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.

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Katarangala Raja Maha Viharaya

Katarangala Viharaya
Katarangala Viharaya (Photo credit: U Edg3, Google Street View)

Katarangala Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: කටාරංගල රජමහා විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Halloluwa in Kandy District, Sri Lanka.

History
The Brahmi inscriptions indicating the donation of caves to Buddhist monks in the large cave at the site testify that this place existed as a dwelling place for the monks in the early centuries of the Christian era (Seneviratna, 1983). The cave was later converted into a cave temple with a recumbent Buddha image in it (Seneviratna, 1983). The place Halloluwa which is referred to in the 14th-century text Saddharmalankaraya is identified as the present Katarangala Viharaya (Abeyawardana, 2004). 

During the Kandyan Period, the text titled Vimana-watthuprakarana was translated into Sinhala by a Buddhist monk named Gammulla Ratnapala who had lived in this temple (Abeyawardana, 2004).

Gilt Buddha image
The temple has got attention due to a gilt Buddha statue that is said to have been brought here by Arhat Maliyadeva Thera from India or from Devanagala in Mawanella (Abeyawardana, 2004; Seneviratna, 1983). The Buddha statue under a Makara Torana (dragon arch) is similar in appearance to the ones at the Pusulpitiya Viharaya and Madanwela Viharaya (Seneviratna, 1983). On the bottom of the statue is a date indicating the Buddhist year 2310 (or 1766 A.D.) which falls into the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha [(1747-1782 A.D.) Seneviratna, 1983]. A Pirith-nula and a Pirith-pota which are said to have been offered to the temple by Kirti Sri Rajasinha are preserved at the Viharaya today (Seneviratna, 1983).

Although the statue was robbed several times, it has been recovered and is kept in the temple (Abeyawardana, 2004).

A protected site
The Buddha shrine belonging to Katarangala Purana Vihara premises situated in the Grama Niladhari Division of Halloluwa in Harispattuwa Divisional Secretary’s Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 21 October 2010.
 
References
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.100-101.
2) Seneviratna, A, 1983. Kandy: An Illustrated Survey of Ancient Monuments, with Historical, Archaeological, and Literary Descriptions Including Maps of the City and Its Suburbs. Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs. p.161.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1553. 6 June 2008. p.525.

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This page was last updated on 29 November 2022

Monday, 28 November 2022

Godamunna Ambalama

Godamunna Ambalama
Godamunna Ambalama (Photo credit: Google Street View)

Godamunna Ambalama (Sinhala: ගොඩමුන්න අම්බලම) is an old wayside rest situated in Godamunna village in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. The Godamunna Elle Oya Ambalama built in 1930 is located near this Ambalama.

Ambalama
Ambalamas are traditional resting places built by locals to accommodate wayfarers who were travelling to distant places. They were also used as a place for people to gather, hold meetings and serve as a public place in society. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Ambalamas were spread all over the country.

The Ambalama at Godamunna is believed to have been constructed during the Kandyan Period (Rajapakse, 2016). The wooden pillars of the Hanguranketha Palace that got destroyed by fire during the Dutch attack in the 17th century are said to have been used for the construction of the Ambalama (Abeyawardana, 2004; Seneviratna, 1983). Folklore reveals that the Tooth Relic of the Buddha was kept for one night at this Ambalama when it was secretly moved from Kandy to Hanguranketha due to security reasons (Abeyawardana, 2004; Rajapakse, 2016). 

During the Great Rebellion of 1817–1818, the British who camped at Godamunna used this Ambalama as a cattle slaughterhouse (Rajapakse, 2016). The structure was conserved in 1970 by the Department of Archaeology (Rajapakse, 2016).

The structure
The square-shaped Godamunna Ambalama is reared on wooden pillars rising on the grid of massive beams (Seneviratna, 1983). Each of these beams measures 1.85 m in circumference (Abeyawardana, 2004). The pillars and the roof have been replaced and repaired later. The Marassana Ambalama situated in close proximity is very much similar in appearance to the Godamunna Ambalama (Abeyawardana, 2004).

References
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.58-59.
2) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.115-116.
3) Seneviratna, A, 1983. Kandy: An Illustrated Survey of Ancient Monuments, with Historical, Archaeological, and Literary Descriptions Including Maps of the City and Its Suburbs. Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs. p.135.

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This page was last updated on 28 November 2022

Sunday, 27 November 2022

Naga Vimanaya (Kandy)

Naga Vimana Kande Viharaya, also known as Naga Vimanaya (Sinhala: නාග විමානය, නාගවිමාන කන්දේ විහාරය), is a small Buddhist temple situated near the Malwathu Maha Viharaya in Kandy District, Sri Lanka.

History
The temple is believed to have been founded in the early 17th century (Seneviratna, 1983). The name of this temple is mentioned in Nampota, an ancient Sinhalese text which is considered to have been compiled after the 14th century A.D. King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-1782 A.D.) is said to have maintained a garden at this site (Rajapakse, 2016). Later, the Bowl relic of the Buddha that had been enshrined in the Stupa of this site was moved to the Natha Devalaya at Kandy (Rajapakse, 2016).  

The famous Buddhist monk Welivita Sri Saranankara Thera (1698-1778 A.D.) is said to have lived in this temple for some time (Rajapakse, 2016; Seneviratna, 1983).

The image house
The small image house of this temple is of archaeological importance. Built of brick covered by clay and lime mortar, it consists of two sections; the inner chamber and the outer pavilion (Rajapakse, 2016). The paintings on the walls of the inner chambers are well-preserved and the murals in the outer pavilion have been conserved by the Central Cultural Fund (Rajapakse, 2016). The main Buddha statue in the Samadhi posture shows features of the Gampola and Kandyan Periods (Rajapakse, 2016). Murals depicting Jataka stories such as Vessantara adorn the walls of the shrine.
 
A protected site
The ancient image house belonging to Nagavimana Kande Vihara premises situated in Kandy city in the Malwatta Grama Niladhari Division in the Gangawata Koralaya Divisional Secretary’s Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 21 October 2010.
 
References
1) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.49-50.
2) Seneviratna, A, 1983. Kandy: An Illustrated Survey of Ancient Monuments, with Historical, Archaeological, and Literary Descriptions Including Maps of the City and Its Suburbs. Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs. p.101.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1677. 21 October 2010. p.1750.

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This page was last updated on 27 November 2022

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Nataraja (Siva Devale No. 1), Colombo National Museum

Nataraja Siva Devale 1 Colombo Museum
A bronze representing Nataraja in his cosmic dance is presently on display in the Gallery of Polonnaruwa Period at Colombo National Museum, Sri Lanka. It was discovered in the precinct of Siva Devale No. 1 in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983).

The copper bronze is 90.4 cm in height and depicts the divine dancer Nataraja, a form of the Hindu god Siva (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983). The four-armed god dances balancing his body weight on the right leg, trampling down the dwarfish demon Muyalaka, the symbol of ignorance while the left leg is kept raised and bent Kunchitapada (Krishnarajah, 1983). The back hands hold a drum (or kettle?) and a flame, the symbols of creation and destruction while the front hands are in Varada and Gajahasta Mudras. The long hair spreading in either direction indicates the fall and spread of strands during god's dance. Rows of flowers, a skull, and a crescent are found inserted among the strands. The miniature figure of the divine river Ganga indicates it falling onto the god's head thus reducing her rapid descent from the Himalayas (Arunachalam, 2004). Also, a few cobras coil themselves in between the hair locks as well as on the wrist. The earrings consist of a Makara pendant and a pearl-studded disk and the body is richly adorned with ornaments. The god is encircled with a complete Prabhamandala (Tiruvasi) arising from the mouths of two Makaras (dragons) established on the lotus pedestal (Coomaraswamy, 1914).

The composition and stylistic features of the bronze indicate its roots linking to the Pandya style of Southeast India (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983). Scholars have dated this statue to the 13th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al, 2013)

References
1) Arunachalam, P., 2004. Polonnaruwa bronzes and Siva worship and symbolism. Asian Educational Services. pp.24-28.
2) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2013. Sri Lanka Murthi: Siva (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Siva). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural and the Arts. pp.60-61.
3) Coomaraswamy, A., 1914. Bronzes from Ceylon, chiefly in the Colombo Museum. Series A. No. 1. Memoirs of the Colombo Museum/Ed. J. PearsonColombo: Horace Hart, Colombo. p.13.
4) Krishnarajah, S., 1983. Saiva Bronzes in Sri Lanka. Dissertation submitted in the partial fulfilment of M.A. degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Mysore, India. pp.26-28.

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This page was last updated on 26 November 2022

Friday, 25 November 2022

Siva (Colombo National Museum)

Siva statue, Colombo Museum
A bronze representing Siva in Tribhanga posture is presently on display in the Gallery of Polonnaruwa Period at the Colombo National Museum, Sri Lanka. Discovered in 1908 in the precinct of Siva Devale No 5 in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City, the theme depicted by this bronze is frequently known as Vrisabhavahana murti  (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983).

The bronze is 67 cm in height and depicts the Hindu god Siva in a relaxing position after performing the Tandava dance. The weight of the body is balanced on the right leg while the left leg bends lightly with the toes touching the lotus pedestal (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). He is four-armed and the extra arms branch out from the elbow. The back hands hold an axe (Pharasu) and a leaping antelope while the front left hand depicts the attitude of resting upon the bull vehicle (Vrisabhavahana) which is now separated from the bronze (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983). The front right hand, now empty, could have been holding a trident (Trisula), the main symbol of Siva (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). The tall headdress is conical in shape and the third eye is visible on the forehead of the god. The earrings consist of a Makara pendant and a large disk and the body is richly adorned with ornaments.

Scholars have dated this statue to the 13th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al, 2013)

References
1) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2013. Sri Lanka Murthi: Siva (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Siva). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural and the Arts. pp.72-73.
2) Krishnarajah, S., 1983. Saiva Bronzes in Sri Lanka. Dissertation submitted in the partial fulfilment of M.A. degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Mysore, India. p.45.

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This page was last updated on 25 November 2022

Thursday, 24 November 2022

Kasuprad Parivena

Kasuprad Parivena (Sinhala: කසුප්රද් පරිවෙන) is a ruined monastery complex situated in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City, Sri Lanka.

History
Located between Rankoth Vehera and Menik Vehera monasteries, this ruined site is supposed to be the ancient Kasuprad Parivena built by King Kassapa V (914-923 A.D.). This belief is supported by a 10th-century inscription that was discovered near this site where the name Kasuprad Parivena is mentioned. Also, the architectural design of this building complex suggests that it belongs to the Pancavasa style which was prevalent at the time. The ruined structures surrounding the central terrace of the complex indicate that a large number of Buddhist monks had been resident here.

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This page was last updated on 24 November 2022

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Nataraja, Siva Devale No. 5 (Colombo National Museum)

Nataraja, Colombo National Museum
A bronze representing Nataraja is presently on display in the Gallery of Polonnaruwa Period at Colombo National Museum, Sri Lanka. It was discovered in 1908 in the precinct of Siva Devale No. 5 in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983).

The bronze is 64.5 cm in height and depicts the divine dancer Nataraja, a form of the Hindu god Siva (Krishnarajah, 1983). According to scholars, this bronze has several special features that are not found in other Nataraja images found in the country (Krishnarajah, 1983). The dancer is represented with many cobras upon his body besides the one that forms the usual ornaments of Siva (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983). Also, two crescents are present on the Jatamakuta (headdress) while the ears are ornamented with two types of earrings; a Makarakundala and a disc-shaped Ratnakundala (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983). The upper body of the dancer is naked but the lower body is covered by a thin cloth. A miniature figure of the Ganga river is shown floating upon the hair strands to the right of the dancer (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). The usual ring of fire (Praba or Tiruvasi) that surrounds the dancer's body is not depicted in this bronze.

Scholars have dated this statue to the 12th-13th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al, 2013)

References
1) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2013. Sri Lanka Murthi: Siva (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Siva). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural and the Arts. pp.64-65.
2) Krishnarajah, S., 1983. Saiva Bronzes in Sri Lanka. Dissertation submitted in the partial fulfilment of M.A. degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Mysore, India. pp.29-31.

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This page was last updated on 23 November 2022

Siva Parvati (Colombo National Museum)

Siva & Parvati, Colombo National Museum
A bronze representing Siva & Parvati in the standing posture of Tribhanga is presently on display in the Gallery of Polonnaruwa Period at Colombo National Museum, Sri Lanka. It was discovered from the premises of Siva Devale No 1 in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983).

The bronze depicts both Siva and his consort Parvati standing lovely close together on separate lotus pedestals on a common base in the act of showing benevolence to human beings. Siva is four-armed and wears his characteristic matted locks and the moon crescent (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). His back hands hold an axe (Pharasu) and apparently an antelope (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). The front right hand depicts the symbolic gesture of protection while the left hand encircles the shoulders of Parvati (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). Parvati stands slightly inclined towards Siva and holds a water lily by her right hand while her left arm hangs down pendant (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). The divine couple is surrounded by an arched halo (Tiruvasi) consisting of pearls and flames (Krishnarajah, 1983). 

Scholars have dated this statue to the 13th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al, 2013)

References
1) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2013. Sri Lanka Murthi: Siva (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Siva). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural and the Arts. pp.1110-111.
2) Krishnarajah, S., 1983. Saiva Bronzes in Sri Lanka. Dissertation submitted in the partial fulfilment of M.A. degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Mysore, India. pp.44-45.

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This page was last updated on 23 November 2022