Alu Viharaya or Aloka Vihara is situated in 30 km south of Kandy on the Matale-Dambulla road, surrounded by hills. The history of Alu Viharaya can be traced back to 3rd century BC in king Devanampiyatissa’s era.
The legend has it that the a giant used the three stones surrounding the temple, as the base of his cooking pot, and the ashes from his fire (Alu) resulted the name Alu viharaya (Ash Monastery).
The temple complex comprises a network of caves, which displays statues of the Buddha and elaborate murals within them. The temple is a burst of colors, walls are filled and decorated with different stories from Buddha’s teachings and specially the most discussed murals of the hell.
Alu Viharaya plays significant and important role in the Buddhist community. After Lord Buddha’s Parinirvana (passing away), it is believed that the teaching was passed on by the Buddhist monks verbally from generation to the next. But in 1st century BC whole of Sri Lanka believed to have suffered from the biggest recorded famine which lasted 12 years. During the famine South Indian invasion had also happen, and due to the religious differences, large numbers of monks were killed and who left was in danger of dying due to the malnourishments.
After surviving this extremely intense situation king walagamba and the bikkus gathered and decided to write the Thripitaka (the 3 Main Scriptures of Buddhist teachings) to preserve Dhamma for the future generations.
It is written in Thripitaka that 500 Maha Theras were gathered in Alu Viharaya and were spent years documenting the doctrines of the Buddha in Pali on ola-leaf (palm-leaf).
Present day, you will be able to find the International Buddhist Library and Museum houses a few random objects including a vast antique ola-leaf copy of the Tripitaka in many volumes.