Immediately when you arrive in the temple complex you will feel that this is not just an ordinary temple. The Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya is known as one of the most important and oldest temples in Sri Lanka, said to be dated back to the 3rd century BC, so, from the early days of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The first shrine, however, dates back to the 5th or 6th century. Since that period the buildings on the complex have been rebuilt over and over again and still new structures are arising, as you can see close to the entrance gate. The place is full of devotees, but rarely any foreigners are to be seen here; yet the temple is well worth a visit. Next to the entrance on the right side, behind the Bo tree are the remains of a Hindu kovil, which makes the grounds a sacred place for both Buddhists and Hindus. The Bodhi tree is very old and derives from one of the 32 seeds from a branch of the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura. That tree is a sapling of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha had reached the stage of enlightenment. Around the tree you can see the many devotees worshipping in meditation or chanting sermons. Others are preparing offerings on a long marbled table, as if they are preparing a nice meal in an environment full of devotion and piety. According to a legend, children who walk under this Bo tree are said not to fail in life. Apart from the Bo tree, the temple complex has a white dagoba, a residential place for monks, a pilgrims’ rest and a shrine room (buduge), the latter one containing beautiful murals, depicting the life of the Buddha from his birth till his enlightenment, the story of King Asoka (see also History of Sri Lanka and the information about Sigiriya) and the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, splendidly restored in 1993 by one of the foremost artists in modern Sri Lanka, Kalashuri Somabandu Vidyapathy. The shrine room also contains a sculpture collection of the Buddha and his disciples. The extensive restoration of the Bellanwila Temple has now been completed and has left a beautiful place of worship for its devotees and visitors.