The legends of the Bambawa Purana Raja maha Viharaya goes back to to time of King Wattagamini Abhaya better known as king Walagamba. The king came to power in 104 BC but invaders from South India captured the capital within the same year. Then for 15 years the king lived in hiding in jungle caves amassing and training a force to attack the invaders. The cave at Bambawa was one of such caves which was used by the king during his exile.
The temple of Bambawa Purana Raja maha Viharaya has been supported by many monarchs thereafter but with time had been forgotten and covered by the jungle until the time of king Kirthi Sri Rajasinhe (1747 – 1781) of Kandyen Kingdom when it was re constructed and the king by a royal decree handed over the village of Bambawa to the temple for its maintenance. As a reminder of history you can see some ruins of the ancient temple including a very old pair of elephant tusks, two granite seats, a rock pond, two rocks carved in form of elephant tusks and a flight of granite steps. Legend states that this 5 1/2 feet pair of tusks belongs to the royal elephant of king Walagamba called “Pushpadanththa”. During the Kandyan kingdom, the chief prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter had planned to bring this pair of tusks to Kandy and had it hidden inside a gunny bag and carried it in a bullock cart. While the cart was passing the area known as Paldeniya, the regional chief has had a dream where a voice had informed that these tasks are being transported across his area and instructed him to intercept the cart and recover the tusks. He had followed the instructions, recovered the tusks and handed over to another chief for safe keeping. These tusks had been under the protection of the family for generations until 1940 when it was again handed back to the temple.
Today people flock to this temple mainly to the two Devales dedicated to Galebandara and Devathabandara deities. A large Annual Esala perahera possession is held at this temple during July-Augest in parallel to the Kandy Esala Perahara. A special feature of this function is the fetching the chief priest of the temple from the nearby Nagolla Rajamaha Viharaya in a palanquin. This custom comes from the times of king Kirthi Sri Rajasinhe and the duty of carrying the palanquin had been allocated to a Catholic family in Wahakotte and the king had granted state farming land as payment for this royal duty. The final possession of this event is a grand perahera lasting for 2 days which travels through the Galewela Town.