Sunday, January 20, 2019

Meddepola Raja Maha Viharaya

Meddepola Raja Maha Viharaya
Veramune Sri Sundararama Viharaya, popularly known as Meddepola Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Meddepola village in Kurunegala District, Sri Lanka. The site can be reached by traveling along the Meddepola temple road about 2.2 km distance from the Giriulla town.

Name
"Muni Vehera" was the ancient name used to identify this temple. It was later converted to "Vehera Muni" and finally evolved to the present name "Veramune". As today, the temple is known by its common name, Meddepola Raja Maha Viharaya.

History
The origin of Meddepola temple is traced back to the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa (307 - 267 B.C.). An inscription written with Brahmi letters is found below the drip-ledge of the main cave which houses the image house today. Another inscription is said to be found in a drip-ledged cave located south-western to the main cave (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015).
Meddepola Inscription
Period : 3rd century B.C. - 1st century A.D.
Script  : Early Brahmi
Language    : Old Sinhala
Transcript   : Shumana data (te)rasha gahapa (..) shaha lene
Translation : Cave of the elder Sumanadatta and of householder ....sa.
Reference    : Wijesekara, 1990.
Thereafter, the temple was renovated and developed under the patronage of several kings such as Valagamba of Anuradhapura (103, 87-77 B.C.)  and Parakramabahu II of Dambadeniya (1234 - 1269 A.D.). 

The Culavamsa, an eighteenth century chronicle, mentions that King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1742-1782) had restored the Meddepola temple [Livingstone & Withers (eds.), 2011]. Also a copper plate grant issued by the king reveals about a donation of land from Malgamuwa village to Ginigathpitiye Deepankara Thera, the then incumbent of Meddepola Viharaya.

The works of the image house was completed in 1844, by Kadahapola Sangharakkhitha Sri Medhankara Thera (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The original paintings which adorn the inner walls of the image house have been done by the artists headed by Devaragampola Silvath Thena and are belonged to the Kandyan period (1469-1815 C.E.) However, most of the paintings remaining today are recent works belonged to two painters, Soliyas Mendis and S. J. S. Silva.

Preaching hall
Available historical sources reveal that the preaching hall of Meddepola temple had been constructed during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). 

This building bears typical architectural features belonging to the Kandyan period. Some of the modifications have been done to the building in 1992 (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

Antiquities
A large number of antiquities belonging to the temple can be seen conserved in a museum established at the temple premises. Many important objects, such as a gold statue donated by a king, silver and ivory statues, caskets, ola manuscripts, coins, ceramics from the Dutch period and clothes, such as Somanas are found preserved in the museum (Rambukwella, 2014).

A protected site
The drip-ledged cave temple with Brahmi letters, ancient Dhammasala (preaching hall), Pohoya Geya (Bhikkus disciplinary hall), Bhikkus residence (dwelling house), and drip-ledged caves belonging to the Weramune Sri Sunandarama Raja Maha Vihara premises situated in the Grama Niladhari Division of Ihala Meddepola in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Pannala are archaeological protected monuments, declared by the government gazette notifications published on 23 January 2009 and 24 July 2009.  
The cave temple, Meddepola Viharaya A Buddha statue in the cave temple, Meddepola Viharaya
A small Stupa, Meddepola Viharaya The chapter house, Meddepola Viharaya
References
1) Anuradha, R.K.S.; Kumari, A.S., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Kurunegala Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 955-9159-37-2. pp.82-83.
2) De Silva, N.; Chandrasekara, D.P., 2009. Heritage Buildings of Sri Lanka. Colombo: The National Trust Sri Lanka, ISBN: 978-955-0093-01-4.  pp.75,89,105.
3) Livingstone, D.N. and Withers, C.W. eds., 2011. Geographies of nineteenth-century science. University of Chicago Press. p.126.
4) 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). pp.362-363.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1586. 23 January 2009. p.106.
6) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1612. 24 July 2009. p.1023.
7) Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)], 1990. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series: Vol. II: Inscriptions. p.45.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 17 August 2019

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