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.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Kaudulla Wewa

Kaudulla Wewa
Kaudulla Wewa or Kaudulla Tank (Sinhala: කවුඩුල්ල වැව/කවුඩුල්ල ජලාශය) is a reservoir situated on the fringe of the Kaudulla National Park in Polonnaruwa District, Sri Lanka. Presently, the bed area of the reservoir is very attractive among visitors where hundreds of elephants could be seen gathered in the dry season (Rathnayake,& Gunawardena, 2014).

Identified as the ancient Tissavaddhamanaha-vapi (Ratissa, Ranniya or Rantisawewa), the Kaudulla tank is one of the 16 celebrated reservoirs constructed by King Mahasena [(276-303 A.D.) Arumugam, 1969; Nicholas, 1963; Ray, 1959; Wikramagamage, 2004]. Historical sources reveal that King Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.) and King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.) repaired and restored the work (Arumugam, 1969; Nicholas, 1963). It was declared a sanctuary for animals by King Nissankamalla [(1187-1196 A.D.) Nicholas, 1963].

The present reservoir was renovated in 1960  (Wikramagamage, 2004).

The reservoir is fed by the drainage from its own catchment and the flood flow from Gal Oya and Alut Oya streams and from the flood flow from the Minneriya Reservoir through the Aggala Wan Oya (Arumugam, 1969). The reservoir has 1 sluice and 1 spill (Arumugam, 1969; Wikramagamage, 2004).

Kaudulla Wewa .

1) Arumugam, S., 1969. Water resources of Ceylon: its utilisation and development. Water Resources Board. p.245.
2) 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.182. 
3) Rathnayake, R.M.W. and Gunawardena, U.A.D.P., 2014. Enjoying elephant watching: a study on social carrying capacity of Kawdulla National Park in Sri Lanka. Sabaragamuwa University Journal, 12(1). pp.23-39.
4) Ray, H.C. (Editor in chief), 1959. History of Ceylon: Vol. I: Part I. Ceylon University Press. Colombo. pp.222-223.
5) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.269.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 6 June 2022
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Giritale Wewa

Giritale Wewa
Giritale Wewa (Giritale Tank) is a reservoir in Girithale in Polonnaruwa District, Sri Lanka.

The Giritala Vapi or the Giritala Wewa was constructed during the reign of King Aggabodhi II [(608-618 A.D.) Arumugam, 1969; Fernando, 1980]. Historical sources reveal that King Parakramabahu the Great (777-797 A.D.) restored or enlarged the work (Arumugam, 1969).

The present reservoir was restored in 1905 and it was improved and enlarged during the period 1949-1952 (Arumugam, 1969).

The catchment area serves as the main water source to the reservoir and in addition to that, the water of Amban Ganga comes to the reservoir through the Elahera Dam (Arumugam, 1969). The embankment of the reservoir is 518.16 m long and the water is extending in an area of about 760 acres (Arumugam, 1969). The reservoir has 2 sluices and 1 spill.

Giritale Wewa .
1) Arumugam, S., 1969. Water resources of Ceylon: its utilisation and development. Water Resources Board. p.241.
2) Fernando, A.D.N., 1980. Major ancient irrigation works of Sri Lanka. Journal of the Sri Lanka Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 22, pp.1-24.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 28 March 2021
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Friday, 30 October 2020

Kandy Natha Devalaya

Kandy Natha Devalaya
The Natha Devalaya (Sinhala: මහනුවර නාථ දේවාල සංකීර්ණය) is a Devalaya Shrine situated on the premises of the Sacred City of Kandy in Sri Lanka. It is considered one of the four Devalas (Hatara Devala) associated with the Maha Wasala (the Royal Palace) and the Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Tooth Relic) during the Kandyan Period.

God Natha was highly venerated by the people along with other deities such as Visnu, Skanda, and Pattini during the Kandyan Period. Natha is considered as one of the deities of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon and people believe him as an aspirant Buddha (Abeyawardana, 2004).

The Natha Devalaya which is believed to have been constructed in the 14th century is said to be the oldest surviving Devalaya shrine found in Kandy (Abeyawardana, 2004; Jayasuriya, 2016; Rajapakse, 2016). Two inscriptions belonging to King Jayavira (1511-1552 A.D.) have been found inscribed on eight stones forming part of the western wall of the Devalaya (Codrington, 1934; Ranawella, 2015). Publishing these two inscriptions, Codrington has expressed his opinion regarding this shrine as follows;
The present inscription chiefly is of value in giving us the correct name of the ruler who was on the throne of Kandy in 2085 A.B., as this year, according to tradition, marks the accession of Vikrama Bahu, the founder of that city as the capital. We have already seen that this date in all probability was derived from the record now published, engraved as it is on a temple the foundation of which was attributed to this Vikrama Bahu. A shrine of the god Natha in Senkadagala or Kandy is mentioned in the Sagama inscription of the reign of Bhuvanaika Bahu V. This shrine, if identical in site with the present devale, quite possibly was rebuilt by Vikrama Bahu. The existing building, however, as it stands, cannot be his, for the wall, on which our inscriptions are cut, evidently has been rebuilt, and at least one stone of the second epigraph lost in the process.
Citation: Codrington, 1934. p.28.
The parapet wall that surrounds the Natha Devalaya complex is said to have been constructed by the people of the Hathara Korale at the request of King Narendrasingha [(1707-1739 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004].

Among the two inscriptions of King Jayavira, the first record is dated on the tenth of the dark half of Bak in the Buddhist year 2085 [(30 March 1543) Codrington, 1934; Ranawella, 2015]. It records the grant of various concessions by the king to the people of particular territories or villages for their services in an attack by the Portuguese on the Hill Country (Codrington, 1934; Ranawella, 2015). The second inscription deals, among other things, with the nila panduru or money presents on appointment to office and with the malaraya or heriot (Codrington, 1934).

The Devalaya complex
The Natha Devalaya is the focal shrine of this temple complex. A Devalaya dedicated to God Gambara, two Stupas, a Bodhi tree, a circular foundation known as Otunu Mandapaya, a kitchen, and several other structures once belonged to the Kandy Dharmaraja College are also found within the premises. The Stupa near the Devalaya is thought to contain the bowl relic of the Buddha and was vandalized by treasure hunters in 1889.

Of the presence of several Bodhi trees, the Natha Devalaya complex is thought to be originally a Buddhist shrine (Abeyawardana, 2004). The Bodhi tree situated near the Devalaya is believed to be a sapling of the Anuradhapura Sri Maha Bodhi Tree brought here by a Brahmin named Sankanda (Abeyawardana, 2004). The ruins of an ancient Bodhighara (a Bodhi-tree shrine) and a fragment of a seated bronze statue of Buddha were also discovered during a recent archaeological excavation done at the site (Jayasuriya, 2016).

Natha Devalaya
The Devalaya building is 34.1 m long and 6.8 m wide (Rajapakse, 2016). It consists of four sections, viz; Weda sitina malaya, Antaralaya, Handun Kudama, and Pewana maluwa (Rajapakse, 2016). The Weda sitina malaya is a three-storied building completely built out of stones and in which, a bronze statue of God Natha has been placed. The first and second floors of this section serve no practical purpose and the roof of it has a dome-shape and therefore, the building is known as a Gedige-type shrine that has a vaulted roof (Rajapakse, 2016). South Indian influence is clearly visible in this part of the building (Jayasuriya, 2016).
In front of the Weda sitina malaya are the Antaralaya and the Sandun Kudama. The Pewana Maluwa is an open hall built by erecting 24 elegantly decorated pillars on a quadrangle base (Rajapakse, 2016). The roof of it is balanced on the pillars and has been clad with flat clay tiles.

Gambara Devalaya
Gambara Devalaya
This is a small Devalaya shrine situated to the east of the Natha Devalaya. It is dedicated to Gambara Deviyo, a local deity who is worshipped by Buddhist devotees. Expecting good things for their lives, people perform various religious activities at this shrine.

The external walls of this shrine have been decorated with wall paintings of a type typical of the Kandyan Period. However, the painting on the left-side wall has been deliberately defaced by graffiti. A group of sailing ships scratched with a pointed instrument is found among the graffiti (Devendra, 2002). According to the view of Devendra, these represent the European ships possibly belonging to the Dutch, and the British (Devendra, 2002). He believes that this graffiti could be a work of the latter part of the 18th century (Devendra, 2002).

Otunu Mandapaya
A circular brick foundation known as Otunu Mandapaya is found within this complex. This was the venue where the naming, anointing, and crowning of Kandyan kings had taken place (Abeyawardana, 2004). The stone close by where the crown had been kept is called the Otunugala (Abeyawardana, 2004).

A protected site
The Natha Devale building situated in the Kandy town within the Kandy Grama Niladhari Division in Gangawata Korale Divisional Secretary’s Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 8 April 2009.

Gambara Devalaya paintings Otunu Mandapaya .
See also

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.13-14.
2) Codrington, H.W., 1934. (Edited and translated by Codrington, H.W.; Paranavitana, S.) The Kandy Natha Devale Inscriptions. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. IV. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. pp.27-34. 
3) Devendra, S., 2002. Sailing ships and temple walls. ‘Honouring Martin Quéré o.m.i’, ed. Gérard Robuchon, Viator Publications.
4) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.115.
5) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.10-11.
6) Ranawella, S., 2015. Inscriptions of Ceylon. (Vol. IX). Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-9159-98-8. pp.18-21.
7) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1597. 8 April 2009. p.445.

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Rangiri Dambulu Uyanwatta Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Uyanwatta Viharaya
Rangiri Dambulu Uyanwatta Raja Maha Viharaya is a Buddhist temple in Dambulla in Matale District, Sri Lanka. The temple is situated on the wayside of Kandy-Jaffna road and the pathway to the ancient Dambulla Cave Temple is fallen through this temple.

The construction work of this temple was commenced in 1997 after planting a sapling of the sacred Bodhi tree at this spot (Abeyawardana, 2004). The temple consists of a gold-plated Stupa, a Buddhist museum, a shrine room, pilgrims' rests, and a colossal gold-plated statue of Buddha in the seated posture. The 30.8 m (100 ft) tall statue depicts the Dhammacakra Mudra (Abeyawardana, 2004). This construction work of the statue was completed within three years under the guidance of Inamaluwa Sri Sumangala Thera and unveiled to the public in 2000 (Abeyawardana, 2004).

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.175-176.

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Thursday, 29 October 2020

Dambulla Rock Inscription of Kirti Nissankamalla

Dambulla Rock Inscription of Kirti Nissankamalla
The Dambulla Rock Inscription of Kirti Nissankamalla (Sinhala: නිශ්ශංකමල්ල රජුගේ දඹුල්ල ගිරි ලිපිය) is found engraved on the rock to the right immediately after passing the Vahalkada (the entrance hall) in the courtyard of Dambulla cave temple in Matale District, Sri Lanka (Seneviratna; 1983; Wickremasinghe, 1912). It is one of the many inscriptions established by King Nissankamalla (1187 - 1196 A.D.).

The inscription has been engraved on the rock surface covering an area of about 5 ft 9 in. by 3 ft 6 in. (Wickremasinghe, 1912). The writing has been executed between 25 parallel horizontal lines and the scripts represent the form of the Medieval Sinhala letters used in the 12th and 13th centuries (Wickremasinghe, 1912). Like most of Nissankamalla's records, this inscription also gives exaggerated accounts of his powers, his expeditions to Cola and the Pandya countries, and his philanthropic and religious acts (Ranawella, 2007).

Dambulu rock inscription
Reign: Kirti Sri Nissankamalla (1187 - 1196 A.D.)                 Period: 12th century A.D.
Language: Medieval Sinhala                                                     Script: Medieval Sinhala
Content: This inscription records the services rendered by King Nissankamalla to Buddhism and to his people. According to the inscription, Nissankamalla unified the monks of the three fraternities who had been separated for a long time and restored temples which had fallen into ruin. He built Viharas in Anuradhapura, Devi Nuwara, Kelani, Miyuguna, etc., and made donations of vast riches. He gilded the statues of the Buddha in the cave of Dambulla, celebrated a great puja at a cost of seven lakhs of money, and renamed the cave "Svarnagiri-guha" (golden rock cave).
References: Wickremasinghe, 1912.

1) Ranawella, S., 2007. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume VI. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-61-2. pp.127-130.
2) Seneviratna, A., 1983. Golden Rock Temple of Dambulla; Caves of infinite Buddhas. UNESCO-Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle Project. Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka. pp.30-31.
3) Wickremasinghe, D.M.D.Z., 1912. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). London. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. pp.121-135.

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Dambulla Cave Temple

Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple
Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple (also known as Dambulu Raja Maha Viharaya, Golden rock temple of Dambulla or Cave temple of infinite Buddhas) is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Dambulla in Matale District, Sri Lanka. It is considered the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka as well as the second-largest cave-temple complex in South and Southeast Asia (State of Conservation Report, 2019).   Presently, UNESCO has declared this site as one of the World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. 

World Heritage Site: Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple

Location : Matale District, Central Province, Sri Lanka 
Coordinates : N7 51 24 E80 38 57
Date of Inscription : 1991
Criteria :    (i) The monastic ensemble of Dambulla is an outstanding example of the religious art and expression of Sri Lanka and South and Southeast Asia. The cave shrine, their painted surfaces, and statuary are unique in scale and degree of preservation. The monastery includes significant masterpieces of 18th-century art in the Sri Lankan school of Kandy.
              (vi) Dambulla is an important shrine in the Buddhist religion in Sri Lanka, remarkable for its association with the long-standing and widespread tradition of living Buddhist ritual practices and pilgrimage for more than two millennia
Reference : 561: Rangiri Dambulla Cave TempleUNESCO World Heritage Centre, United Nations.

Pre & protohistoric periods
Evidence regarding the prehistoric man has been identified along the western slope of the Dambulla rock where a series of large boulders, terraces, and caves can be seen (Jayasuriya, 2016; State of Conservation Report, 2019). Several prehistoric stone implements have been found during the excavations done on the uppermost terrace of the Dambulla complex (State of Conservation Report, 2019).

The prehistoric period was succeeded by the protohistoric period at some time during the first millennium B.C. The Megalithic Tombs at Ibbankatuwa, a protohistoric burial site located about 3 km to the southwest of Dambulla, contains evidence that reveals probable connections between the burial site and the Dambulla complex during the protohistoric period (Bandaranayake, 1997; Jayasuriya, 2016; State of Conservation Report, 2019).

Early-historical period
The early-historic period of Sri Lanka began at some time around the 3rd century B.C. The archaeological evidence that belongs to the early-historic period has been found from the Dambulla complex (Bandaranayake, 1997). The site contains nearly 90 drip-ledged cave shelters prepared for the usage of Buddhist monks (State of Conservation Report, 2019). Some of them contain early-Brahmi inscriptions engraved just below the drip-ledge (Paranavitana, 1970; Seneviratna, 1983). Presently, about 37 cave inscriptions belonging to the period between 3rd century B.C. and 2nd century A.D. have been found in association with these drip-ledged rock shelters (State of Conservation Report, 2019). 

Although the fact is not exactly proved, popular oral tradition as well as several chronicles such as Pujavaliya, Rajavaliya and Rajaratnakara (a work of the 18th century) mention that this temple was established by King Valagamba (103, 89-77 B.C) during the 1st century A.D. (Seneviratna, 1983; State of Conservation Report, 2019). Two early-Brahmi inscriptions discovered from the Dambulla complex contains the names of two royals: Devanampiya Maharaja Gamini Tissa and Gamini Abhaya (Seneviratna, 1983). According to the view of some scholars such as S Paranavitana, the first name may refer to King Devanampiyatissa (247-207 B.C.) or King Saddhatissa (137-119 B.C.) while the second name refers to King Valagamba (Abeyawardana, 2004; Seneviratna, 1983).

Dambulla Somawathi Stupa
There is an inscription of the first century A.D. engraved on the rock wall of a cave located on the hillside to the west of the Dambulla rock (Seneviratna, 1983). It records the construction of a Stupa named Catavanaceta (Catavana Chetiya) and a donation made to it by a Thera named Sedadeva (Seneviratna, 1983). Some have assumed that the Catavana Chetiya of this inscription may be the Stupa presently known as Somawathi Stupa (Seneviratna, 1983). Besides the inscriptions in the caves, a number of epigraphs belonging to the 1st-4th centuries A.D. have been discovered on the rock-cut steps of the pilgrim pathway that is leading to the cave temple (State of Conservation Report, 2019).

Middle-historical period
During the period between the 5th to 13th centuries A.D., many changes were done to the temple by its patrons (Jayasuriya, 2016). The temple was further developed by adding new components to it and the caves were transformed into cave shrines elaborated with screen walls, paintings, and sculptures. Several painting fragments that were found below the drip-ledge of the Cave shrine 3 has been dated to a period between the 5th to 7th centuries A.D. (State of Conservation Report, 2019). The archaeological investigations carried out at the base on the western side of the Dambulla rock during the 1980s and the 1990s identified the ruins of the Somawathi Stupa monastery that belongs to two periods of construction [(5th to 6th centuries A.D. and 9th to 10th centuries A.D.) State of Conservation Report, 2019].

Dambulla Rock Inscription of Kirti Nissankamalla
During the 11th and 12th centuries A.D., the temple received the royal patronage of the Polonnaruwa kings. The chronicle Culavamsa (also known as the latter part of Mahavamsa) refers to this temple for the first time as Jambukola Viharaya (the Sinhala name Dambulla is believed to have been translated into Pali as Jambukola by the author of this chronicle) in the reign of King Vijayabahu I [(1055-1110 A.D.) Jayasuriya, 2016; Seneviratna, 1983]. It reveals that Vijayabahu I had renovated the temple (Abeyawardana, 2004; State of Conservation Report, 2019). According to the details found in several chronicles (such as Mahavamsa, Pujavaliya) and the inscription (See: Dambulla Rock Inscription of Kirti Nissankamalla) on the rock face of the Cave shrine 1, King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 A.D.) has commissioned the sculpture in the Cave shrine 1 (the Devarajalena), refurbished the existing cave shrines, overlaid 73 Buddha statues with gold and renamed it "Svarnagiri-guha" [(the golden rock cave) Abeyawardana, 2004; Jayasuriya, 2016; Seneviratna, 1983; State of Conservation Report, 2019; Wickremasinghe, 1912]. The Pritidanamandapa inscription and Galpota Inscription at the Polonnaruwa Ancient City also confirm Nissankamalla's activities at the Dambulla Viharaya (Seneviratna, 1983). 

Late-historical period
After the 13th century, many kings such as Buwanekabahu V (1357-1374 A.D.), Rajasingha I (1554-1593 A.D.), Vimaladharmasuriya I (1590-1604 A.D.), Senarath (1604-1634 A.D.), Vimaladharmasuriya II (1687-1707 A.D.), and Sri Veera Parakrama Narendrasinha (1707-1739 A.D.) contributed to restore and rehabilitate the cave temple (State of Conservation Report, 2019). The Dambulu Vihara Tudapata given by King Sri Veera Parakrama Narendrasingha in 1726 A.D. (this is a copy of a land grant to the Dambulla Viharaya certified by Narendrasingha) reveals the history and other details of the Dambulla Viharaya including the descriptions of the statues, the lineage of monks who looked after the temple, and contribution of the other kings who involved in the development of the temple (Seneviratna, 1983). According to the Dambulu Vihara Tudapata of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha [(1747-1782 A.D.) this is also a copy of a land grant made to the Dambulla Viharaya by Rajasingha in 1780 A.D.], the entire temple complex was restored and refurbished under the direction of the king (Abeyawardana, 2004; State of Conservation Report, 2019).

Modern period
In 1815, the Kingdom of Kandy (the last kingdom of Sri Lanka) was annexed to the British throne. and as a result of that, the temple lost its patronages received from the royals. However, Dambulla continuously existed as an important religious and political centre among the locals during this period. The Matale rebellion that took place in 1848 against the British colonial government has links with the Dambulla temple. As a part of this rebellion, on the night of 26th July 1848, a pretender named Gongalegoda Banda (alias Peliyagoda David) accompanied by Puran Appu (alias Francisku) and Dingirala was crowned at the Dambulla temple as the King of Kandy by Giranagama Thera (Seneviratna, 1983). 

The temple is described in detail by several foreign writers such as John Davy (An Account of the Interior of Ceylon, and of Its Inhabitants: With Travels in that Island, 1821), J. Forbes (Eleven years in Ceylon, 1840), J.E. Tennent (Ceylon, 1859), S.M. Burrows (Buried cities of Ceylon, 1885), A.C. Lawrie (Gazetteer of the Central Province of Ceylon, 1896), and H.W. Cave [(Ruined cities of Ceylon, 1900) Seneviratna, 1983; Wickremasinghe, 1912].  
In the 18th century, major development processes were carried out on the temple complex. During this period, the upper terrace was restored and all the painted cave surfaces were painted or over-painted in a style characteristic of the Kandyan school of the late 18th century (State of Conservation Report, 2019). Also, the fronting screen walls were rebuilt and roofs were added to the caves to form an outer verandah. In 1915, the caves were entirely repainted with the help of a local donor named Tolambagolle Korala of Ehelepola  (Seneviratna, 1983; State of Conservation Report, 2019). In the 1930s, the verandah facades were constructed with the guidance of the then custodian monk of the temple (State of Conservation Report, 2019).

The temple
Rangiri Dambulla cave temple is located in Dambulla, a small town positioned at the centre of the triangle formed by the three ancient capital of Sri Lanka: viz; Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy (Seneviratna, 1983). The Dambulla rock which has been formed by the combination of two rock outcrops separated by a narrow pass is located at a height of 168 m above the mean sea level and rises up to a height of about 180 m (State of Conservation Report, 2019). The cave shrines are situated more than halfway up on the southern slope of the Dambulla rock. Nearly 90 cave shelters, mainly scattered in two clusters, have been identified at the southern and western parts of the Dambulla rock (State of Conservation Report, 2019). The ancient Sigiriya Palace, another World Heritage Site in the country, and the famous Alu Viharaya temple are also situated near the Dambulla cave temple.
Presently, the temple is controlled by the Mahanayaka of Asgiri Maha Viharaya (Seneviratna, 1983; State of Conservation Report, 2019).

The Cave Shrines
The complex comprises five separated chambers/caves partitioned by brick walls. In front of these five caves is a single verandah facing the south. The five caves have been numbered from 1 to 5 from the east to west and the common frontal compound of these cave shrines can be accessed through an entrance hall or doorway known as Vahalkada of recent date.
Totally 157 statues are found in all five cave shrines and many of them are old than the murals (State of Conservation Report, 2019). The Buddhist mural paintings are of particular importance, as are the 157 statues. The paintings in the five caves cover an area of about 2,100 m2. This is the largest extent covered by Buddhist paintings found in the country in a single Vihara (Abeyawardana, 2004). The majority of paintings seen today are works of the kings of the latter part of the Kandyan Kingdom, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries (Seneviratna, 1983). The paintings are said to have been done by Nilagama Sittara Paramparawa [(artists of the generation of Nilagama) Seneviratna, 1983].

Cave No. 1: Devarajalena (the Cave of the Divine King)
The first cave located immediate vicinity of the Vahalkada (or the gateway) is known as the Devarajalena. It is a small cave when compares to the size of other caves. A colossal reclining Buddha statue depicting Parinibbana Manchaka (Buddha in his final passing away) is the main object of worship in this cave. This statue has been carved out of the living rock and coated with paint. A statue of Ananda Thera is found at the feet of this statue and three seated statues of Buddha and a statue of Visnu are found near the head of it. Another statue of Buddha is found near its feet. Traditionally all these seven statues are attributed to King Valagambha's period but on the artistic features they possess, these statues have been dated by scholars to a much later period. 

There is a Visnu Devalaya attached to this cave shrine from the outside. The statue of this Devalaya, according to popular belief, is the same statue that was originally at Devinuwara Visnu Devalaya (Seneviratna, 1983). It is also said that this statue was kept at Alut Nuwara Devalaya and Maha Saman Devalaya before it was finally taken to Dambulla Viharaya (Seneviratna, 1983).

Cave No. 2: Maharajalena (the Cave of the Great King)
This cave is known as Maharajalena because of the presence of the statues of Kings Valagamba and Nissankamalla (Seneviratna, 1983). The cave is 122 ft long, 75 ft wide, and 21 ft high near the front wall (Seneviratna, 1983). It is considered the most artistically important cave among the others as it contains the largest number of sculptures as well as many impressive paintings drawn on the cave walls and the ceiling.  
There are nearly sixty statues in the cave (Seneviratna, 1983). Among them, a large number of Buddha statues in the seated, lying, and standing postures are found. Statues of the four gods namely Natha, Maitreya, Upulvan, and Saman and the statues of the Kings Valagamba and Nissankamalla are also found (Jayasuriya, 2016; Seneviratna, 1983). These statues are made out of either brick, stucco granite or wood (Seneviratna, 1983).

King Valagamba
Nissankamalla & Valagamba
This statue is made of wood and has been painted over. The right hand of the statue is in the Vitarka Mudra while the left hand is in the Varada Mudra (Seneviratna, 1983). The upper body is bare and a Makuta (a head-dress) is found on the head. 

King Nissankamalla
As in the statue of King Valagamba, the right hand of this statue depicts Vitarka Mudra. The left hand rests on the waist of the body slightly inclined towards the right side. The upper body is bare but ornamented with jewellery such as necklaces, bangles, etc. 

The standing Buddha under the Makara Thorana
The standing Buddha under the Makara Thorana
This statue of Buddha is the main statue of the cave and is in the standing posture under a Makara Thorana (a dragon arch). The right hand of the statue depicts the Abhaya Mudra while the left hand shows the ring-hand attitude holding the uplifted hem of the robe. The statue has been painted over but the gold colour patches of the old paint are still visible. Therefore, some believe that this could be one of the statues supposed to have been gilded by King Nissankamalla (Seneviratna, 1983). The statue has some similar features that are found on the statues of the Anuradhapura Period such as the standing Buddha statue at Ruwanweliseya (Seneviratna, 1983)

The statue is accompanied by the images of  Mahayana Bodhisattvas, Maitreya on the left, and Natha on the right. This pair of Bodhisattvas is considered unique because Dambulla is only the place where these two characters are found standing together in the sculptured form (Seneviratna, 1983).

The Stupa
The small painted Stupa in the Maharajalena is surrounded by eleven seated Buddha statues (Seneviratna, 1983). Two of them are represented with the snake king Muchalinda, who sheltered the Buddha during the sixth week after he attained the Buddhahood.
A large number of paintings are found drawn on the walls and ceiling of this cave. The paintings mainly depict special incidents related to the early history of Buddhism, to the history of Sri Lanka as well as to the life of the Buddha (Seneviratna, 1983). Scenes depicting the story of Mahindagamanaya (the arrival of Mahinda Thera the son of the Emperor Asoka, who together with other Buddhist monks brought the Buddhist teaching to Sri Lanka), Dumindagamanaya (the arrival of Sangamitta Theri the Buddhist nun who brought the sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka), the war between King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C) and Elara (205-161 B.C.), Suvusi Vivaranaya (24 assurances predicting Buddha-hood), life incidents of Prince Siddhartha, the struggle of Mara, attaining Buddhahood, Parinirvana (the final passing away) of the Buddha, are found among the paintings. The portraits of the gods Vibhishana, Skanda, and Ganesa are also found (Seneviratna, 1983). The patches that are found at several places of the paintings reveal that these paintings have been done over old paintings (Seneviratna, 1983).
The bowl
A bowl placed within an enclosure to collect the holy water that drips through a fissure in the overhanging ceiling of the rock is found in this cave (State of Conservation Report, 2019). Buddhist pilgrims believe that the drops of water falling into this bowl never stop even during a severe drought (Seneviratna, 1983). The water is used in daily temple rituals (Jayasuriya, 2016).
Cave No. 3: Maha Alut Viharaya (the New Great Temple)
Maha Alut Viharaya
This cave was converted to the present Buddhist shrine by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1782 A.D.) on the advice and guidance of Potuhera Ratanapala Thera, the then Mahanayaka (the chief monk) of Asgiri Maha Viharaya in Kandy (Seneviratna, 1983). Detail about its construction is available in Dambulu Vihara Tudapata of 1780 A.D., given by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (Seneviratna, 1983). 

The cave is 90 ft long, 81 ft wide, and 36 ft high near the front wall (Seneviratna, 1983). Two entrances decorated with Makara Thorana (dragon arch) have been provided to enter into it. Dambulu Vihara Tudapata of 1780 A.D. reveals that King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe built a colossal reclining Buddha of about 30 ft long (Seneviratna, 1983). A seated Buddha under a Makara Thorana has also been built by him in the middle of the cave (Seneviratna, 1983). Presently, this statue is surrounded by fifty-seven statues and of them, fifteen are seated statues while the remaining forty-two are standing posture (Seneviratna, 1983). A statue of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe is also found here.

Cave No. 4: Pacchima Viharaya (the Western Temple)
Pacchima Viharaya
This cave is 54 ft long, 27 ft wide, and 27 ft high near the front wall (Seneviratna, 1983). A seated statue of Buddha under a Makara Thorana is the main object of worship here. A painted small Stupa is also in the middle of the cave. This Stupa is known as the Soma-cetiya because of the local belief that it contains the jewellery of Somawathi, the queen of King Valagamba (Seneviratna, 1983). In the mid-1980s, the Stupa was broken by thieves to rob treasures believed to have been enshrined inside its dome (Seneviratna, 1983; State of Conservation Report, 2019).
Cave No. 5: Devana Alut Viharaya (the Second New Temple)
Devana Alut Viharaya
No proper detail is available about the establishment of this cave (Seneviratna, 1983). It was a storehouse before being converted into a cave shrine (Seneviratna, 1983). Eleven Buddha statues including one colossal reclining statue, five seated statues, and five standing statues are found in this cave. Images of gods such as Visnu, Kataragama, and Devatha Bandara are also found (Seneviratna, 1983).
It is believed that this is a work of the 19th century (Abeyawardana, 2004). The legend written on the wall of this shrine reveals that it was renovated in 1915 by a nobleman named Tolambagolla Korala of Uda Walawwa, Ehelepola (Seneviratna, 1983; State of Conservation Report, 2019).

A colossal gold-plated seated Buddha statue was established near the Kandy-Jaffna main road with other components such as a museum, shrine room, pilgrims' rest. Presently, this compound is popularly known among the people as the Rangiridambulu Uyanwatta Viharaya (Abeyawardana, 2004).

A protected site
The ancient Dambulla cave temple situated in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Dambulla is an archaeological protected site, declared by a government gazette notification published on 30 August 1957. The area surrounding the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a sacred area as declared by the gazette notification published on 16 April 1981.
1) Dambulla (js) by Jerzystrzelecki is licensed under CC BY 3.0
2) Rock Cave Temple, Dambulla, Sri Lanka - panoramio (2) by Николай Максимович and Dambulla-First Cave (5) by Ji-Elle are licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.306-309.
2) Bandaranayake, S., 1997. The Dambulla rock temple complex, Sri Lanka. Agnew (1997), pp.46-55.
3) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. pp.100-107.
4) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscriptions of Ceylon: Volume I: Early Brahmi Inscriptions. Department of Archaeology Ceylon. pp.64-66.
5) Seneviratna, A., 1983. Golden Rock Temple of Dambulla; Caves of infinite Buddhas. UNESCO-Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle Project. Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka. pp.11,14,18,21-23,27-28,30-33,40-45,49-62,65-66.
6) State of Conservation Report, 2019. Golden Temple of Dambulla (Sri Lanka) (C 561). Department of Archaeology; Central Cultural Fund; Ministry of Housing, Construction and Cultural affairs; The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. pp.2-3,19, 21-37,69.
7) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1164. 30 August 1957.
8) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No. 137. 16 April 1981.
9) Wickremasinghe, D.M.D.Z., 1912. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). London. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. pp.121-135.

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This page was last updated on 14 January 2023

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Huluganga Falls

Huluganga Falls
Huluganga Ella Falls (Sinhala: හුළුගඟ ඇල්ල) is a waterfall situated in the middle of Huluganga town in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. The fall is about 75 m tall and created by the Hulu Ganga River originating from the Knuckles Forest Reserve. The cascading water finally ends at the Victoria Reservoir. 

The falls is steep and a clear view of it can be obtained from the observation deck built at the down part of the waterfall. The place is not suitable for bathing.

1) Huluganga Falls by Mhmshabeer is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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This page was last updated on 15 May 2022
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Sri Sugathavanarama Viharaya, Ullalapola

Sri Sugathavanarama Viharaya, Ullalapola Ullalapola Sri Sugathavanarama Purana Viharaya is a Buddhist temple situated in Divulapitiya in Gampaha District, Sri Lanka.

According to Wellewe Chandananda Thera, the chief priest of the temple, this Viharaya has been established in 1766 (a fact yet to be confirmed). 

The Dharma Salawa (the preaching hall) and the Awasa-geya (the Monks' dwelling building) are the main monuments of this temple with archaeological significance. Also, a number of stone pillars which are believed to be the components of an existed Tempita Viharaya are found near the Awasa-geya.

Sri Sugathavanarama Viharaya, Ullalapola Sri Sugathavanarama Viharaya, Ullalapola Sri Sugathavanarama Viharaya, Ullalapola Sri Sugathavanarama Viharaya, Ullalapola .
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This page was last updated on 25 October 2020
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Saturday, 24 October 2020

Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya

Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya
Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: බෙල්ලන්විල රජ මහා විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Colombo District, Sri Lanka.

The early history of Bellanwila temple is not clear (de Thabrew, 2013). However, locals link the Bodhi-tree of the temple to a history running back to the 3rd century B.C. The ancient text Mahabodhivamsa mentions the name Bellanwila as a place where one of the first 32 saplings that sprang from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree at Anuradhapura was planted in the 3rd century B.C. Therefore, many believe that the Bodhi-tree at the present Bellanwila temple is the same one mentioned in the Mahabodhivamsa. However, no any firm archaeological evidence available to prove this fact.

During the Kotte Period, the temple is believed to have received the royal patronage of King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.) along with its neighboring Sunethradevi Pirivena, a monastic college and temple built by the king (de Thabrew, 2013).

Bellanwila murals Bellanwila murals
See also
#) Historical and Memorial Trees in Sri Lanka

1) De Thabrew, W. V., 2013. Monuments and Temples of Orthodox Buddhism in India and Sri Lanka. Author House. p. 65.

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This page was last updated on 14 January 2023

Wildlife Sanctuaries of Sri Lanka

Maduganga Estuary
Sanctuaries (Sinhala: ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ අභයභූමි) are a category of protected areas in Sri Lanka, administered by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. They ensure the protection of wildlife outside state land and therefore, sanctuaries may also include private lands. Good human activities are allowed in sanctuaries. However, activities such as hunting, shooting, killing, wounding, or taking a wild animal or taking or destroying any eggs of any birds or reptiles or any nest of any bird, damage to breeding places of animals are prohibited. Also, it is forbidden to fell, collect, damage, or remove any plant, construct any building, road, or path, clear, cultivation, mining, filling, disposing garbage on any state land. It is not necessary to obtain a permit to enter a sanctuary.

List of sanctuaries in Sri Lanka

No. Protected Area Date of declaration Extent (ha.)
1 Anawilundawa 11.06.1997 1397.0
2 Anuradhapura 27.05.1938 3500.5
3 Bellanwila-Attidiya 25.07.1990 372.0
4 Buddhangala 01.11.1974 1841.3
5 Chundikulam 25.02.1938 11149.1
6 Dahaiyagala 07.06.2002 2685.07
7 Elahera Giritale 13.01.2000 14035.2
8 Elluwila Yaya 11.09.2003 186.0
9 Galoya North Eastern 12.02.1954 12432.0
10 Galoya South East 12.02.1954 15281.0
11 Galway's Land 27.05.1938 56.6
12 Godawaya 25.05.2006 232.0
13 Honduwa Island 19.11.1973 8.5
14 Horagolla 05.10.1973 13.3
15 Kahala Pallekele 01.07.1989 21690.0
16 Kalamatiya 28.06.1984 2525.2
17 Katagamuwa 27.05.1938 1003.6
18 Kataragama 27.05.1938 837.7
19 Kimbulvana Oya 21.06.1963 492.1
20 Kiralakele 08.09.2003 310.0
21 Kirama Oya 06.10.2004 5.0
22 Kokilai 18.05.1951 1995.0
23 Kudasobara (Little Sober Island) 21.06.1963 6.5
24 Kudumbigala, Panama 20.02.2006 6534.0
25 Kurulu Kele, Kegalle 14.03.1941 113.3
26 Lokusobara (Great Sober Island) 21.06.1963 64.7
27 Madampawila 21.09.2007 1217.75
28 Madin Duwa 06.06.1980 0.8
29 Madu Road 28.06.1968 26677.0
30 Maduganga 17.07.2006 2300.0
31 Madunagala 30.06.1993 995.2
32 Mahakanadarawa Wewa 09.12.1966 519.33
33 Maimbulkanda, Nittambuwa 31.10.1972 23.5
34 Mihintale 27.05.1938999.6
35 Minneriya Giritale 29.07.1938 6693.5
36 Muthurajawela I 31.10.1996 1028.6
37 Muthurajawela II 31.10.1996 256.8
38 Nimalawa 18.02.1993 1065.8
39 Padaviya Wewa 21.06.1963 6475.0
40 Paraputuwa Meheni 17.08.1988 189.6
41 Peak Wilderness 25.10.1940 22379.1
42 Pigeon Island 18.05.1973 97.1
43 Polonnaruwa 27.05.1938 1521.6
44 Rawana Ella 18.05.1979 1932.0
45 Rekawa 25.05.2006 271.0
46 Rock Islets, Ambalangoda 25.10.1940 1.2
47 Rumassala 03.01.2003 170.7
48 Sagamam 21.06.1963 616.4
49 Senanayaka Samudraya 12.02.1954 9324.0
50 Seruwila Allei 09.10.1970 15540.0
51 Sigiriya 26.01.1990 5099.0
52 Sri Jayawardanapura 09.01.1985 449.2
53 Tabbowa 19.07.2002 2193.31
54 Tangamalai 27.05.1938 131.5
55 Telwatte 25.02.1938 1424.5
56 Trincomalee Naval Base 21.06.1963 18130.0
57 Udawattakele 29.07.1938 1041.2
58 Vankellei 08.09.2008 4839.0
59 Vavunikulam 21.06.1963 4856.2
60 Victoria Randenigala Rantembe 30.01.1987 42087.3
61 Weerawila-Tissa 27.05.1938 4164.2
62 Welhilla Katagilla 18.02.1949 134.3
63 Welipara (Bar Reef) 03.04.1992 30669.9
64 Wilmanna 30.06.2006 3340.0
65 Wilpattu North 25.02.1938 632.0
66 Yodha Wewa 24.09.1954 4330.1

This page was last updated on 4 June 2022
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Friday, 23 October 2020

Metikotumulla Tempita Viharaya

Metikotumulla Tempita Viharaya
Metikotumulla Tempita Viharaya, also known as Sri Saddharma Thilakarama Viharaya (Sinhala: මැටිකොටුමුල්ල ටැම්පිට විහාරය, ශ්‍රී සද්ධර්ම තිලකාරාම විහාරය), is a Buddhist temple situated in Essella village in Gampaha District, Sri Lanka.

The history of the Metikotumulla area, according to folk, is connected with Sakalakala Wallabha (or Sakalakala Wallakabahu), a provincial king appointed during the Kotte Period. Several historical sources such as Rajavaliya and Alakeshwara Yuddhaya (The battle of Alakeshwara) reveal that King Sakalakala Wallabha, one of the sons of King Vira Parakramabahu VIII (1490-1509 A.D.) had ruled this region. According to locals, Sakalakala Wallabha planned to construct a new irrigation tank in the Essella and the clays used to construct the dam were extracted from the area where the present temple is situated. After that, the area became to known as Meti-ketu-mulla (clay-ploughed-corner) and it was later evolved to the present name Meti-kotu-mulla.

The temple
One of the stone pillars used in the Tempita Viharaya building contains the date 1893 and therefore, locals believe that this temple has been established in that year. However, the date 2454 B.E. (1911 A.D.) is found drawn on the front wall of the verandah of the Tempita building.

Tempita Viharaya
Tempita Viharas (the temples on pillars) were a popular aspect of many Buddhist temples during the Kandyan Period. These structures were usually built on a wooden platform resting on bare stone pillars or stumps which are about 1-4 feet tall. The roof is generally made of timber and held by wooden stumps. The walls are usually made of wattle and daub and they form the main enclosed shrine room containing the Buddhist sculptures and murals belonging to the Kandyan style. Some Tempita Viharas have narrow verandas and ambulatories circulating the main enclosed space. The construction of these buildings started in the 17th century and lasted until the end of the 19th century (Wijayawardhana, 2010).

Metikotumulla Tempita Viharaya
Statues and paintings in the Tempita Shrine
The Tempita Viharaya is the main aspect of this temple with archaeological value. It is a rectangular building constructed upon 9 granite pillars about 2 feet tall (Chandrasoma, 2013). The building is 14 feet 6 inches long and 10 feet 6 inches wide and an open-ambulatory has been built around it (Chandrasoma, 2013). The ambulatory is 4 feet 7.5 inches wide and its roof which has been tiled with Sinhala Ulu (semi-circular tiles) is borne by several circular pillars erected around the Tempita shrine (Chandrasoma, 2013). The roof of the Tempita shrine is sloping in four directions and has been balanced on supportive wooden pillars as well as the wattle wall of the building. The Maliga Ulu (flat clay tiles) have been used to tile the roof. Also, a small open hall (a Hewisi Mandapaya) has been attached to the ambulatory in front of the shrine.

The Tempita shrine can be accessed through a wooden flight of steps leading to the small verandah in front of the entrance door. The entrance door has been placed in the western direction and is guarded by four figures of deities including God Visnu and God Kataragama. A seated Buddha statue accompanied by two images of Sariputta (left) and Moggallana (right), the chief disciples of Gautama Buddha is found inside the shrine.

The inner walls of the shrine have been decorated with paintings depicting Buddhist themes. "The Sath-sathiya (the first seven weeks after attaining Buddhahood)", "the offering of food to the Buddha by Tapassu Balluka (or Trapusa & Bahalika)", "Sahampathi's invitation to Buddha to deliver the first sermon Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta",  "the offering of Deheti to the Buddha by God Sakra" are found among them. The outer walls of the shrine are adorned with paintings depicting "the Suvisi-vivaranaya (Buddha to be receiving the blessing from 24 previous Buddhas)". Locals say that these outer wall paintings were drawn by a painter named Arunolis, a student of the famous Kelani Vihara painter Solias Mendis.

A protected site
The ancient Tampita Viharaya on the premises of the Metikotamulla Saddharmathilakarama Vihara in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Minuwangoda is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 22 November 2002. 

Metikotumulla Tempita Viharaya Metikotumulla Tempita Viharaya .
1) Chandrasoma, S., 2013. Gampaha Distrikkaye Tempita Vihara (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). Colombo. ISBN: 978-955-9159-85-8. pp.43-49.
2) Wijayawardhana, K., 2010. Sri Lankawe Tampita Vihara (In Sinhala). Dayawansa Jayakody & Company. Colombo. ISBN: 978-955-551-752-2. p. 12.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1264. 22 November 2002.

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This page was last updated on 26 October 2021