal Image House). The right side hall is called “Oth Pilimage” (Reclining Buddha Image House) , The left side hail is called “Aluth Viharage” (new Temple) and the straight hall is called “Ran Pilimage” (Golden Image House). The Most valuable statue of king Maniakkhika bearing a sword in his right hand in the “Raja Pilimage”. At the Entrance to the shrine hall floor , The three letters “HDW ” and numbers”18 3/25 88 ” can be seen. It means, that the hall has been renovated by Mrs. Helena Def Wijewardane on the 25th March 1888. There is a Self Motification Buddha statue can be seen. in addition to the Devalaya ( temple ) dedicated to god Vibheshana , brother of legendry King Rawana is at the entrance of Kelaniya temple.
The modern Viharaya built in the early part of this century, has a distinct elegance. Frescoes which decorate its walls depiciting stories of the Buddha, The history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and the History of the Kelaniya temple. There are fascinating geometrical patterned ceiling paintings in the main hall. There are also three important Buddha images, one is reclining and two are seated. It is very fortunate that the ancient paintings and works remain despite the ravages of time and enemy invasions. It was during the restoration period that the great painter, Mr. Solius Mendis was asked to do the paintings in the Viharaya ( temple ) again.
Today, one of the most magnificent spectacle Pageants in the Greater Colombo area, can be identified as the Duruthu Perahara which is conducted at Kelaniya Temple during the first month of every year. The grand Duruthu pageant will traverse along the roads of Kelaniya in memory of the last visit of the enlightened one. It consists of ” The Uda MaluvVe Perahara (The upper Terrace Procession), Devani Vidi Perahara (Second Street Procession), and the Maha Perahara (Great Procession)”. A large number of stone inscriptions, sculptures, and ola leaf books still remain preserved in good condition at the Viharaya.