Saturday, 6 June 2020

Pusulpitiya Raja Maha Viharaya

The Kandyan era image house
Pusulpitiya Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: පුසුල්පිටිය විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Kotmale in Nuwara Eliya District, Sri Lanka.

The Mahabodhivamsa mentions Pusulpitiya as one of the 32 places where the saplings of Sri Maha Bodhi-tree in Anuradhapura were planted (Abeywardana, 2004). Therefore, the history of Pusulpitiya Bodhi-tree probably runs back to the 3rd century B.C. (Abeywardana, 2004).

The sacred Tooth Relic
Pusulpitiya temple is historically linked with the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. The relic was sheltered here several times during the times of political unrest in the country (Seneviratna & Polk, 1992). It is said that the relic was kept hidden here during the Maga’s rule (1215-1236 A.D.) in Polonnaruwa (Seneviratna & Polk, 1992). Also, it was again found refuge here when the British entered the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815 (Seneviratna & Polk, 1992). The relic was kept concealed in a fracture on a Sapu-tree (Michelia spp.) of this temple from 6 to 22 April 1815 before it was again taken to the British captured Kandy.

Pusulpitiya name
Pusulpitiya inscription
A few legends are there associated with Pusulpitiya village and the temple (Abeywardana, 2004; Seneviratna & Polk, 1992; Wijesinghe, 2015). According to one folklore, an Indian Brahmin who was craving in taking treasures settled down in this area after his marriage. He was able to obtain a golden Pusul Gediya (an ash pumpkin) from a place of the Kotmale Oya after sacrificing his first-born child (Abeywardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015). On the way back with the treasure he recovered, the Brahmin felt thirst, and therefore, he kept the golden ash pumpkin aside and went in search of water. When returned, he saw that the golden ash pumpkin was missing and the earth has cracked at the place where he kept the pumpkin (Abeywardana, 2004). Grieved by this incident the Brahmin fell dead and thereafter this area was started to known among the people as Pusulpitiya (Abeywardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015).

King Dutugemunu
Locals believe Pusulpitiya as the place where King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.) spent his childhood (Seneviratna & Polk, 1992). The prince is said to have visited the temple to worship the Bodhi tree (Abeywardana, 2004).

Arhat Maliyadeva
It is also believed that one of the four golden Buddha statues brought to the country from India by Arhat Maliyadeva was deposited in the Pusulpitiya temple (Abeywardana, 2004; Seneviratna & Polk, 1992). The other three statues are said to be kept at Vattarama Viharaya, Madanwala Viharaya, and Diddeniya Viharaya (Abeywardana, 2004).

The old shrine room
PusulpitiyaThis shrine originally was a Tempita Vihara but the addition of walls between the outer pillars has converted it later to a two-storeyed building (Abeywardana, 2004). The upper floor consists of two sections and can be reached through a wooden flight of steps. The inner walls of the upper floor are decorated with paintings depicting Buddhist themes. Several valuable artifacts such as statues, caskets, manuscripts, brasswares are preserved in this shrine room. A Makara Thorana (a Dragon's arch) said to be donated to the temple by King Buvanekabahu IV (1344-1353 A.D.) is also found here (Abeywardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015).

The Vee-Atuwa (the paddy store) found in the Pusulpitiya temple is said to be built to store the production of the paddy fields donated to the temple by King Kirti Sri Rajasingha [(1747-1782 A.D.) Wijesinghe, 2015]. The store is 9.23 m in length and 2.46 m in width and has been built on 12 short stone pillars (Abeywardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015). It has been repaired in 1877 (Abeywardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015).

Elephant tusks
The pair of elephants tusks presently preserved in the temple is thought to be the tusk of elephant "Kadol" and is said to be a donation by Sattambi of Agalawatta,  Ambatalawa (Abeywardana, 2004).

Besides the aforesaid monuments, a shrine room of Kanyan tradition, a small Stupa, three inscriptions, Siri Pathula Gal (Buddha's footprints), an old flight of steps have been found in the temple premises (Abeywardana, 2004; Wijesinghe, 2015).

See also

1) Abeywardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-093-0. pp.225-227.
2) Seneviratna, A., and Polk, B., 1992. Buddhist monastic architecture in Sri Lanka: the woodland shrines. Abhinav Publications. pp.95-96.
3) Wijesinghe, T.K., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Nuwara Eliya Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-36-4. pp.62-64.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 2 July 2022


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