Sunday, December 27, 2020

Abhayagiriya Alms-Hall

Abhayagiriya Alms-Hall
Abhayagiriya Main Alms-Hall (or The Main Refectory of Abhayagiriya) is a ruined building located in the ancient monastery premises of Abhayagiriya in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka. It was the place where the daily alms were provided for the monks who lived in the monastery.

Remains of four phases of constructions from the 1st century B.C. have been identified from the building premises. The Chinese monk Fa-Hsien who came to Sri Lanka in the 5th century A.D. (probably in 411-413 A.D.) records that there were 5000 monks resided in the Abhayagiri monastery during his time (Jayasuriya, 2016; Nicholas, 1963). The large stone trough (Bat-Oruwa) which is found to the east of the refectory exceeds the capacity of 5000 alms bowls and therefore, it could hold sufficient rise for such a number of monks (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004).

The Anuradhapura slab inscription of King Kassapa V (914-923 A.D.) has mentioned this refectory (Jayasuriya, 2016; Nicholas, 1963; Wickremasinghe, 1912). The smaller stone boat found here has an inscription of the late 8th or early 9th century A.D. (Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 1934).

The building
A large rice trough, kitchen, a sun-dial, courtyard, dining area, storerooms, stone canoe, and underground water conduits are found within the building premises. The rice trough is 19 m long and is believed to be used to cater about 5000 monks who lived at Abhayagiriya at the time. There is another small though alongside which is probably for water (Jayasuriya, 2016).

A sun-dial used to measure the time has been discovered from the eastern section of the refectory building (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004). It is presently on the display in the Abhayagiri Museum (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004).

Abhayagiriya Alms-Hall .
1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.28.
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.142.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1934. Seven Sinhalese inscriptions of the seventh and eighth centuries. Epigraphia Zeylanica being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I)V. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. London. pp.149-150.
4) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.101-102.
5) Wickremasinghe, D.M.D.Z., 1912. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). London. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. p.55.

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This page was last updated on 9 January 2021
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