Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rankoth Vehera

Rankoth Vehera, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Rankoth Vehera (also known as Rankoth Vihara, Ruwanweli Dagoba of Polonnaruwa) is a Stupa located in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. Built by King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 A.D.), it is the tallest Stupa found in this ancient city (Wikramagamage, 2004).

According to the account given in Pujavaliya, this Stupa is one of the edifices done by King Nissankamalla. The great chronicle Mahawamsa also states that Nissanka Malla built the Ratnavali-cetiya (Ruwanweli in Sinhala) to a great height and adorned it with a golden pinnacle. In the Sinhalese language, the name Rankoth Vehera means gold pinnacled Stupa (Wikramagamage, 2004). The word Ran (pronounce as run) means gold and Kotha means pinnacle while Vehera means either Stupa or temple.

Rankoth Vehera is considered the last mega Stupa built by a Sri Lankan king (Ranaweera, 2004).

The Rankoth Vehera Stupa and its monastery complex have been built between the Gopalapabbatha (Southern boundary of Alahana Pirivena) and the Menik Vehera complex. The Pabbata Vihara type monastery, which is located at the southern boundary of Rankoth Vehera Stupa was also a part of this 12th-century temple complex.

The Stupa repletes with four Ayakas (frontispieces), the stone terrace at the base, the square sand terrace, and the surrounding sand path. All these features follow the Anuradhapura Stupa type of the Ruwanveliseya. The construction method of the Stupa dome with a central solid brick cube is considered important. The upper part of the Stupa is supported by the solid brick cube and the space between the brick mantle dome and the solid brick cube is filled with brickbats and earth. The Stupas in Andra Pradesh in India are said to follow a similar device in dome construction but on a wheel design.

Presently, the Stupa has a base diameter of 56.7 m (dome diameter at the platform) and a height of 61 m [(height from the platform) Ranaweera, 2004]. The image houses those surrounding the Rankoth Vehera Stupa indicate the influence of the Mahasanghika sect (Wikramagamage, 2004).

Rankoth Vehera Stupa is mentioned in the following inscriptions.
Rankoth-Dagoba pillar inscriptions (left)
Period : 12th-century A.D.
Reign : Nissanka Malla (1187-1196 A.D.)
Script : Medieval Sinhala
Language : Medieval Sinhala
Transcript : ...Sri Vira  Kalinga  Lamkeshwara
Aprati-Malla Nissmka Malla Parakrama-Bahu
Cakravartti     svamin  -  vahanse    da    venda 
vadara(na kuda)mayi
Translation : This is the pavilion, from which
his majesty is  pleased  to warship  the relics
(enshrined in the Ruwanweli Dagoba)
Reference : Wikramasinghe, 1928
  • Gal-Potha inscription

    Reign : Nissanka Malla (1187-1196 AD)
    Transcript : <<...rajageta uturu-diga asu at Ruwanmeli dagob vahanse karava...>>
    Translation : <<..... Ruwanweli  Dagoba,  eighty  cubits  on  the  north side  of the royal residence...>>
    Reference : Wikramasinghe, 1928
  • Rankoth-Dagoba Gal-Asana inscription

    Reign : Nissanka Malla (1187-1196 AD)
    Transcript : ...Ruvanweli  dagoba   karava  vadarana  kala  karmmanta  bala  vadara  vada hun mulu galin kala asanayayi
    Translation : The seat,  curved  out of a single stone, which occupied (by his majesty) whilst watching the construction of the Ruwanweli dagoba
    Reference : Wikramasinghe, 1928

Tamil Inscriptions
Rankot Vihara Velaikkaran inscription of Jayabahu I
A Tamil inscription was found in a ruined building located between the north gate of the city and the Rankoth Vihara (Veluppillai, 1971)  

Rankoth Vehera Velaikkaran Matevan Tamil Inscription
A Tamil pillar inscription was found from Rankoth Vihara temple premises during an archaeological survey conducted by the Cultural Triangle in 1981 (Pathmanathan, 2004). The inscription is engraved in 10 lines on each side of a square stone pillar (Pathmanathan, 2004). It contains no regnal year of any king but on paleographical considerations, the inscription is assigned to the early 13th century (Pathmanathan, 2004).

A protected monument
The Rankoth Vehera located in the Sri Nissankamallapura village in the Divisional Secretary’s Division, Thamankaduwa is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 4 June 2004.
Ruins of an image house, Polonnaruwa Rankoth Vehera One of Vahalkadas, Polonnaruwa Rankoth Vehera
1) Pathmanathan, S., 2004. New Light on the Decline of Polonnaruwa (1196-1215): The Tamil Pillar Inscription From Rankot Vihara. Proceedings of the Peradeniya University Research Sessions. Sri Lanka. Vol. 9. November 10. 2004. p.31.
2) Ranaweera, M.P., 2004. Ancient stupas in Sri Lanka–Largest brick structures in the world. CHS Newsletter, 70. London. Construction History Society.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1344. 4 June 2004. p.15.
4) Veluppillai, A., 1971. Ceylon Tamil Inscriptions: Part 1. Published by the author. pp.24-26.

5) Wikramasinghe, D. M. D. Z., 1928. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscriptions of Ceylon Vol II: London. Published for the government of Ceylon by Humphrey Milford, pp. 98-123, 134-142.
6) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites: Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka, p. 214.

Location Map

This page was last updated on 3 October 2020
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map


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