The Athkanda Raja Maha Vihara is a famous Buddhist temple on the Kandy road in the Kurunegala town.
It is believed that the temple was built in the Dambadeniya era in 14-15 centuries. The history of the establishment of the Athkanda Vihara is not clear. However, a name similar to this temple has been recorded in several chronicles which include Mahawamsa, Sahassavattuppakanaya, Saddharmalankaraya and Vamsa Happakasini. The temple has been named as the Hasthikanda Vihara in the Pali “Rasawahini” written in the Anuradhapura era.According to the Mahawamsa, the temple may have been set up during the reign of King Suratissa. It is believed to have received the patronage of Prince Buvanekabahu and Bosat Vijayabahu in the Dambadeniya period. It is said that 500 arahants have lived at the temple during the reign of King Suratissa. The Pali Jathaka book was translated into Sinhala at the temple during the Kurunegala era.
This event is depicted in the Korawakgala (the balustrade) at the entrance of the cave temple No.1. The original copy of this Ola leaf book is preserved at the library of the temple and it is displayed at the annual Dalada Poson Perahera conducted by the temple. The book is carried on an elephant’s back in the perahera.
There are two drip ledged caves in the temple premises. The cave temple No.1 is the biggest and the main Buddhist shrine. It includes statues of the Buddha and numerous artworks belonging to the Kandyan period.
The Buddhist shrine and other remains in the temple are archaeological monuments declared by a government gazette notification published on December 7, 2001.