Buddhism and Sri Lanka

According to Sri Lankan chronicles, Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C. by Arhant Mahinda, during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa.

Sri Lankan Inscriptions

The earliest trace of epigraphy in South Asia is said to be found in Sri Lanka. A piece of pottery, dated to circa the 4th century B.C. has been discovered from the Anuradhapura citadel.

Architecture of Sri Lanka

The architecture of Sri lanka has a long history and shows diversed forms and styles, mainly infuenced by their religions and traditional beliefs.

Sri Lankan Antiquities

Inherited from the past, Sri Lanka has a large number of antiques with cultural and historical significance which reflects the glory of past era.

Visit Sri Lanka

Located in the northern waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is an island blessed with a large number of attractons which has made the country an ideal destination for the tourism.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Bodhighara Shrines in Sri Lanka

Bodhighara (lit: Bodhi-tree shrine) is a type of Buddhist structure in Sri Lanka built around the sacred Bo tree (Ficus religiosa) in Vihara and monasteries. The Sri Lankan Bodhigharas of the Anuradhapura Period are considered the only extant examples so far discovered in the entire Buddhist world, of the hypothetical Bodhi-tree shrines referred to in ancient literature and depicted in the earliest Buddhist relief sculpture in India (Bandaranayake, 1990).
The Buddha attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya in India, seated on a stone seat (Vajrasana or Asana) under a Bo tree. Thereafter, both the Bo tree (or Bodhi tree) and Asana became objects of worship of Buddhists, not only in India, but also in other Buddhist countries in the region including Sri Lanka (Karunaratne, 1998).
Soon after the introduction of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Sangamitta Theri, the daughter of Emperor Asoka (c.268-232 B.C.) and sister of Arhat Mahinda Thera, brought the southern branch of the sacred Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya to Sri Lanka (Bandaranayake, 1990; Nicholas, 1963; The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007; Wikramagamage, 2004). It was planted at Mahamegha park in Anuradhapura, on the ground earlier sanctified by the Buddha, by King Devanampiyatissa (247-207 B.C.) in the presence of a great multitude (Nicholas, 1963; Wikramagamage, 2004). As mentioned to the chronicle Mahavamsa, the first Bodhigara of the country was erected during this time and since then many kings built or repaired Bodhigharas around their kingdoms (Karunaratne, 1998). 

Presently, the Bodhighara has become an important element in every Buddhist temple in the country.
The structure
The Bodhighara (Bodhi = Bo tree, Ghara = house) was a roofed structure over the circumambulatory path that ran around the sacred Bo tree (Bandaranayake, 1990; The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007). It was designed in a manner as to cover only the area around the tree, leaving an open space in the center as the tree requires sunshine for its growth (Karunaratne, 1998). It was usually terraced on three or more levels, each enclosed by a railing (Karunaratne, 1998). Four cardinally-oriented flights of steps were provided to access the upper terrace. The placing of a stone Asana, which symbolized the Buddha, at the foot of the Bo tree was an important part of this type of shrines (Bandaranayake, 1990; The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007).

Relatively well-preserved Bodhighara shrines (with stone Asana) have been found at Nillakgama, Galigamuwa, Pulukunava, Rajangane, Padikemgala and in Abhayagiri (Bodhighara I, Bodhighara II, Bodhighara III) and Jetavana (Buddhist Railing) temples at Anuradhapura (The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007).

1) Bandaranayake, S., 1990. The architecture of the Anuradhapura period 543 B.C.-800 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). pp.27-28.
2) Karunaratne, L.K., 1998. The history of Buddhist architecture in Sri Lanka. The 1998 International Symposium on Design & Development of Buddhist Architecture. pp.85-96.
3) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). pp.130-131.
4) The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007. (2nd ed.) Survey Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-9059-04-1. pp.102,104. 
5) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites: Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.54-58

This page was last updated on 23 January 2022
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Dharani House, Abhayagiriya

Dharani House
Dharani House is a ruined building situated in Abhayagiri Monastery premises in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

A form of mystic incantations identify as Dharani (Dhammaratana, 2000). Paying homage to Dharani Sutras which are considered as protective stanzas was a ritual in Mahayana Buddhism. Several slab inscriptions containing Dharani Sutras written in Sanskrit of the 9th century A.D. have been found from this building (Dhammaratana, 2000). North-eastern Nagari script has been utilized to engrave these stones (Dhammaratana, 2000).

1) Dhammaratana, I., 2000. Sanskrit Inscriptions in Sri Lanka: A thesis submitted to the University of Pune in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sanskrit. Department of Sanskrit & Prakrit Languages, University of Pune, India. pp.373-386.

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Saturday, January 22, 2022


Amavatura (lit: Ambrosial Water) is a devotional biography of the Buddha composed by Gurulugomi, a commentator and philosopher lived in the 12th century in Sri Lanka (Reynolds et al., 1994; Wikramasinghe, 1900). It is considered the first prose narrative among extant Sinhalese literary works (Suriyahetti, 1975).
Amavatura is called the life story of the Buddha by its author Gurulugomi (Suriyahetti, 1975). He has compiled it by emphasizing one of the nine virtues of the Buddha namely Purisadhammasarathi which means "guide of tamable beings" (Suriyahetti, 1975). The work has been divided into 18 chapters under the following headings;

1) Durdanta-damana               2) Svasantana-damana               3) Parasantana-damana
4) Grihapati-damana               5) Brahmana-damana                 6) Raja-damana
7) Angulmal-damana              8) Parivarjaka-damana                9) Manavaka-damana
10) Digambara-damana        11) Jatila-damana                       12) Tapasa-damana
13) Bhikkhu-damana             14) Naga-damana                        15) Yaksha-damana
16) Asura-damana                 17) Deva-damana                        18) Brahma-damana

1) Reynolds, F., Tracy, D. and Greeley, A.T. eds., 1994. Religion and practical reason: New essays in the comparative philosophy of religions. SUNY Press. p.124.
2) Suriyahetti, P., 1975. A syntactical study of the Amavatura. University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (United Kingdom). pp.1-7.
3) Wikramasinghe, D. M. D. Z., 1900. Catalogue of the Sinhalese Manuscripts in the British Museum: London. pp.29-31.

This page was last updated on 22 January 2022
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Alahana Pirivena

Alahana Pirivena
Alahana Pirivena is the largest monastery complex located in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City, Sri Lanka.

The Pirivena was established by King Parakramabahu I [(1153-1186 A.D.) Jayasuriya, 2016; Nicholas, 1963; Wikramagamage, 2004]. Its name "Alahana" suggests that the site had been a former cremation ground and this has been confirmed by archaeological excavations carried out here in several places (Jayasuriya, 2016). The Stupas at the site are believed to have been constructed on the cremation grounds of prelates or royals. 

As mentioned in chronicles, the limits of Alahana Pirivena had been marked by 10 boundary stones and it comprised; Lankathilaka Pilima Ge, Rupavathi Thupa, Subaddha Cetiya, Baddhasima Prasada, Khandasima, a Pasada and several other buildings (Nicholas, 1963).

The monastery
Alahana Pirivena is considered the largest monastery complex in Polonnaruwa. It extends over more than 18 hectares and has a terraced layout (Jayasuriya, 2016). Kiri Vehera, Lankathilaka Pilima Ge, Baddhasima Prasada, and several small Stupas are located on the two upper terraces while the monastic hospital, ponds, and a number of residence monks' cells are located on the lower terrace.

The excavations done at the site by archaeologists have exposed a stepped pond with a unique design. According to the view of Prof. Prematilaka, the design of it is similar to the 14th century stepped pond at Hampi, Vijayanagar in India (Jayasuriya, 2016).

1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.81. 
2) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). p.179. 
3) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.214.

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Friday, January 21, 2022

Kingdom of Gampola

Gadaladeniya Viharaya
The Kingdom of Gampola was the fourth kingdom in Sri Lanka that flourished on the island from the 14th to the 15th century (from 1341 A.D. to 1412 A.D.). It was known as "Ganga Siri Pura" as its environmental association with the Mahaweli Ganga river (De Silva, 1990).

The Sinhalese Kingdom which was first established in Anuradhapura in the 3rd century B.C. moved to Polonnaruwa in the 11th century A.D. and then to Dambadeniya in the 13th century A.D. Buwanekabahu IV (1341-1351 A.D.), the son of King Vijayabahu V (1335-1341 A.D.) of Dambadeniya ascended to the throne after his father and shifted the capital from Kurunegala to Gampola giving birth to the fourth kingdom of the country, the Kingdom of Gampola. The exact reason for the transition of the Sinhalese Kingdom from Dambadeniya to Gampola is unknown even though it was commonly considered as for defence (De Silva, 1990). 
The last king of Gampola was King Buwanekabahu V (1372-1408 A.D.). After his reign, Kotte emerged as the new and the fifth kingdom of the country. 

Rulers of the Gampola Kingdom
Buvanekabahu IV (1341-1351 A.D.)                       Parakramabahu V (1344-1359 A.D.)
Vikramabahu III (1357-1374 A.D.)                          Buvanekabahu V (1372-1408 A.D.)
A number of inscriptions (including copper sheets and Sannasas) belonging to the four rulers of the Gampola period have been recorded by scholars (Ranawella, 2014; Rohanadeera, 2007; Wijesuriya, 1990).
King Buvanekabahu IV
Kitsirimewan Kelaniya Vihara slab inscription. # Gadaladeniya Rock Inscription of Dharmakirti Sthavira
# Malwattegala Rock Inscription
King Parakramabahu V
Magul Maha Vihara slab inscription
# Alawala Amuna Rock Inscription
# Hapugastenna Slab Inscription
# Pidurugalpotta Amuna Rock Inscription
King Vikramabahu III
# Ampitiya Rock Inscription
# Galgane Viharaya Pillar Inscription
# Vigulavatta Slab Inscription
King Buvanekabahu V
# Madawela Pillar Inscription
# Rangiri-Pihilla Rock Inscription 

Other inscriptions
Galle Trilingual Slab Inscription (between 1409-1415 A.D.)

It served as the royal residence for more than three decades but like in Dedigama, there are no major architectural remains other than some remains of the palace buildings (De Silva, 1990). This suggests that Gampola was not a stabilized urban settlement with buildings constructed out of permanent materials (De Silva, 1990). Some major shrines built or renovated during the Gampola Period include Niyamgampaya Viharaya, Lankathilaka Viharaya, Gadaladeniya Viharaya and Embekke Devalaya (De Silva, 1990).
1) De Silva, N., 1990. Sri Lankan architecture during the period 1200-1500 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.77.
2) Ranawella, S., 2014. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. VII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-9159-62-9. pp.27-84.
3) Rohanadeera, M., 2007. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon. Vol. VIII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-64-3. pp.11-22. 
4) Wijesuriya, W., 1990. [Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)] Section V: Inscriptions (1200-1600). Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series: Vol. II: Inscriptions. pp.200-201.
This page was last updated on 21 January 2022
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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Dharmaraja College, Kandy

Dharmaraja College is a government boys' school situated in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

The school was started in 1887 by the name Kandy Buddhist High School in a cadjan shed in the Natha Devalaya premises with 12 students (Abeyawardana, 2004). The foundation for the establishment of the school was laid by Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), an American who played a major role in the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the latter part of the 19th century (Abeyawardana, 2004). Andiris De Silva was the first principal from 1887 to 1890. The school was later renamed as Dharmaraja.

Sir D.B. Jayatilaka (1868-1944), a scholar who spear-headed the nationalist movement in the country became the second principal of the school from 1890 to 1898 (Abeyawardana, 2004). In 1915, during the time of the principal K.N. Billimoria (1902-1932), a two-story building for the school was completed at the Kandy city premises and in 1923 the school was shifted to another site (Abeyawardana, 2004). Billimoria was an instrumental figure in acquiring a 22 hectare site for the school where the college is now functioning (Abeyawardana, 2004).

William Gopallawa (1896-1981), the first and only Non-Executive President of Sri Lanka is a past student of Dharmaraja College (Abeyawardana, 2004).

At present the school has common facilities such as class rooms, laboratories, libraries, play-ground, indoor stadium, swimming pool, quarters for teachers, hostels for students and a museum. Classes are conducted for boy students from grade 1 to grade 13 in three levels; primary, post primary and secondary. The Annual Big Match of the school which is popularly known as Battle of the Maroons is held since 1893 against Kingswood College, Kandy.
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.25-26.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Royal Palace of Kandy

Royal Palace of Kandy
The Royal Palace of Kandy (or Royal Palace of Senkadagala) is located to the north of the Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka. It is locally called as Maha Wasala, the traditional name used for the royal palace of the king since the time of King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.) of the Polonnaruwa Period (Abeyawardana, 2004).

The royal palace at Kandy was built by King Wimaladharmasuriya I [(1592-1604 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004]. Since then, it was the royal residence of the Kandyan monarch until the last king of the country, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1798-1815 A.D.). After the Kandy was handed over to the British throne by signing the Kandyan Convention in March 1815, the palace building was used by Sir John D'Oyly, the 1st Baronet of Kandy from 1821 to 1824 as his official residence (Abeyawardana, 2004).
Presently, a section of this palace building is used to house the Kandy Archaeological Museum.

The palace building
The Maha Wasala was the main building of the royal palace complex that also included the Magul Maduwa (royal audience hall), Meda Wasala (queen's palace), Palle Vahala (king's harem quarters) and Ulpange (queen's bathing pavilion). It is a long building of rectangular in shape. It has been reconstructed and renovated several times by Kandyan kings and therefore, the appearance of the original palace has been altered by today. However, the section of the palace that faces the Natha Devalaya is said to be the oldest portion of this building (Abeyawardana, 2004; Rajapakse, 2016). 

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.17-18.
2) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.9-10.

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Gajaman Nona

Dona Isabella Perumal Korneliya alias Gajaman Nona (1758-1814) was an illustrious Sri Lankan poet who was noted for having the ability to compose and recite impromptu Sinhala verses. She is considered the best-known woman poet of the Matara school.

Life events
Gajaman Nona was born in 1758 as the daughter of a minor Sinhala official and the grand daughter of a teacher at a school in Colombo where she is said to have been educated (Jayawardena, 2016). She completed her Sinhala education under Buddhist monks including the famous scholar Karatota Dhammarama Thera (1735-1827).

Gajaman Nona's life was not so pleasant. She was married to an official working in Matara District but it came to end with the death of her husband (Jayawardena, 2016). Her second husband also died, leaving her helpless with four children. She had met John D Oyly, the British Collector of Revenue at Matara, when they both studied Sinhala under the same monk (Gunawardena, 2003). After the death of her second husband, she had to feed up four children alone and therefore she appealed D Oyly in elegant verse for support from the state (Gunawardena, 2003). It is said that D Oyly granted her some lands in the Hambantota District (Gunawardena, 2003). However, the unexpected loss of her husbands, her parents and later her children except one show the bitterness she experienced during her lifetime.

Gajaman Nona died in 1814 and her house in Veragampita village is presently protected by the government as an archaeological monument (Gazette notification: no. 1739). A teledrama named "Gajaman Nona" portraying the life story of Gajaman Nona was telecasted in 1999 by the national television Jathika Rupavahini. A statue of Gajaman Nona has been erected at Nonagama Junction in Ambalantota.
1) Gunawardena, C.A., 2003. Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. Sterling Publishers Pvt Ltd. ISBN: 81-207-2536-0. p.121.
2) Jayawardena, K., 2016. Feminism and nationalism in the Third World. Verso Books.
3) Madumali, I., 2016. Spiritual world of Gajaman Nona manifested in''Gajaman Puwatha" stage play and the poem''Divaman Gajaman". pp.145-147. 
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1739. 30 December 2011. p.1092.

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This page was last updated on 19 January 2022
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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Ancient Royal Palaces in Sri Lanka

Ancient Royal Palaces in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, there are Ruins of Ancient Royal Palaces in major and regional cities where kings and regional rulers lived (The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007). These ruins mainly belong to four periods of the Sri Lankan history, namely; Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya and Kandy. Palaces in the Citadel of Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, and Tissamaharama belong to the Anuradhapura Period while the Vijayabahu Palace at Anuradhapura, the Parakramabahu and Nissankamalla palaces at Polonnaruwa and the palaces at Galabedda and Panduwasnuwara belong to the Polonnaruwa Period (The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007). There are also palace remains in Yapahuwa and Dambadeniya belonging to the Dambadeniya Period and in Kandy, Meda Mahanuwara and Hanguranketha belonging to the Kandyan Period (The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007).

Although the tradition says that the royal palaces in Sri Lanka can be dated back to the Protohistoric Period, there is no reliable evidence to prove it. It is believed that Vijaya, the first traditional ruler of Sri Lanka, constructed the first royal building in the country in the 6th century B.C. (Amarasinghe, 1996). According to the chronicle Mahavamsa, the first royal buildings were constructed during the reign of King Pandukabhaya in the 4th century B.C. but this is also considered as a legend as there are no conclusive evidence or other primary sources (Amarasinghe, 1996). The first fairly reliable literary information regarding a royal place in Sri Lanka is the Mahavamsa reference to the palace of King Devanampiyatissa (247-207 B.C.) built in the 3rd century B.C. (Amarasinghe, 1996).

Palaces of Anuradhapura Period (377 B.C.-1017 A.D.)
Ruined palace buildings belonging to the Anuradhapura Period have been identified at only a few places in the country such as Sigiriya, Citadel of Anuradhapura and Tissamaharama (The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007). However, Kaduruvela-Vijithapura, Paranagampitiya-Badalattali, Padaviya, Vahalkada, and Alahera are considered some urban sites probably containing the remains of ancient palace buildings (Bandaranayake, 1990).

The 5th-century palace remains on the summit of the Sigiriya rock is the earliest surviving palace in Sri Lanka and one of the earliest and most well-preserved ancient palaces in Asia (Bandaranayake, 1990). The ruins of the palace in the Citadel of Anuradhapura is presently known as Dalada-ge (the Temple of the Tooth Relic). Bandaranayake believes that it was a secular/palace building of the Anuradhapura kings during the very last phase of the Anuradhapura Period (Bandaranayake, 1990).

Palaces of Polonnaruwa Period (1017-1232 A.D.)
The ruins of the royal palaces of the Polonnaruwa Period are found at Panduwasnuwara (Palace of Parakramabahu), Anuradhapura (Palace of Vijayabahu), Polonnaruwa (palaces of Parakramabahu and Nissankamalla) and Galabedda [(Palace of Sugala) Prematileke, 1990]. Of them, the Anuradhapura palace was built by King Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.) to celebrate his royal consecration. 
The Polonnaruwa palace of Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.) which is known as Vijayotpaya was a construction as magnificent as Sigiriya (Amarasinghe, 1996). According to the chronicle Culavamsa, it was a seven-storied edifice furnished with one thousand chambers. Remains of two small summer palaces probably belonging to the Vijayotpaya can be seen in the middle of the Parakrama Samudra reservoir (Amarasinghe, 1996).

Palaces of Dambadeniya Period (1232-1341 A.D.)
The ruined buildings at Dambadeniya and Yapahuwa have been identified as palaces of the Dambadeniya Period with the help of related ruins and legends associated with the sites (Amarasinghe, 1996).

Palaces of Kandyan Period (1597-1815 A.D.)
The palaces at Kandy, Meda Mahanuwara and Hanguranketha belong to the Kandyan Period. Of them, the palace at Hanguranketha was built by King Rajasinha II (1635-1687 A.D.) after having fled the capital city of Kandy in the face of a court rebellion (Amarasinghe, 1996).
Palace buildings
Considerations were given to several factors by kings when building their palaces. The personal security, aesthetic effect and other individual needs and requirements were some main factors considered by them (Amarasinghe, 1996). It is apparent that some architectural theories in Kautilya's Arthasastra were utilized in the design and construction of royal palaces (Amarasinghe, 1996).
A significant feature in the design and layout of royal palaces in Sri Lanka is their incorporation within urban centres or cities (Amarasinghe, 1996). The palaces were mostly storeyed buildings and they had been given the central position of the city. A clear demarcation was there between an inner and outer city. Some kings fortified their palaces like castles or fortresses and some built them insecure natural locations such as Giri durga, Vana durga and Panka durga (Amarasinghe, 1996).

Usually, a royal palace building consists of several distinct parts or sections. The main building constructed for the sole usage of the king is referred to as the king's palace or pavilion (Amarasinghe, 1996). The spaces associated with the private life of the king, such as bed chambers, halls, lavatories, bathrooms and pleasure pavilions were included in this part (Amarasinghe, 1996). Other buildings such as storerooms, bedrooms, halls, lavatories, fireplaces, pavilions and ponds were constructed around the central palace for the usage of the royal palace. The edifice called the Temple of the Tooth, the shrine reserved for the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha was usually built close to the royal palace building as it was considered the ultimate symbol of the kings status and majesty (Amarasinghe, 1996).

Although there were a large number of kings throughout Sri Lankan history, only a few palace buildings remain today (Amarasinghe, 1996). It is due to the reason that the palaces were most probably built of perishable materials such as wood or destroyed by enemies during the battles and conflicts (Amarasinghe, 1996).
1) Amarasinghe, M., 1996. Ancient Royal Palaces in Sri Lanka. A dissertation submitted to the Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka for the Master of Philosophy Examination. pp.iii-x.
2) Bandaranayake, S., 1990. The architecture of the Anuradhapura period 543 B.C.-800 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.14.
3) Prematileke, L., 1990. The architecture of the Polonnaruwa period 800-1200 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.41.
4) The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007. 2nd ed. Survey Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-9059-04-1. p.105.
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Monday, January 17, 2022

Lunuganga, Bentota

Lunuganga (Sinhala: the Salt river) is a landscape garden and former home of the internationally renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. It has been built on a promontory that projects into the Dedduwa Lake situated in Bentota in Galle District, Sri Lanka.

Geoffrey Bawa (1919-2003) was the son of Benjamin Bawa (1865-1923), a rich Colombo lawyer. He was also the brother of renowned architect Bevis Bawa (1909-1992).

Lunuganga, during the Dutch period, was a cinnamon garden and later a rubber plantation under the British (Robson, 1993). In 1949, soon after Sri Lanka gained its independence, Bawa bought it from its owner with the intention of converting the ramshackle bungalow on its centre into a weekend house and creating a tropical version of a European renaissance garden around it (Jones, 2011; Robson, 1993). He started his ambitious project but realised that his knowledge was no match for his imagination and therefore went to Britain to study Architecture at the Architectural Association School in London (Robson, 1993).

After qualifying as an architect in 1956, Bawa returned to Sri Lanka in 1958 (Robson, 1993). Since then he continued to develop the house and garden at Lunuganga along with his other professional projects throughout the country (Jones, 2011). During the 1960s and 1970s, he added structures to the garden, including a covered bridge over the ha-ha, a small house for office staff and the Hen House, a tiny square pavilion (Jones, 2011). In 1983, a garden room was built in the garden along with and an ochre-coloured Gothic Court (Jones, 2011). However, the major works on the garden ceased after Bawa experienced an illness in 1998 (Jones, 2011).

Bawa died in 2003 and his property at Lunuganga was later acquired by the Lunuganga Trust. Presently, it is open to the public and the buildings on the garden are run as a country house boutique hotel.

See also

1) DSC 0685-01 by Kosala Migara is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 
1) Jones, R., 2011. Memory, modernity and history: the landscapes of Geoffrey Bawa in Sri Lanka, 1948–1998. Contemporary South Asia, 19(1), pp.9-24.
2) Robson, D., 1993. Lunuganga: The story of a garden. In Historic Gardens and Sites. ICOMOS 10th General Assembly, Sri Lanka, 1993. pp.119-134.

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