Sunday, December 15, 2019

Thuparama Pilimage, Polonnaruwa

Thuparama Image House
The Thuparama Pilimage/ Pilima Geya (or Thuparamaya image house) is a Gedige (vaulted) type image house located 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 as Thuparama Pilimage, the builder, or the original name of this monument is not known (Ray, 1960). Some believe that this is the shrine which, 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 Buddha (Ray, 1960).

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

Image house
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 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 the large seat of it 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 (Jayasuriya, 2016) including Vimana-panjara-kudu designs. The edifice is about 44 ft in height and the total external length is about 126 ft (Prematilleke, 1990; Ray, 1960).
Standing Buddha statues inside the image house

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


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