Gadaladeniya Viharaya

Built almost exclusively of stone in 1344 by the Gampola King Wickramabahu, situated on a hilltop, commanding views of the surrounding countryside.

The architecture is Dravidian. The entrance porch features large stone pillars, which support a roof of huge stone slabs. Within the vihara, an ancient stone and plaster Buddha image looks down upon milk rice pots that have collected food offerings for centuries. The 638-year-Old jack wood doors still exhibit their original paintings. Gadaladeniya is situated at Pilimatalawa on Kandy Colombo Road, just Passing Kadugannawa.

Abayagiri Viharaya

Abhayagiri Stupa or Dagaba is located to the north of the citadel. Its monastery complex covers an area of 500 acres. It was founded in the 1st century B.C. and continued to be one of the main centres of Buddhist learning for many centuries after. Extensive monastic colleges surround the large stupa in the centre.

Among the most noteworthy at this site is the group of buildings at Kataragama the Kuttam pokuna or non-bathing ponds possibly for the use of the monks, the Samadhi statue site, the Ratna Prasada, an assembly hall with the refectory and close by the finest residential court with very elaborately done stone buildings yet to be excavated. The Dagaba itself has a stone paved terrace, a stone retaining wall and a wide sand paved procession path all round the terrace.


King Mahasena (276-303 A.D.), the first of the great tank builders in Sri Lanka, founded Jetavanaramaya, or Jetavana Monastery. Historically, Jetavanaramaya is very important in the development of the three Theravadi sects in Sri Lanka. This vast edifice, which has withstood the ravages of time and the elements for about 1600 years, is an eloquent witness to the engineering expertise and the sound knowledge of geometry and physics of the ancient inhabitants of Sri Lanka. The area where the Jetavana monastery stands was originally known as the Nandana Pleasure Grove, mentioned for the first time in connection with Thera Mahinda, the son of Emperor Asoka, the renowned ruler of India of the third century B.C.  passage on the eastern side emptied the bath when it was necessary. Adjoining this bath on the south are to be seen the ruins of a pavilion.

Maha Raja Viharaya

The architectural masterpiece of the Dambulla complex is the Maharaja Vihara, which has been formed by the addition of screen walls and partitions to the central section of the great cavern referred to above. Its vast interior, one of the most dramatic internal spaces in Sri Lankan architecture, is not compartmented, but is spatially differentiated by a complex arrangement of statues and paintings.

Maha Viharaya

As early as the 2nd century B.C. King Asoka of India sent his first Buddhist missionary to Sri Lanka. This was followed with a gift of a sapling of the Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained illumination. This tree planted in the Maha Vihare garden remains the most venerated tree in the island and perhaps the oldest historical tree in the world. Prayer flags fluttering in the breeze at this temple symbolize the devotion of thousands of Buddhists from all occupations. Around this temple are the ruins of buildings, which originally comprised the Maha Vihare complex

There is the Lowa Maha Paya, which were seven stories in height when originally built. Only the stone pillars of the original buildings are to be seen today. To the south are the ruins of Buddhist University, Mayura Pirivena. To the north are the Ruwanweli Seya and its extensive monastery complex of residences of monks, refectories shrines rooms as well as assembly halls.

Menik Vehara

Leaving the outer city, one comes to the monastery complexes, which comprise several stupas, shrine rooms and assembly halls as their central and dominant features. The Manikvehera monastery complex, situated immediately north of the northern boundary wall of the ancient city, has revealed several significant features. The sacred terrace with the stupa, image house and Bodhi tree shrine, was constructed in at least two stages. The first stage appears to date from about the eighth century A.D.

Northern Temple

Situated at the northernmost boundary of the ancient city is the large monastery complex believed to be the ancient Jetavanarama or the Veluvanarama. The image house, or Tivanka-patimaghara, enjoys fame for several reasons. This shrine contains a unique collection of twelfth-century murals of the classical school of painting a contribution of the earlier periods

shape of an open lotus. Many more such baths of lotus design built in the monastery grounds, probably to contain water for the use of the monks, lie in ruins and are yet to be excavated and conserved.

seen at Sigiriya and Ajanta. Polonnaruva continued the earlier painting tradition on a larger scale for both secular and religious edifices, where the medium of fresco secco was used universally, for decoration as well as edification. In the monastery garden of the Northern Temple is a bath built of stone in the

Pothgul Viharaya

as the likeness of a king or sage? The location of the site and the statue on the bund of the lake makes one wonder if it is a likeness of the great tank-builder and builder of the lake, King Parakramabahu himself

At the southern end of the city, outside the Royal Garden of Nandana Uyana is the monastery referred to as the Pothgul Vehera, or the ‘Library Monastery’. Its buildings are grouped on terrace around a central square monument a circular shrine or library for sacred books. At the northern boundary of the site is a sculptured figure carved in to the face of the rock outcrop. This figure has been a subject of study and conjecture by many scholars. Who have interpreted it variously


This building is one of the most outstanding achievements of' Sinhala architects during the Polonnaruva period and superb example of' a I louse with a vaulted roof of brick construction. There are three examples J this type of vaulted shrines in Polonnaruva, and this is one. Usually theses, types of edifices have moulded bases and the exteriors of their walls AP, c. ornamented with pilasters supporting horizontal cornices.

The best‑preserved linage I louse with a vaulted roof at Polonnaruwa is the Thuparama linage House. The ancient naine of this edifice has not bccli ascertained. Therefore, it is difficult to say exactly who its builder was, bill it is believed that this was the shrine built by Mahinda, a courtier~ (& Parakramabahu to keel) the 53acred Tooth Relic. Some scholars in FW.4 believe that this was built during Vi.jayabahus reign. The other two of the same type are Lankatilaka & Tivanka Pilimage built during the same period. The difference is that Thuparama has a Seated Buddha statue while the other two have standing Buddha statues. The colossal seated brick linage has now been reduced to a pile of brickbat. The other stone Images inside the Thupararna linage House date from the Late Anuradhapura Period.

As we can see today, the lower reliefs in brick and stucco round the linage House are lions with a forepaw r6ised. The walls of the building are ornamented with 'Virnana' type buildings shown in relief and found elsewhere too in Polonnaruva. Architecturally this Image House also has the same features of the type namely a mandapa, antarala & the garbbagrha, which should be rightly called a gandhakuti. Apart from the main entrance there is also a side entrance_ to the North.

A feature common to all three Image Houses at Polonnaruva is a square Cell, from projects a bayed vestibule. Special at Thuparama is that the main entrance facing east stands out from the bay of the vestibule. Another feature is the thickness of the walls. This makes the internal space of shrine small in relation to the exterior dimensions. The walls are 7 rt. in thickness.

Near the Thuparama Image house is a small building probably the remains of a Bodhi 'Free Shrine.

Hendeniya Vihara

The Kingdom of Kandy in the earliest times was known as "Kanda Uda Pas Rata" (The five counties). It was from this that the name Kandy was derived.

The Kanda Uda Pas Rata comprised the following divisions: Yatinuwara, Udu Nuwara, Hewaheta, Dumbara and Harispattuwa.

Studding the entire Kanda Uda Pas Rata is a vast complex of ancient temples, devales, rock cave shelters (Len Vihara), monolithic stone pillars and dagobas which date back to the medieval Kingdoms of Sitawake, Gampola and Dambadeniya.

Situated in Udu Nuwara is the rock cave temple called "Hendeniya Vihara." Also called "Galgane Vihara" it lies along the Kandy-Daulagala Road, (via Peradeniya) about 12 km from Kandy. Local traditions say that this Len Vihara (cave temple) was built at the request of Henekanda Biso Bandara (consort of King Wickremabahu III) of the Gampola period (1357-1374), and served as her resting place when she visited Lankatillake Vihara and Embekke Devale in the vicinity.

Unique Stone Carvings

In the temple premises is a huge rock boulder which houses the cave shelters. In front lies the old devale.

Apart from the intricate carvings found in this ancient temple - "parana vihara"- an elaborate stone doorway commands attention.

This doorway is considered a fine sculpture in stone. The Makara Thorana portrayed here lends equilibrium to the entire frontage of the cloistered rock cave shrine.

Makara Thorana Motifs

The Makara Thorana is an example of masterly ancient stone crafts: executed above the lintel of the stone doorway. The 'Hansa-Puttuwa' motif (entwined swan) is etched below the Makara Thorana, while above its lintel, it has been edged in blue. This Makara Thorana is a typical archway with a pair of Makaras in the shape of some mythical aquatic species with an elephant trunk, crocodile body, and feet terminating in fish tail, symbolic of water fertility and life.

On both sides of the stone doorway are two figures of cobra kings, in part human. Behind the two heads of the guard stones lie the multi-hooded cobra heads. The decorative artistic treatment of the stone lintel with a red background is typical of Kandyan art and sculpture.

The next noteworthy element of the stone-doorway of the old temple is the floral design covering both sides of the doorway and the lintel. Inside this image house (pilimage) is enshrined a sublime seated Buddha statue. There is a stone pillar having a wooden 'Pekada'on its top (a bracket), while the roof is paved with flat Sinhala tiles.

Moon Stone

The moonstone is another masterpiece. Unlike the moonstones of the Anuradhapura -Polonnaruwa periods, which have rows of elephants, oxen, flowers, horses and the like, this particular moonstone is simple, sans any such elaborate carvings.

It has only a surrounding band ending in 'Liyana Vel' motifs. The shape of the moon stone seemed semi-circular up to the 13th century. Thereafter with the progress of time, the semi-circular design turned out to be a full circle by the 14th century as seen in the Parana Vihara. Such moonstones date back to the Gampola, Kandy periods, mostly to the reign of Rajadhi Rajasinha 18th century AD.

The ancient image house has standing and seated Buddha statues of gilded gold. The murals adorning the cave ceiling depict Jataka stories.The reclining Buddha statue displays a beautiful halo (Budures Valalla). There is also a Poya Ge and a Seema Malaka (Chapter House).

Other Priceless Treasures

It is mentioned in ancient documents preserved at the temple that there had been 991 such Viharas like the Hendeniya-Len Vihara. There is also a priceless artifact preserved there - a Bodhi Pooja bowl of gold which was gifted by King Rajaadhi Rajasinha. The only other such golden bowl is found in the Dalada Maligawa. There is also a gallery of "Suvisi Vivarana"comprising 24 statues of past and future Buddhas.

A life-size portrait of King Rajaadhi Rajasinha is depicted on the side of the wall of the image house. Also preserved here is a Thamba Sanasa (a decree) by the last King of Kandy, Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe granting lands in the neighbourhood to the temple in 1812.

  • New Image House

    The new image house on the same architectural lines of the ancient image house was built in 1952, while the Buddha statues and mural paintings were completed in 1986. The Makara Thorana concept is faithfully portrayed along with the other artefacts including the golden Buddha statue enclosed in a separate glass enclosure.

    All the artistic motifs found in the Parana Vihara are well reproduced without any flaw. This new image house has been skilfully constructed into a rock cave shelter (like the one in theParana Vihara) in the boulder. It is 45 feet long , 47 feet wide and 19 feet high.

  • Bo Tree

    Down by the side of this Len Vihara on a hillock below, stands the "Bodhiya" (Bo Tree) a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura. It has a well preserved Prakaraya.Another relic of the past has an eerie significance. It is the Kotu Thappaya, where people were hanged in those hoary days.

    The temple's resident Buddhist monk Ven. Revata Ambanwela Gunaratana Vidana Nayake Thera, though in his late seventies, is still strong in limb and mind. He narrates the temple's history, chapter and verse as if reading from some chronicle, enthralling all visitors.

  • Kiri Vehera

    This has been built by a queen of king Parakramabahu (1153-1186) called “Subadra”. The original name of this has been “Rupavathi Stupa”. This too is a part of Ãlahana Privena and stands 80 feet in height today.

    This is also the second biggest stupa in Polonnaruwa today. Also it is the only stupa to survive the 900 years of forces of nature and still is in the original condition.

    Around Kiri Vehera there are many restored smaller stupas. These have been identified as burial chambers of high priests and royals. Many of these including Kiri Vehera stupa has been attacked by treasure hunters and their valuables looted.

    The two identical stupas south to the Lankathilaka is thought to be built upon remains of a king and a queen.

Koneswaram Trinco

Koneswaram temple (Tamil: திருக்கோணேச்சரம் கோயில்) (also historically known as the Konesar Kovil and the Temple of the Thousand Pillars) is an important Hindu temple in Eastern Province, Sri Lanka.

The Koneswaram temple has a recorded history from 300 CE, and at its zenith was of considerable size and heralded as one of the richest and most visited temples in Asia. Built atop Swami Rock, overlooking the Trincomalee harbour, the temple has lay in ruins, been restored, renovated and enlarged by various royals and devotees throughout its history.

One of five temples of the island dedicated to the Hindu deityShiva whose construction began in the ancient period (Ishwarams), Koneswaram is venerated by Saivites in the region. Its bronze idol statues from the 10th century CE are considered some of the high points of Chola art.

Throughout its history, the temple has been administered and frequented by Sri Lankan Hindu Tamils and is located in Trincomalee, a classical period port town with a mixed Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim population. Myths surrounding the temple of Koneswaram associate it with the popular Indian epic Ramayana, and its legendary hero-king Rama.

Koneswaram was developed in the post classical era, between 300 CE and 1600 CE by kings of the Tamil Pandyan and Chola empires, and Vannimai chiefs of the Eastern Province, with decorations and structural additions such as its famous thousand pillared hall furnished by kings of the Tamil Pallava dynasty and the Jaffna kingdom.

This culminated in Koneswaram becoming one of the most important surviving buildings of the classical Dravidian architectural period by the early 1600s.

In 1624 CE, the Konewaram temple was largely destroyed by the Portuguese colonials. Hindus built a successor temple at a nearby site in 1632 CE - the Ati Konanayakar temple in nearby Tampalakamam - to house some of the destroyed temple's idols, where they are now worshipped.

In the 1950s, the ruins of the temple were discovered underwater beside Swami Rock.

The Koneswaram temple was rebuilt of much more modest dimensions at its original site by local Hindu Tamils 450 years after its destruction. Rediscovered sculptures and idols from the original temple are installed in the reconstructed building.

The annual temple festival attracts Hindus from around the country.


15 miles east of Matara is the town of Dikwella, where there is one of the most extraordinary Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. The Wewurukannala Vihara temple is dominated by an image of a seated Buddha. It is 160ft high, the largest statue in all of Sri Lanka and dates back to the time of King Rajadhi (1782 - 1798). The temple has three parts, the oldest being about 250 years old; however this is of no particular interest.

The next part has life size models of demons and sinners shown in graphic detail. If you don't follow the path to enlightenment this is what happens to you. Punishments include being drunken in boiling cauldrons, swan in half, disemboweled and so on. Finally there is the enormous seated Buddha that is as high as an eight storey building.

The temple walls show you the path towards enlightenment by depicting hundreds of comic strip representations of events in the Buddha's lives. Among one of the episodes is theChulla Dhammapala Jataka. It tells the story of how King Maha Prathapa of Varanasi on entering the palace found the queen cuddling her seven month old child. After ignoring him the King was left insulted so ordered that the prince be executed and the body be thrown into the air. Several Jataka Stories are also amid the paintings, which where selected for Vesak stamps in 1991. One depicts The Kattahari Jataka showing Prince Kastavahana, son of King Brahmadatta resting with his entourage.

Tissamaharamaya Dagaba

by Nemsiri Mutukumara

The Maha Aramaya and the Mahacetiya in Magama in the deep South of Ruhunu Rata was built by King Kavantissa's father of the heroic king Dutugemunu and his younger brother Saddhatissa.

When the Thuparama and other Buddhist monasteries had been built in the Rajarata, many a similar vihararama and dagaba were built in Magama in the capital of Ruhuna. However, the first ruler to have begun the construction of sacred places of Buddhist worship in Ruhuna was Mahanaga.

He is credited with the Sandagiri Seya, the Yatala Cetiya, Velipiti Viharaya, Kudorapavu Vihara and the Menik dagaba. However, Henry Parker, an irrigation officer of the British Administration in his 'Archaeology of Tissamaharama - Report on Archaeological discoveries at Tissamaharama, 1884," opines the Yatala Cetiya to have been built by Yatthalaka Tissa, the son of Mahanaga and the Maharamaya at Tissa to have been built by Mahanaga.

With the spread of the message of the Buddha and the establishment of the order of Bhikkhus by Arhat Mahinda and the Order of Bhikkunis by Arhat Theri Sanghamitta - both historic events - with the patronage and sponsorship of the king, court and commoner alike, followed an earnest and devoted endeavour to spread the new message of peace and harmony and the simple way of life with intense activity in building construction.

The credit for this inaugural monumental venture goes to one family - the Royal family of King Devanampiyatissa in Rajarata and his brother Mahanaga at Ruhunu Rata. They led and their successors followed.

The Tissamaharama - like all other dagabas and viharas - was repaired, reconstructed, restored and further developed by successive kings.

The Sinhala Buddhist kings were benevolent rulers who not only had their purohitas (advisors) but they also were learned and intelligent and were themselves visionaries who could not be fooled by unscrupulous advisors. Besides, during the Sinhala kings, there were neither archaeological departments nor cultural triangle projects.

The ancient rulers knew that dagabas and Bodhigharas, monasteries and meditation kutis were built for the benefit of the laity and the sangha. Those must continue to be maintained as they flourished centres of daily worship in order that the country should march forward in peace, progress and prosperity, so that the ruler and the ruled may live righteously. And successive rulers embarked on repairing and causing improvements of the monuments Hut up by their predecessors.

Had it not been so, the ancient and medieval monuments would have been reduced to piles of bricks and mounds of rubble. From such ancient times as the second century after the Common Era (165 A.C.E.) according to inscriptional evidence, King Kanitthatissa repaired the Maharama.

King Ilanaga enlarged the Maha Vihara to the extent of a hundred lengths of his unstrung bow (600 feet in length)

The Mahavamsa mentions that King Voharaka Tissa "caused improvements to be made with paid labour to Mahagama and Mahanaga viharas and dagabas."

King Dappula II king at Magama (690 ACE) had "caused the dagaba of Runa to be rebuilt" state the Rajavaliya.

King Mahinda III who ruled from 997 to 1013 "repaired the Mahavihara and refers to the Uda Tissa monastery".

Up to the end of the 13th century kings like Parakrama Bahu I, Nissanka Malla and Pandita Parakrama Bahu had in some way or other shown devoted interest in the edifices of Ruhuna including the great veva's built by the Ruhuna rulers.

During the time of Kalinga Nagha the invader and his successors who ruled the country for a number of years, invaders were settled at Magama.

The tanks falling into disrepair, the religions centres, the majestic monasteries and dagabas and Bodhigharas abandoned, and sangha laity deserting the abodes, none were there to prevent the jungle enveloping these place of Buddhist worship.

Tissamaharama also faced the same fate. Nearly a hundred years ago, the edifice was restored by a local committee and the people rejoiced that Tissamaharamaya had come into being once again as a centre of homage with olden-day serenity.

The re-construction faced no problem whatsoever until a few years ago when cracks began to appear in the dome of the dagaba.

Certain schools of thought adduce two reasons for the present situation - one a remote cause and the other the immediate cause.

The remote cause is water seepage and the immediate cause being the transportation of heavy rock stones along the road in front of the dagaba for the construction of the Kirinda harbour, resulting in the cracking of the dagaba.

After series of tests, the Archaeological Department entrusted the job of preventing further cracks of the dagaba to Mechanical Engineering Unit of the State Engineering Corporation. The SEC's Engineer, Gemunu Silva expertly handled the job and saw to the safety of the 2200 year old dagaba - the pride of Ruhunu Rata.

Last month, I had the privilege of visiting the sacred dagaba once again - my third visit to the cite.

I recollect my first visit to Tissamaharama 30 year ago.

The serene, spiritual satisfaction I enjoyed walking round the dagaba still fresh in my mind, is indescribable.

My second visit was when the Sarvodaya Sramadana Sangamaya - sponsored Peace Walk from the Irivehera, Kataragama to the North, came to Tissamaharamaya for lunch and rest.

The Walk, however, had to be terminated at Tissamaharamaya on the orders of the J. R. Jayawardene government.

During the discussions and negotiations demanding the continuation of the walk, I enjoyed to my hearts content paying homage to the dagaba and meditating created on the sacred soil sanctified by the visit of the Buddha.

The Dagaba and the Tissamaharama Vihara complex provided all the spiritual satisfaction of the devotees and the disciplined men, sans external trappings of decorations and outward show.

Alas on the third visit with the Archaeological Advisory Committee, the sanctity and serenity hoped for were not there any more.

The large compound bore a carnival atmosphere haphazard building coming up at all odd places - in front of the sacred dagaba and adjacent to the monument.

Vendors had their say within the compound selling fruits and vegetables.

The dagaba-maluva is paved with marble which is quite unnecessary.

One section of the maluva was covered with overgrown grass, plastic covers were strewn here and there.

A statue of the "Buddha" has been erected causing deep resentment in the pious people. It is a gross insult to the Supremely Enlightened One.

If anybody needs to erect any further structures for the benefit of the upasaka-upasika community, let such structures be put up elsewhere and certainly not in the dagaba-maluva.

There is plenty of land to accommodate the community on poya days and nights without crowding them into the maluva which should provide complete freedom of access to the people to pay homage and engage in meditation.

Now that Engineer Gemunu Silva of the SEC has given the assurance, Tissamaharama dagaba will flourish for a further 100 years without further cracking up.

Authorities concerned in protecting such monuments have to take positive steps to prevent heavily loaded trucks and containers from plying on the roadway in front of the Dagaba.

Modernisation is a good thing but desecration in its name is to be condemned. Such Maha blunders have taken place at the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi premises in Buddha Gaya. The Indian Buddhists as well as Hindus are lamenting over it. The Archaeological Survey of India is furious over the misdeed of the men of the MahaBodhi.

Sithul Pawwa Dagoba

Situlpawwa rock temple with a history of over 2200 yearsis one of the significant Buddhist sites built in the 2nd Century BC. We visited this temple on 30 January 2010 located deep within the Yala National Park within the Hambantota district in the deep south of Sri Lanka,

Sithulpawwa rock temple has a stunning setting. There are two temples perched high atop hard volcanic rock outcrops. Maha Sithulpauwa rock is 400 feet in height. The dagoba is situated on top of the rock and is reached by a difficult steep climb, aided by steps cut into the rock. The dagoba is believed to have been built by king Kawantissa. It houses an intricate cave complex

The name Sithulpauwa is derived from the word 'Chittalapabbata' which means the hill of the quiet mind. The rock temple was a place of worship for devotees as well as a centre of Buddhist scholarship. It is believed that in ancient times this rock temple once housed a total of 12,000 Arhats or monks who achieved the highest mind level in Buddhism. The life that the Arhats lived in Sithulpawwa was a hard one, with silence and solitude. The rock temple is famous for its early Brahmi script, ruins of the preaching house and the fragments of paintings that can be viewed at the image house.