Head north from Kurunegala on Dambulla Road Passing Ibbagamuwa (11.5km), take the first right (east) after a another 2km. At 7km, turn right at the junction; after 9km you reach Ridigama. Turn left at the main junction, then right at the clock-tower and follow the dirt track for 200m. Turn left on to the sealed road, then turn right at the T-junction. Follow the road past the lake and go uphill for 1.5km to the vihara.
18km north-east of Kurunegala, marks the place where silver ore was discovered in the 2nd century BC, during the reign of Dutugemunu. It is an ancient Buddhist temple site with rock cave hermitages and an image house with Kandyan paintings. Among the finds, which mostly date from the 18th century, are Buddha statues (seated and reclining), a door frame beautifully carved and inlaid with ivory, and a curious altar with Dutch (Delft) tiles with Biblical figures gifted by a Dutch consul. There is an attractive artificial lake at the foot of the hills.
Ridi Viharaya has a long history which is dated back in Anuradapura Kingdom time. This temple was done by King Dutugemunu, who ruled Sri Lanka from 161 BC to 137 BC.
According to the historical records, some merchants were traveling from Anuradapura to Hill Country(Malaya rata) and saw a riped Jackfruit hanging on a branch. They cut it from stalk and thought of giving a part as alms to a Buddhist monk.
There were four monks (Arhants) appeared and went away after accepting the alms. Then another four came and three left after accepting the alms.
Once the merchants started to leave the place, the remaining arhat showed them a path and ask them to go that way. On their way through it, they found a cave with Silver ore in it.They took a piece of silver to the King Dutugemunu and inform him about what they found. King Dutugemunu was facing some difficulties in finding the funds to complete the great "Ruwanmeli Maha Seya" at that time., He was very happy about this news. Revenue from this Silver was used to compete the "Ruwanmeli Maha Seya".
In return, king decided to build a temple by that the cave, its call Ridi Viharaya. He employed 300 stone masons and 700 other people including his chief artisan Vishwakarma Prathiraja Ridi Viharaya went on a major revival process in kandian time under king Keerthi Sri Rajasingha (1747-1782). The Uda Viharaya (Upper temple) was done at that time.
At Ridi Viharaya
Ridi Vihare is laid out on two rocky hills and on its highest point is an ancient dagaba, the Sarasungala Chethiya. According to the chronicles the Ridi Vihare had been built during the reign of Dutugemunu (161 – 137 BC). The Ridi Vihare complex consists of many parts; caves, Varaka Valanu Vihare, Chethya, Uda Vihare, Maha Vihare, Hevisi Mandape, Bodiya, Vahalka, Stairway from Ridigama, Bana Maduwa, Sarasungala Chethiya, Poyage, Bodhi Tree, Avasage and new Bana Maduwa.Ridi Vihare inscriptions indicate that the caves were donated by people of all walks of life to support the monks. The caves had been prepared at great cost and with considerable labour to house these meditating monks. According to Prof. J B Dissanayeka, there are at least 25 caves on this hill and most of those contain Brahmi letters carved into them. There had been about five hundred monks in the caves around Ridi Vihare.
This is a small rocky hill by the right side of the temple entrance. This was believed that the original site of the Temple. You can see a old stupa at the top. Some believe that this is the place where king Dutugemunu come and dressed to worship.
This is a very small temple, located by a small rock. Actually this is in size of a very small room and made by stones. Inside you will find a Buddha statue and many paintings belonging to Kandian era.
Waraka Weladu Viharaya Buddha Statue
This temple has similar features, what we can see in Hindu temples. Other noticeable thing is the stone pillars with carvings. It is believed that this is the place where the arahat accepted the Waraka (Jack Fruit) danaya and consume it. Maha Viharaya is the main Cave temple located after the Hevisi Mandapaya. This has few Buddha statues , some other statues and large number of paintings on walls and roof of the cave.
Gold Plated Buddha Statue Doneted by King Dutugemunu ( 101-77 BC)
This section of the Ridi Viharaya was done by king Dutugemunu and you can see the gold plated Buddha statue, which was donated by king Dutugemunu. According to the historical records, this statue was bring down to Sri Lanka from India. This statue was underdone some restorations in Kandian kingdom time and currently kept in a special glass casing.
There are hundreds paintings of Load Buddha were done on the wall of the temple. These paintings seems need some restoration. Other than the gold plated Buddha stature, there are several other Buddha status are located inside. One statue believed to be king Dutugemunu, which is dated to the Anuradapura time.
Other interesting thing in here is the old Dutch floor tiles, laid by the recumbent Buddha statue. You can see rows of tiles, with blue colored painting on while background, which explain the various e incidences happens in Cristian religion history such as Garden of Eden, Adam and Eva, creation of man etc. According to the some historical facts, these tiles ware a gift to King Kirthi Sri Rajasinga (1746-1778 AD) by a Dutch envoy and then he donated to the temple. These tiles were laid without a proper orientation or a order.
Don't forget to check the ivaroy carving of a vase call "Pancha Nari Getaya" (knot with five maidens) designed on the one of the temple door.
Uda Veharaya (Upper Temple) and Stupa :
Uda Vehera is located by the right side of the Maha Viharaya and dated to Kandy Regime time This temple was build by king Keerhi Sri Rajasinghe in 18th century.The main attraction in here the Buddha stature with the Makara Thorana (Dragon Arch) There are many images of the Hindu gods.
You can see a small Stupa (dageba) also in this cave. Other special things to notice is painting of three lions with one face(call Thri Sinha Rupaya) and some painting about king Rawana.
Paintings in the Cave above the Roof You can see some frescoes done on the cave wall, just above the shrine room roof. This collection has a image of load Buddha and many monks and almost faded away. Seems these images were not completed, the marks of the sketches also visible.