Weherahena (Veherahena) among the Buddhist pilgrims is a famous temple. While there is nothing of historical importance, the temple’s tale is quite interesting. Moreover, the temple is said to be the world’s biggest and first tunnel temple.
The story of the temple commenced in the 20th century. Rev Parawahera Rewatha Thero in the days gone by was dispatched to Weherahena region at the beginning of the 20th century on punishment by his teacher. At that time Weherahena was only a mound of about ½ acre in dense jungles and had only a Bo-tree. Legend has it that the Ven. Rewatha Theor arrived in the area sans all amenities, except for a blanket, mattress and a bow.
He then got the villagers to construct a small wattle and daub house for himself. However, the idea struck him that he would construct the larges Buddhist statue in the world. He was also interested in constructing a tunnel temple as depicted in the Ummaga Jathaka Story.
With the great support of Anagarika Dharmapala, an icon who participated in Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka, the construction commenced with Anagarika Dharmapala, placing the first stone for the building. The mound of earth was excavated to build the 600 foot tunnel. Once this was finished, the construction of the Buddha statue of 88 cubits (39 meters) commenced. In 1976, the construction of the statue was completed. The entire tunnel length is adorned with different scenes from the tales of Jataka. The cover over the statue of the Buddha was built after 1976 with the financial support of a generous donor from Japan.
Sri Lanka has over the years endeavored to preserve its belief in the Buddhist doctrines and even Kings of the by gone days strived to construct statues, stupas and temples the house relics of the Lord Buddha.