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, 31 December 2019

Peradeniya Old Railway Station

Peradeniya Old Railway Station
Peradeniya Railway Station (Sinhala: පේරාදෙණිය හංදිය දුම්රිය ස්ථානය) is one of earliest railway stations in Sri Lanka.

In the 19th century, the British rulers commenced the railway service in Sri Lanka for planters to facilitate the transportation of their harvest from inland to the seaport located in Colombo (Kesavan et al., 2015). On 3 August 1858, the then Ceylon Governor, Henry George Ward (1855-1860 A.D.) commenced the construction of the first railway line in the country to be run between Colombo and Ambepussa (Abeysinghe, 2016).

After the completion, the first train transportation happened between Colombo and Ambepussa on 27 December 1864 (Abeysinghe, 2016). Besides the stations at Colombo (present Colombo Terminus Railway Station) and Ambepussa, three more stations at Mahara (present Ragama), Henarathgoda (present Gampaha) and Veyangoda were completed along the railway line in 1866 (CGR, 1964). In 1867, the railway station at Peradeniya was built.


1) Abeysinghe, A.H.M.S.P., 2016. ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ දුම්රිය කාර්මික පුරාවිද්‍යාව; නව මානයක් කරා රැගෙන යමු. Puraveda 2016.
2) CGR, 1964. Ceylon Government Railway: One hundred years, 1864-1964, Colombo. p.19.
3) Kesavan, R.A., Chandrakumar, C., Kulatunga, A.K., Gowrynathan, J., Rajapaksha, R.T.D., Senewiratne, R.K.G.D.M. and Laguleshwaran, D., 150 Years of Sri Lankan Railways: Evaluation of the Services from Employee and Customer Perspectives. International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering. Volume 5, Issue 5.

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Sunday, 29 December 2019

Independence Memorial Hall and Museum (Colombo)

Independence Memorial Hall and Museum
The Independence Memorial Hall (Sinhala: නිදහස් අනුස්මරණ ශාලාව/නිදහස් චතුරස්‍රය; Tamil: சுதந்திர சதுக்கம்/இலவச நினைவு மண்டபம்) is a national monument located in the Independence Square in Colombo 7, Sri Lanka. It was erected by the Government of Ceylon (present Sri Lanka) to commemorate the achievement of the independence of Ceylon from Britain on 4 February 1948. The hall also houses the Independence Memorial Museum.

The present building has been built at the location where the state opening of the first parliament of Ceylon was held on 4 February 1948.

To symbolize the independence gained from Great Britain, the government of Ceylon decided to build an independence memorial building. The design of the building which is loosely following the architectural plan of the ancient Magul Maduwa, the Royal Audience Hall of the Kandyan Kingdom, was planned by Wynne-Jones (Pieris, 2012). The construction works of the memorial hall was begun with the laying of foundation stone for the building on 4 February 1949.

On 20 April 1983, the custody of the memorial hall was entrusted to the Cultural Ministry by a decision taken by the cabinet ministers. 

The building which is built in concrete is an open pavilion hall lying on one-story podium housing the Independence Memorial Museum. The pillars of the open pavilion carry the two-pitched concrete roof and are decorated with traditional motifs. Four Pun-kalasas (pots of plenty) symbolizing the wealth and prosperity are found at the corners of the pavilion. The area of the ground floor of the hall is approximately 10,000 sq, ft.

At one side of the building is a statue of D. S. Senanayake, the first prime minister of the country. The statue is guarded by four lions similar in appearance to the lions at Yapahuwa.

The total area of the land of the Independence Square is 2.43 acres.

Independence Memorial Museum
A Museum Administered by the Department of National Museums is located in the basement of this memorial hall. Opened for the public on 3 February 2008, the museum displays many statues and display boards of national heroes including political leaders, clergies and the lay patriots who struggled for the country's independence.

The statue of D. S. Senanayake The memorial hall
1) Pieris, A., 2012. Architecture and nationalism in Sri Lanka: The trouser under the cloth. Routledge. p.114. 

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Saturday, 28 December 2019

Old Lighthouse and Clock Tower (Colombo)

Old Lighthouse and Clock Tower (Colombo)
The Colombo Old Lighthouse & Clock Tower (Sinhala: කොළඹ කොටුව පැරණි ප්‍රදීපාගාරය සහ ඔරලෝසු කණුව; Tamil: கொழும்பு கோட்டை மற்றும் கடிகாரங்கள் போஸ்ட்) is a clock tower and was a lighthouse situated at the junction of Chatham Street and Janadhipathi Mawatha in Colombo Fort, Sri Lanka. The tower was used in navigation to indicate the safe passage for vessels entering the Colombo Harbor at night time. Although the lighthouse is no longer operational, the tower still functions as a clock tower.

This clock tower is unique because it is the zero-mileage point in Colombo (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016). 

Old Lighthouse and Clock Tower
Following the construction plan by Emily Elizabeth Swinburne, the wife of Governor Sir Henry George Ward (1797-1860 A.D.), the tower was built under the supervision of John Fleming Churchill (1829–1894 A.D.) during the years 1856-1857 and the construction was done by the Public Work Department (Manathunga, 2016; Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016). The 29 m tall tower was the tallest structure in Colombo at the time  (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016).

Firstly, a clock was installed on the completed tower in 1857 and a navigation light was added to it in 1867 (Manathunga, 2016). In the beginning, the light was lit using Kerosene but from 1907, gas was used for the illumination (Manathunga, 2016). In 1932, an electric-powered light was installed on the tower but it was deactivated in 1952 after its light became obscured by nearby buildings (Manathunga, 2016). It is said that the light of this tower was visible to the eye at a distance of 17 miles [(27.35 km) Manathunga, 2016].

In 1914, the original clock of the tower was replaced with the current clock (Manathunga, 2016).  It is said that the original clock was manufactured by renowned watchmaker Dent who produced the Big Ben in Westminster  Palace (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016). 

See also
#) Colombo Lighthouse


1) Manathunga, S. B., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-39-9. p.24.
2) Welandawe, H., Weerasinghe, J., 2016. Urban Heritage in the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project. p.14.

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Panavitiya Ambalama

Panavitiya Ambalama
The Panavitiya Ambalama (Sinhala: පනාවිටිය අම්බලම; Tamil: பணாவிட்டிய அம்பலம) is an old wayside rest located in the village of Panavitiya in Kurunegala District, Sri Lanka. This Ambalama is considered special among other Ambalamas in the country because of its exquisite wood carvings found on the pillars and the beams of the roof. 

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 Panavitiya is one such structure, believed to have been erected in the 18th century (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015; Mendis et al., 2019). Situated on a flat land bordered to a paddy field, this Ambalama may have been built on an ancient footpath leading from Dambadeniya to Kurunegala and Yapahuwa (Godakumbure, 1993).

The structure
The Ambalama has been mounted on a platform raised about half a foot from the ground (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015). The platform, filled with stone pebbles and crushed rocks, is about 12 ft. 4 inches long and 9 ft. 6 inches wide (Godakumbure, 1993). The wooden framework has been constructed on four round boulders, placed at the four corners of the stone-filled platform. Four timber logs that are balancing on the four-round boulders, make the base of the wooden framework. The roof is supported by 28 wooden posts arranged in two sets. The outer set contains 19 posts and the inner set comprises 9 posts. The 9 inner posts are 6 ft. 2 inches high while the 19 outer posts are 5 ft. 8 inches high (Godakumbure, 1993). The capitals of each post have been decorated with Pekada carvings.

The roof which has been paved with flat clay tiles is 18 ft. 3 inches long and 16 ft. 6 inches wide (Godakumbure, 1993). The height from the stone-filled foundation to the ridge of the roof is 11 ft. 5 inches (Godakumbure, 1993).

The Ambalama, according to the Archaeology Commissioner's Report for the years of 1960-1961, was in a dilapidated state. At the time, most of the wooden framework had decayed and the roof was thatched with straw instead of its original clay tiles. Also, the roof had been damaged by a coconut tree falling on the structure (Godakumbure, 1993). During the period 1961-1962, the conservation works of the Ambalama were done by the Department of Archaeology under the direction of Charles Godakumbura, the then Commissioner of Archaeology. During the conservation, the roof which had been thatched with straw was replaced by tiles to regain the original appearance of the structure.

The Ambalama was conserved again later in 2016.

Wood Carvings
The Panavitiya Ambalama is widely famous for its exquisitely carved woodworks that may belong to the 18th century A.D. (Godakumbure, 1993).

The carvings which are found carved on inner pillars, pillar heads, beams, rafters, and reepers, mainly depict the scenes of musicians, dancers, wrestlers, acrobats, animals, birds, etc (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015). The inner pillars which are octagon in shape have four-sided medial panels and each of them contains elaborate carvings. The themes of these carvings may depict the reality of the authentic rural society of the 18th century.

Wood Carvings Wood Carvings Wood Carvings Wood Carvings
1) පනාවිටිය අම්බලම (22) by Udukumbure is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
2) පනාවිටිය අම්බලම කැටයම් 02, පනාවිටිය අම්බලම කැටයම් 05, පනාවිටිය අම්බලම කැටයම් 08 by Udukumbure are licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
3) පනාවිටිය අම්බලම කැටයම් 19 by Udukumbure is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
4) පනාවිටිය අම්බලම කැටයම් 03, පනාවිටිය අම්බලම කැටයම් 06, පනාවිටිය අම්බලම කැටයම් 20 by Udukumbure are licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
5) පනාවිටිය අම්බලම කැටයම් 14 by Udukumbure is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 

1) Anuradha, R.K.S.; Kumari, A.S., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kurunegala Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-37-2. pp.43-44.
2) Godakumbure, C.E., 1993. Rest-hall at Panavitiya. Wood. International Scientific Committee, 10th General Assembly, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1993. pp.54-56.
3) Mendis, M.S., Halwatura, R.U., Somadeva, D.R.K., Jayasinghe, R.A. and Gunawardana, M., 2019. Influence of grain distribution on orientation of saw cuts: Reference to heritage structures. Case Studies in Construction Materials, 11, pp.1-13.

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This page was last updated on 7 May 2022
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

Giruwa Ambalama

Giruwa Ambalama
The Giruwa Ambalama (Sinhala: ගිරුවා අම්බලම; Tamil: கிருவா அம்பலம) is an old wayside rest located on the premises of Aluthnuwara Dedimunda Devalaya in Kegalle District, Sri Lanka.

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 Giruwa Ambalama at Aluthnuwara is believed to have been built by Queen Sunetradevi, the chief consort of King Parakramabahu II (1236-1270 A.D.) and the mother of King Buvanekabahu I [(1271-1283 A.D.) Mendis et al., 2019]. The pillars remaining at the site today are supposed to be belonging to the period of Bhuvanekabahu I.

The structure
The Ambalama has been built by erecting sixteen granite pillars and the four-sided roof is paved with flat clay tiles. It has been conserved by the Department of Archaeology at least three times.

A protected monument
The Aluthnuwara Devalaya, inscriptions, the Patthirippuwa and the Giruwa Ambalama situated in Aluthnuwara village in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Mawanella are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government notification published on 2 May 1975.

1) Giruwa Ambalama Aluthnuwara Mawanella by MediaJet is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

1) Mendis, M.S., Halwatura, R.U., Somadeva, D.R.K., Jayasinghe, R.A. and Gunawardana, M., 2019. Influence of grain distribution on orientation of saw cuts: Reference to heritage structures. Case Studies in Construction Materials, 11, pp.1-13.
2) The government notification: No: 162. 2 May 1975.

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This page was last updated on 9 June 2022
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Isinbessagala Viharaya

Isinbessagala Viharaya
Purana Ruwangiri Raja Maha Viharaya, popularly known as Isinbessagala Viharaya (Sinhala: ඉසින්බැස්සගල රුවන්ගිරි විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka.

According to local people, this temple was built by King Devanampiyatissa (307-267 B.C.), after the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Arhat Mahinda Thera (Wikramagamage, 2004). It is said that Arhat Mahinda Thera who arrived in the country with other monks have visited this site before going to Mihintale at Anuradhapura. The name "Isinbessagala" can be roughly translated as "the rock on which the sages descended" (Wikramagamage, 2004).

Recent history
Isinbessagala has been inhabited since 1782 and a Buddhist monk named Madagalle Sumangala is said to have pioneered in this re-settlement (Wikramagamage, 2004).

Some of the archaeological ruins found here include the ancient Stupa at the foot of the rock, the Siri Pathul Gala (the Buddha's footprint) and the slab with a cobra figure (Wikramagamage, 2004). Before the construction of Buddha statues, people made various objects of worship to represent the Buddha such as Sri Pathul Gala. Therefore, the Sri Pathul Gala that was found at this site gives an indication of the antiquity of this temple. This artefact is presently placed at the top of the rock near the Stupa.

Isinbessagala rock inscription
A rock inscription belonging to the early Anuradhapura Period has been discovered at the site. It records a grant of income that was derived from a tank to this temple by two persons. According to the inscription, Asiyakara Viharaya was the old name that had been used to identify this temple. This name roughly means "the temple where sages lived".

The Siri Pathul Gala The Stupa at the top of the rock The slab with the cobra figure A pond
1) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites: Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka, p. 183.

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Velaikkara Slab Inscription (Polonnaruwa)

Velaikkara Slab Inscription, Polonnaruwa
The Velaikkara Slab Inscription (Sinhala: වේලක්කාර සෙල්ලිපිය, පොළොන්නරුව; Tamil: பொலநறுவை வேளைக்காரர் கல்வெட்டு) is one of the Tamil Inscriptions in Sri Lanka. It is located just next to the Atadage building in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

The slab is approximately 9 ft 6 in tall and 2 ft 9 in wide (Wickremasinghe, 1928). Totally forty-nine lines of writing incised between ruled lines are found on the slab. Below the writing is a pair of carved vases.

Reign  : After the death of Vijayabahu I
Period : 12th century A.D.
Script  : Grantha, Tamil, Sinhala
Language : Tamil mixed with Sanskrit

This inscription has been engraved in Tamil because it is an agreement entered into with the Tamil speaking Velaikkara community (Wickremasinghe, 1928).

In the 30th year of  King Vijayabahu's reign (1055-1110 A.D.), a quarrel erupted between the Colas and Vijayabahu.

Velaikkara Revolt
The king ordered Velaikkaras to fight against the Colas but instead that Velakkars mutinied against Vijayabahu and captured the city of Pulatthi (Polonnaruwa). They also took the king's sister captive with her three sons and burnt the king's palace (Wickremasinghe, 1928). However, the mutiny was immediately overcome by the king's forces (Wickremasinghe, 1928; Wijesekara, 1990).

It is believed that Velaikkaras provided the protection for the Temple of Tooth during the early period of Vijayabahu's reign. Several buildings around the Temple of Tooth are said to be constructed by them. After the mutiny, Velaikkars may have been removed from the security of the Temple of Tooth. However, after the death of Vijayabahu, there were several internal conflicts in the kingdom and it is very likely that the Buddhist monk named Mugalan Thera decided during that problematic period to reinstate the Velaikkara forces for the protection of the Tooth and Bowl Relics of the Buddha. This inscription has been established to assure that Velaikkaras will protect the sacred relics and its properties no matter what happened.

The inscription, according to Wickremasinghe, can be divided into two parts (Wickremasinghe, 1928). The first part which is regarded as the introduction, reveals the following information (Wickremasinghe, 1928).

Obeisance to the Buddha! In the prosperous island of Lanka, King Sirisangabo Vijayabahu, the scion of the lineage of the Iksvaku family of the Solar race, overcame many enemies, entered Anuradhapura, and at the request of the Buddhist monks he put on the crown to protect the Buddhist religion. So, he invited Buddhist monks from Aramana country (present Myanmar) and purified the three Nikayas of the Buddhist church [This fact is confirmed by the account given in the chronicle Culavamsa (Ray, 1960)]. The king who reigned over the whole of the country for 55 years and lived for 73 years, made donations (Tula-bhara gifts) to the three Nikayas three times equivalent to his own weight. On the instruction of the king, a commander named Nuvarakal Deva-Senevirattar (Pali: Nagaragiri Deva-Senapati) built the Temple of Tooth Relic in Vijayarajapuram or Pulanari (Sinhala: Polonnaruwa) to permanently deposit the Tooth and the Bowl-relics of the Buddha which were at the Uttaramula of Abhayagiri Vihara. The Temple of Tooth Relic where the first anointment ceremony (of Vijayabahu) was held (according to the chronicle Culavamsa, this ceremony was held at Polonnaruwa in the 18th regnal year of the king), was also the house for the colossal stone statue of Buddha in which is held annually the ceremony of unloosing the sacred eyes (of the Buddha statue) and applying collyrium to them.

The second part which has no date contains the following information (Wickremasinghe, 1928).

Rajaguru Mugalan Thera of Uttaramulla who is virtuous and learned, associating himself with ministers of the State came to the spot, called us, and said: "The Temple of Tooth Relic should be under your custody". (The custody of the Temple of Tooth Relic, according to this inscription, was entrusted to the Velaikkara community by Rajaguru Mugalan Thera during the disturbed state of the country.)

After that, we (the Velaikkaras) had a meeting with our elders, undertook the control of the shrine, named it "Munru-kai-t-tiru Velaikkaran Daladay-p-perum-palli [The great temple of the Tooth Relic, belonging to the Velaikkara (army) of three divisions]" and made the declaration that it will remain as our charitable institution under our own custody. For the protection of the shrine, one servitor from each of the (three) division was appointed and for the maintenance of each person, one veli of land was allocated. We will protect the villages, the retainers, and the property belonging to the shrine as well as those who enter for refuge, even it is detrimental to us. We shall endeavor as long as our lineage exists and even if we suffer deeper than we have suffered already.

To ensure our fulfillment of these things, we have set (our) hand attestations and have delivered it over (to Mugalan Thera), having had it wrote both on copper and stone so that it may last as long as the sun and the moon endure. Accordingly, anyone who breaches this contract or consent to breach or tell others to breach becomes an enemy of the (Velaikkara) army, who has committed an offense against the Matantra, committed five great sins, a great sinner who appropriated what had been offered to gods, committed an offense against the (three) gems (namely) the Buddha, his doctrine and his Order, who will enter the hell.

(Note: Some parts of this section have been directly extracted from the details given in the information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage.)

1) Ray, H. C. (Editor in Chief), 1960. University of Ceylon: History of Ceylon (Vol 1, part II). Ceylon University Press. p.434.
2) Wickremasinghe, D. M. D. Z., 1928. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscriptions of Ceylon (Vol, II). Published for the government of Ceylon by Humphrey Milford. pp.242-255.
3) Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)], 1990. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series: Vol. II: Inscriptions. p.161.

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Saturday, 21 December 2019

Mulkirigala Viharaya

Not to be confused with Mulgirigala Viharaya, Mullegama

Mulkirigala rock
Mulkirigala/Mulgirigala Viharaya (Sinhala: මුල්කිරිගල රජමහා විහාරය) is a famous Buddhist monastery complex situated in the village of Mulkirigala in Hambantota District, Sri Lanka.

The history of Mulkirigala Viharaya is dated back to the 3rd century B.C. The existence of a few cave inscriptions written in early Brahmi Scripts provides evidence that the Mulkirigala was serving as an abode for the Buddhist monks since the 2nd century B.C.

Mulkirigala cave inscriptions
Period: 2nd - 1st centuries B.C. | Script: Early Brahmi. | Language: Old Sinhala
Inscription I; Transcript  : Bata Cudatisaha lene 
Translation: The cave of lord Culatissa
Inscription 2; Transcript  : Majhima banaka bata Upasonaha lene agata ana[gata].. .. ..
Translation: The cave of lord Upasona, the reciter of the Majjhima [Nikaya], [is given to the Sangha of the four quarters], present and absent.
Reference : Paranavitana, 1970

However, the name Mulagiri (the Pali form of the Sinhalese name Mulkirigala) is not found in the country's early chronicles such as Dipavamsa or Mahavamsa (Jayawardhana, 1985). The first reference to the Mulkirigal temple is found in Pujavaliya, a Sinhalese chronicle composed in the 13th century (Jayawardhana, 1985). According to which this temple has been constructed by King Jetthatissa I [(263-274 A.D.) Jayawardhana, 1985]. However, existing early-Brahmi inscriptions indicate that this reference found in Pujavaliya may not mention the original construction but a subsequent renovation (Jayawardhana, 1985).

A rock inscription of later-Brahmi scripts found from the temple premises confirms that this temple was functioning during the 6th-7th centuries A.D. This inscription was copied by the Archaeological Department in 1929 (Dias, 1991).

Mulkirigala rock inscription of 6th-7th centuries A.D.Mulkirigala rock inscription
Period: 6th-7th centuries A.D. 
Script: Later Brahmi. | Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript  : (1) Hidila Salihi cidavi vaharala
(2) Pahapavapadapagana cadava vaharala
Content: This Vaharala (manumission) inscription says that Hidila-Salihi and Padapagana of Pahapava were made free from compulsory service in the monastery.
Reference: Dias, 1991.

The Dhatuwamsa, a Sinhalese chronicle of the 13th century mentions a temple named Samudda Vihara built by Kavan Tissa (205-161 B.C), the father of King Dutugemunu [(161-137 B.C.) Jayawardhana, 1985]. A 9-10th century rock inscription found at the bottom of the pond on the summit of the Mulkirigala rock reveals that this temple was called at the time Muhundu-giri Viharaya (Abeyawardana, 2004). The Sinhala name Muhundugiri is translated into the Pali language as Samudda-giri.

The pond on the summit of the Mulkirigala rock
Mulkirigala rock inscription near the pond

Period: 9th-10th centuries A.D.
Script: Mediaeval Sinhala | Language: Mediaeval Sinhala
Transcript  : (1) Muhundu giriya kaha (2)val kiyana ral maha (3)llan keta vu .... (4) massatake (5) tu satara piyageta
Content: This inscription mentions that an elderly person named Kahavelkiyana Rala has caused the construction of four stone steps to the pond at Muhundugiri Vihara.
Reference: The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage.

The Katagamuva inscription of Manabharana of the 12th century mentions a grant made to Talamuhundgiri Vihara and therefore, according to Nicholas (1963), there were two temples named Muhundgiri and one of which was present Mulgirigala Viharaya (Nicholas, 1963). The Sinhalese chronicle Rajavaliya wrongly equates the Dakkhinagiri Viharaya, which was near Sigiriya, with Mulkirigala Viharaya (Nicholas, 1963).

Mulkirigala was the headquarters of the Sekantara Mula and therefore, it was a great seat of learning during the Kotte Period (Sumanasuriya, 1985).

During the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha (1747-1782 A.D.), a novice from this area entered into the higher ordination under Ven. Weliwita Sri Saranankara Thera (a Buddhist monk who was the pioneer in the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, after the decline of the religion in the 17th and 18th centuries). The novice received the name Vatarakgoda Dhammapala and was appointed as the high priest of Mulgirigala Viharaya. The present line of Bhikkus at Mulgirigala, thus, comes from Vatarakgoda Dhammapala Thera.

It is said that the image house presently known as Rajamaha Viharaya was renovated by Vatarakgoda Dhammapala Thera with the patronage of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha (Jayawardhana, 1985). Several gifts (including a golden Buddha statue, and two elephant tusks) presented by the king are preserved in the temple to date (Jayawardhana, 1985).

The Dutch who were in Sri Lanka from 1640 until 1796 (Dutch Ceylon), called this Mulkirigala temple rock Adam's Berg as they confused it with Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) mountain (Abeyawardana, 2004; De Silva, 2014; Jayawardhana, 1985). More historical information about this temple is found in descriptions by Johann Wolfgang Heydt (Heydt's Ceylon, 1744), and Rev. James Cordiner (A description of Ceylon, 1807.). In 1827, George Turnour, the then government agent of Sabaragamuwa, discovered the Vamsatthappakasini or the Tika on Mahavamsa at this temple (Jayawardhana, 1985).

The temple
The temple complex has been mainly constructed within three levels of the natural rock and on each platform is one or a few cave temples with old paintings and sculptures. The first platform has a Bodhi tree and a twin cave known by the name Paduma Rahat Viharaya (Jayawardhana, 1985). Each cave shelters a recumbent Buddha statue about 45 ft long (Jayawardhana, 1985). The inside walls of the caves have been painted with decorative motifs and other Buddhist murals such as Jataka stories (Vessantara Jataka, Telapatta Jataka, etc.). A small Stupa and two standing statues of God Kataragama and Visnu are also found.

The birth of Prince Siddhartha
The second platform, which is relatively small in size, is known by the name Meda-maluwa Viharaya (the middle terrace temple). This platform consists of a cave temple, one Stupa, and two Devalas. The cave temple shelters a recumbent Buddha statue accompanied by two images of Sariputta and Moggallana, the two chief disciples of Gautama Buddha. The inner walls contain a large number of paintings of the Buddhist tradition. "The birth of Prince Siddhartha", "the mythical lake Anotatta" and the figures of the deities Kataragama and Visnu are found among the wall paintings (Jayawardhana, 1985).

The oldest line drawings and wood carvings in Mulkirigala
The third platform contains four cave temples and a pond. The four cave temples include Rajamaha viharaya, Alut Viharaya, Naga viharaya and Pirinivan Viharaya (Jayawardhana, 1985). The paintings and sculptures belonging to the 18th century adorn the inner walls and the space of Rajamaha Viharaya. A recumbent Buddha statue of about 45 ft long, a seated Buddha statue, and eight standing statues are found inside the cave (Jayawardhana, 1985). The walls are covered with drawings depicting Buddhist themes such as the Sat-satiya (the seven weeks after the enlightenment). The line drawings depicting the Telapatta Jatakaya are the oldest paintings of the temple and are found painted on the outer side of the front wall of the Rajamaha viharaya.

Telapatta Jataka painting
(Mulkirigala rock temple, 18th century A.D., replica: Colombo Museum)

Bodhisattva Telapatta who was travelling to Gandhara along with his friends entered a forest infested with demons. A group of female demons who had disguised themselves as a group of musicians and dancers tried to attract these travellers towards them. The friends of Bodhisattva Telapatta became victims of this ambush (The painting shows one of the friends of Bodhisattva Telapatta is eaten by a female demon). A replica of this painting copied by M. M. D. Peiris (the assistant of traditional art) for the Department of National Museum in 2007, is presently found on the display at the Paintings Gallery of the National Museum of Colombo  (Rambukwella, 2014).

Telapatta Jataka

The Alut Viharaya is also an ancient cave temple renovated in 1921 (Jayawardhana, 1985). The Naga Viharaya which is located on the left side of the platform contains a recumbent Buddha statue together with seven smaller images (Jayawardhana, 1985). The other cave temple, the Pirinivan Viharaya is located on the right side of the platform. This temple which was in a dilapidated state has been renovated in 1944 by some devotees led by the late D. M. Rajapaksa, a politician and a member of the State Council of Ceylon (Jayawardhana, 1985). 

The pond located on the third platform is significant for its 9-10th century rock inscription which contains the ancient name of the temple, Muhundugiri (read the above History section).

The summit
A Bodhi tree, a pond, a Stupa, a small image house, and a Devalaya are found on the summit of the Mulkirigala rock. The Bodhi tree is highly venerated by the devotees as they believe that the tree is one of the 32 saplings of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree at Anuradhapura.

Archaeological Museum
Archaeological Museum of Mulkirigala
A small site museum of the Archaeological Department is situated near the entrance gate of Mulkirigala Viharaya. The museum is used to exhibit antiquities recovered from the temple premises. 

A protected site
The ancient cave temple with paintings in the Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara situated in the Weeraketiya Divisional Secretary’s Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 8 April 1988.  

The carved wood pillars in Rajamaha Viharaya Telapatta Jatakaya from Paduma Rahat Viharaya Vessantara Jatakaya from Paduma Rahat Viharaya
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Ruhuna: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-073-4. pp.118-119.
2) De Silva, P., 2014. Colonialism and religion: colonial knowledge productions on Sri Pada as ‘Adam’s Peak’. Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences 2014 37 (1 & 2): pp.19-32.
3) Dias, M., 1991. Epigraphical notes (Nos 1 -18). Colombo: Department of Archaeology. pp.33-34.
4) Jayawardhana, S., 1985. Mulgirigala. Cultural Publications Co. Ltd. pp.9-10, 27-35.
5) 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.68.
6) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscription of Ceylon: Volume I: Early Brahmi Inscriptions. Department of Archaeology Ceylon. p.53.
7) Rambukwella, M.W.C.N.K., 2014. Heritage representation in culturally diverse societies: a case study of the Colombo National Museum in Sri Lanka (Doctoral dissertation, School of Museum Studies). p.364.
8) Sumanasuriya, K. T. W., 1985. Review: Mulgirigala by Somapala Jayawardhana. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Sri Lanka Branch, New Series, Vol. 30. (1985/86), pp. 137-138.
9) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 501. 8 April 1988.

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Sunday, 15 December 2019

Thuparama Pilimage (Polonnaruwa)

Thuparama Pilimage, Polonnaruwa
The Thuparama Pilimage/ Pilima Geya or Thuparamaya Image House (Sinhala: පොළොන්නරුව ථූපාරාම පිළිම ගෙය) is a Gedige (vaulted) type image house located at the southwest corner of the Sacred Quadrangle in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. This image house is the only ancient monument among those in Polonnaruwa where the original roof is well preserved.

Although it is called Thuparama Pilimage, the builder or the original name of this monument is not known (Paranavitana, 1950; Ray, 1960). Some believe that this is the shrine that, according to the chronicle Culavamsa, was built by Mahinda, a courtier of King Parakramabahu I [(1153-1186 A.D.), to deposit the Tooth Relic of the Buddha (Ray, 1960).

However, there is another theory that suggests this edifice was built during the reign of King Vijayabahu I [(1055-1110 A.D.) Jayasuriya, 2016].

Image house
Thuparama Pilimage
The walls and the roof of Thuparama Pilimage have been completely built out of bricks without using wood and therefore, known as a Gedige-type image house. There are three examples of this type of vaulted-roof shrines at Polonnaruwa; viz: Thuparamaya, Lankathilaka Pilimage, and Thivanka Pilimage. The walls of Thuparama Pilimage are thick and hence the internal space of the shrine is small in comparison with the outward size of the building (Paranavitana, 1950).

The ground plan mainly consists of four parts, viz: the sanctum (Garbhagrha), the vestibule (Antarala), the Mandapa, and the entrance porch (Prematilleke, 1990). The main entrance of the shrine is facing the east and a subsidiary entrance/exit is found in the Mandapa on the north side (Prematilleke, 1990; Ray, 1960). The sanctum bears a two-storeyed brick square on the roof and it has been decorated with Lokapalas facing cardinal points (Prematilleke, 1990). Indications are there to prove that there was a giant seated Buddha image inside the sanctum, but only its large seat remains today. The statue had been built against the inner face of the rear wall of the image house and its preserved seat is brick-built and about one meter high (Jayasuriya, 2016; Ray, 1960). It is also said that the sanctum was lit in the past through four vault-type windows set on the wall (Jayasuriya, 2016).

The exterior walls of the image house have been adorned with Dravidian-influenced sculptures including Vimana-panjara-kudu designs (Jayasuriya, 2016). The edifice is about 44 ft in height and the total external length is about 126 ft (Prematilleke, 1990; Ray, 1960).

Thuparama Pilimage, Polonnaruwa .
1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. pp.75-76.
2) Paranavitana, S. 1950. Guide to Polonnaruwa. Govt Press, Colombo. pp.10-12.
3) Prematilleke, L., 1990. The architecture of the Polonnaruwa Period B.C.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.51.
4) Ray, H. C. (Editor in Chief), 1960. University of Ceylon: History of Ceylon (Vol 1, part II). Ceylon University Press. pp.596-598.

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Kechchimalai Mosque, Beruwala

Ketchimalai Mosque, Beruwala
Kechchimalai Mosque is a popular Islamic place of worship situated in Beruwala, Kalutara District, Sri Lanka.

Locals believe that the history of Beruwala Kechchimalai mosque is running back to the 12th century. According to them, a group of elite Muslims including a saint named Sultan Sheik Ashraff who came with his five brothers and a sister landed at Kechchimalai and took residence there. After the death of the saint, his body was buried at Kechchimalai where the present mosque stands. A grave which is said to be the tomb of Saint Sultan Sheik Ashraff Velliullah is still visible at the site.

A protected site
The Kechchimalei Mosque building belonging to Paranakade Village situated in Grama Niladhari Division No. 753, Paranakade in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Beruwala is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 9 March 2016.  


1) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (Extraordinary). No: 1957/18. 9 March 2016. p.4A.

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Saturday, 14 December 2019

Kingdom of Kotte

Kingdom of Kotte
The Kingdom of Kotte (Sinhala: කෝට්ටේ රාජධානිය; Tamil: கோட்டை இராச்சியம்) was the fifth kingdom in Sri Lanka that flourished on the island from the 15th to the end of the 16th century (from 1412 A.D. to 1597 A.D.). It is considered the last native sovereign that unified the entire island under one rule.

The Sinhalese Kingdom which was first established in Anuradhapura in the 3rd century B.C. moved to Polonnaruwa during the 11th century A.D. due to foreign invasions mainly flooding from neighbouring India. It was then gradually moved to the southwest part of the country, starting from Dambadeniya to Gampola. After the shift from Gampola, Kotte became the capital city of the Sinhalese Kingdom in the 15th century A.D.

Details about the ancient Kotte Kingdom are found in several old documents such as Nikaya Sangrahaya (1396 A.D.), Saddharmaratnakaraya, Alakeshvara Yuddhaya, Rajavaliya as well as in the descriptions by Couto (1552-1616 A.D.), Ribeiro (1685 A.D.), Queyroz (1688 A.D.) and Valentijn [(1722 A.D.) Fonseka, 2010].

Construction of Kotte Fortress
According to Nikaya Sangrahaya, the initial step to make Kotte a fortified city was taken by Alagakkonara (Nissanka Alakesvara) during the reign of King Vikramabahu IV (1360-1373 A.D.) of Gampola (Fonseka, 2010; Somaratna, 1969). It is said that this fort was built as a garrison town to resist the tax collectors who had been appointed by the rulers of Jaffna. The political instability and power struggle that occurred at the end of the 14th century resulted in the giving up of Gampola and the ruling body was then moved to Kotte, the newly established frontier fort. However, Kotte became an official kingdom after the anointing of King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.) as the King of Jayawardanapura (Wijewardana et al., 2011).

King Parakramabahu VI and the conquest of Jaffna
King Parakramabahu VI developed this garrison town into a fortified capital city. In addition to the fortification, the king built a three-storied Temple of Tooth Relic (for the Tooth Relic of the Buddha), and a five-storied palace for himself, but no traces of these two edifices are found today (Fonseka, 2010; Wijewardana et al., 2011) However, the fortification of Parakramabahu VI in Kabok (laterite) stones is still visible at several places in the area.

Sapumal Kumaraya, an adopted son of King Parakramabahu VI, attacked Jaffna (Yapa Patuna) and brought it under the control of the Kotte Kingdom. Therefore, the entire island was unified under one canopy during the reign of Parakramabahu VI for the first time after the reign of King Parakramabahu I the Great [(1153-1186 A.D.) Somaratna, 1969; Wijewardana et al., 2011].

Simhala Peraliya
Dedigama Slab Inscription of Bhuvanekabahu VI
After the demise of King Parakramabahu VI, the throne of the Kotte Kingdom was given to Prince Jayabahu, the son of Ulakudaya Deviya [(the daughter of King Parakramabahu VI) Suraweera, 1997]. After hearing this coronation, Sapumal Kumaraya who was at the time at Yapa Patuna came to Kotte and usurped the throne and became the king of Kotte under the name Bhuvanekabahu VI [(1469-1480 A.D.) Suraweera, 1997]. However, this incident caused to make an insurrection among the Sinhalese people in the kingdom. Details on the insurrection against King Bhuvanekabahu VI are found in some chronicles such as Rajavaliya and in lithic inscriptions including the Dedigama Slab Inscription.

Arrival of Portuguese
Portuguese, the first European invaders of the island, arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505, during the reign of King Vira Parakramabahu VIII [(1490-1509 A.D.) Jayasuriya, 2016].

Vijayaba Kollaya
An uprising popularly known as Vijayaba Kollaya occurred in 1521, against King Vijayabahu VI (1509-1521 A.D.) resulting in the division of the Kotte Kingdom into three parts (Somaratna, 1969; Wijewardana et al., 2011). The three sons of Vijayabahu VI mutinied against their father and divided the kingdom among themselves. The elder son, Buvanekabahu VII ruled the Kotte as the chief sovereign while Mayadunne ruled Sitawaka, and Pararajasinha (or Raigam Bandara) ruled Raigama.

The demise of the kingdom
The political stability of the Kotte Kingdom started to further deteriorate when Prince Dharmapala (the son of King Buvanekabahu VII’s daughter) became the ruler of the country. By this period, the Portuguese were engaging in commercial trading. In 1565, Prince Dharmapala had to abandon the capital of Kotte due to frequent attacks from the Sitawaka Kingdom led by Mayadunne and his son Rajasinghe I (Wijewardana et al., 2011). The prince who had been baptized as a Catholic by the Portuguese was able to get the assistance of the Portuguese and lived in Colombo under their protection. In 1597 Dharmapala gifted the Kotte Kingdom to the Portuguese throne marking the end of the kingdom that had existed for nearly 200 years.

Rulers of the Kotte Kingdom
Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.)                  Jayabahu II (1467-1469 A.D.)
Buvanekabahu VI (1469-1480 A.D.)                    Panditha Parakramabahu VII (1480-1490 A.D.)
Vira Parakramabahu VIII (1490-1509 A.D.)        Dharma Parakramabahu IX [(controversial) Rohanadeera, 1996]
Vijayabahu VI (1509-1521 A.D.)                           Buvanekabahu VII (1521-1550 A.D.)
Prince Dharmapala (1550-1597 A.D.)

Several inscriptions (including copper plates and Sannasas) belonging to the rulers of the Kotte period have been recorded by scholars (Rohanadeera, 2007).

King Parakramabahu VI
Pepiliyana Inscriptions
# Dondra Inscription (1429 A.D.)
# Pepiliyana Sannasas (1431/32/59 A.D.)
# Pepiliyana Inscriptions (1454/59 A.D.)
# Aramanapola Sannasas (1459/60 A.D.)

Senasammata Vikramabahu (a ruler in Kandy: 1469-1511 A.D.)
Kadirana Copper Plate Grant
# Aluthnuwara Devalaya Slab Inscription (between 1472-1474 A.D.)
# Vannipola Sannasa (1484 A.D.)

King Bhuvanekabahu VI
# Arankele Sannasa (1479 A.D.)
# Crocodile Charm Inscription (between 1469-1474 A.D.)

King Vira Parakramabhu VIII
Kelani Vihara Inscription
# Oruwala Sannasa (1492 A.D.)
# Kelani Viharaya Slab Inscription (1509 A.D.)

King Vijayabahu VI
# Kudagama Slab Inscription (1515 A.D.)
# Veragama Sannasa (1516 A.D.)
# Keragala Viharaya Inscription (1520 A.D.)

Keragala Padmavathi Pirivena, Sri Lanka
The Sinhalese literature was at the peak of its development during the Kotte period. Many important literary works in Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit, and Tamil were written during this period by well-known Buddhist and Hindu scholars such as Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera, Veedagama Maithri Thera, Keragala Wanarathana Thera, Ramachandra Bharathi, and Thannuru Tuneiar. The teaching of Tripitakaya and Buddhism were the main subjects in Kotte literature while poetry, dancing, and astrology were among the other subjects. Keragala Padmavathi, Veedagama Siri Ganananda, Totagamuwe Vijayaba, Pepiliyana Sunetradevi, and Devinuwara Thilaka Pirivena were several prominent teaching institutions that engaged in spreading literacy to the entire country.

Notable literary works of the Kotte period
Bhakthi Shathakaya                    Buduguna Alankaraya                    Elu Attanagalu Vamsaya
Elu-silo Shathakaya                    Gira Sandeshaya                             Guttila Kavya
Kaw Lakunu Minimal                  Kawyashekaraya                             Kokila Sandeshaya
Kuweni Asna                                Loweda Sangarawa                        Panchikapradeepaya
Parewi Sandeshaya                    Perakumba Siritha                           Purana Namawaliya
Ruwanmala                                  Saddharmaratnakaraya                  Selalihini Sandeshaya
Vaidya Chinthamani                   Yogaratnakarakaya

Thamba-Massa, Silver Angutu-Massa, and Panama were among the main coins circulated during the Kotte period. Other contemporary coins used during this period include Setu and Pagodi coins.

Coins of Parakramabahu VI
Thamba-Massa (Copper coin of specific weight) - This is a coin minted by King Parakramabahu VI (c.1412-1467 A.D.) following a similar pattern to the Thamba-Massa coin used during the Polonnaruwa (1017-1232 A.D.) and Dambadeniya (1220-1345 A.D.) periods. These coins can be distinguished from early Massa coins by the presence of a seated lion together with the standing figure on the obverse. On the reverse of the coin is a seated man with the legend "Sri Parakramabahu" (the name has been written in Nagari characters). The coins have been minted by pouring molten copper into round clay moulds. 

Panama - A valuable coin used during the 14th century A.D. Silver Panama coins were circulated between the period 1454 to 1506 and subsequently replaced by the gold Panama coins. 

Silver Angutu-Massa - Circulated since the 16th century A.D. Silver Angutu-Massa was also known by the names bent-silver, Masu-angutu, and Koku-massa. The coin has been made by bending a 4-inch long silver wire of a specific diameter into a hook-shaped structure.

Historical sites situated within the present Kotte Municipality
Kotte was the capital of Sri Lanka from 1412 to 1565 A.D. (Fonseka, 2010). Since it existed for nearly 150 years as the capital of the country, a significant amount of preserved ruins of this ancient kingdom can be expected. However, the rapid development and land occupation that was taken place in recent history in this area has caused massive destruction of the ruins of this ancient kingdom.

Presently, only a few places in the area are reminiscent of the old glory of the Kotte Kingdom.

Alakeshwara Archaeological Site                              Ananda Sastralaya Ruins
Diyawanna Oya                                                            Gal Ambalama
Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya                                          Perakumba Pirivena
Vehera Kanda                                                               Kotte Fortress

1) Fonseka, P., 2010. The ancient city of Kōṭṭe and its fortification. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 56, pp.57-117.
2) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.16.
3) Rohanadeera, M., 1996. Dharma Parakramabahu IX-The Fake King of Ceylon Inflated by Portuguese Historians-A Historiographical Perspective. Vidyodaya J. Soc. Sc., Vol. 7. 1 & 2. pp.13-45.
4) Rohanadeera, M., 2007. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon. Vol. VIII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-64-3. pp.3-118.
5) Somaratna, G.P.V., 1969. Political history of the Kingdom of Kotte (c. AD 1400-1521) (Doctoral dissertation, SOAS University of London). pp.79-85,147-188, 456-460.
6) Suraweera, A. V., 1997. Rajavaliya: A critical edition with an introduction (In Sinhala). Educational Publications Department. pp.85-86, 90, 219-220.
7) Wijewardana, A., Thilakawardana, A. E. L., Priyangani, S., 2011. Aithihasika Kotte (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 978-955-9159-69-8. pp.1-5.

This page was last updated on 18 February 2023