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Buddhism's Ancient Home

Aluvihare Rock Temple is where the spoken word was first written down: it is impossible to overestimate its historical importance. ​

Its network of rock caves and temples was carefully selected by five hundred monks in the first century BC as the place to gather within to write down the precepts of Buddhism. Until then Buddha’s teachings had been passed on orally but repeated Chola invasions from India left the monks fearful that his teachings would be lost.


The challenge they had set themselves was immense.

Firstly, they had to recite the doctrines. That would have taken several years.

Then they had to agree on an acceptable version of the teachings before transcription. That must have taken even longer.

Finally came the lengthy work of transcribing them, using ola leaves from talipot palms. Running to some eighty thousand pages, the resulting Pali Canon is roughly the size of a dozen Bibles.

​The cave temple still exists, with numerous caves filled with ancient inscriptions, relics, paintings and statues to view.

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