Niyamgampaya Viharaya

Niyamgampaya Viharaya
Niyamgampaya Viharaya (Sinhala: නියම්ගම්පාය විහාරය, නියම්ගම්පායස්ථානය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Gampola in Kandy District, Sri Lanka.

Folklore links the history of this temple to the reign of King Devanampiyatissa [(247-207 B.C.) Rajapakse, 2016]. It is also considered one of the temples built at the bank of Mahaweli Ganga river by King Suratissa [(247-237 B.C.) Rajapakse, 2016]. Another tradition says that a king named Motatissa erected the temple and donated it to the pupillary succession of Bhikkhu Gautama (Abeyawardana, 2004; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). According to some, Motatissa is no other than King Kanitthatissa (167-186 A.D.) of Anuradhapura (Abeyawardana, 2004). The temple received the patronage of King Vijayabau IV (1270-1272 A.D.) of the Dambadeniya Kingdom (Abeyawardana, 2004; Rajapakse, 2016). It is said that he restored the "Nigamaggama-pasada" or the present Niyamgampaya temple (Nicholas, 1963).

The Niyamgampaya inscription of 1373 A.D. reveals that this temple was reconstructed during the reign of King Vikramabahu III (1357-1374 A.D.) by a chieftain named Jayamahale Sitana (Abeyawardana, 2004; De Silva, 1990; Ranawella, 2014).

The temple is referred to as Niyamgampasada in the Culavamsa (the latter part of Mahavamsa) and as Niyamgampaya in Nampota (Abeyawardana, 2004). According to the Daladavamsa, the Tooth Relic of the Buddha had been kept in this temple during the reign of Parakramabahu V of Dadigama and Virabahu II of Gampola (Abeyawardana, 2004).

Niyamgampaya rock inscription
The original rock on which the inscription had been engraved is no more to be seen (Ranawella, 2014). The inscription exists only in copies on Olas, and the text available on them is also fragmentary (Ranawella, 2014). The inscription is said to be preserved in the British Museum (De Silva, 1990).

The inscription has been dated in the 17th regnal year of King Vikramabahu III (1357-1374 A.D.) of the Gampola Kingdom (Ranawella, 2014). It reveals some details of the history of the Niyamgampaya temple and reconstruction works carried out by a Banker who was a minister named Jayamahale Sitana (De Silva, 1990; Ranawella, 2014). According to the inscription, he built a Pirivena after his name on the premises of the Niyamgampaya monastery (Ranawella, 2014).

This inscription is considered important, as it gives details of the buildings, their components, sculpture & paintings, the cost of each component, and the Sinhala terminology used for different parts of the building (De Silva, 1990). It also has a description of Lankatilaka Viharaya (De Silva, 1990).

The shrine
The shrine at Niyamgampaya temple is considered an important monument, as it preserves the features of the ancient Anuradhapura type of architecture (De Silva, 1990). The present shrine has been put up on the remains of the ancient shrine (De Silva, 1990). It is mainly built of brick and wood. The pillars of the outer Mandapaya (pavilion) and the door frame at the entrance to the shrine room have been made of stones (De Silva, 1990).

The shrine mainly consists of two sections; the shrine room and the outer Mandapaya (pavilion). The shrine room has two parts; the external and the inner. The external part is 9.3 m in both length and width while the inner part is 8 m long and 7.8 m wide (De Silva, 1990). The outer Mandapaya is positioned towards the east of the shrine and can be accessed through a flight of steps. The length and the width of the Mandapaya are equal [(5.8 m) De Silva, 1990]. Notable sculptures of musicians, drummers, dancers, and various animals are found in the spaces between the plinth mouldings of the shrine (Abeyawardana, 2004). Similar sculptures are also found in Gadaladeniya Viharaya and Alawatura Ganegoda Viharaya.

The stone pillars of the outer Mandapaya have carvings of the usual Sinhalese type. The upper ends of these pillars have been decorated with wooden capitals with Pekada carvings (Rajapakse, 2016). The elaborately carved door frame provides access to the shrine room. Two figures of guardians accompanied by two lions are found on the front wall of the shrine room. The interior of the shrine room is decorated with sculptures and paintings belonging to the Kandyan Period (Rajapakse, 2016). A painting depicting King Kirti Sri Rajasingha (1747-1787 A.D.) is said to be found in the shrine (Rajapakse, 2016).

A protected site
The old stone door-frame and stone carvings of the Vihara-geya (the image house) of Niyamgampaya Raja Maha Vihara situated in the village of Kurukude in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Panwila are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 14 May 1971.
Niyamgampaya Viharaya .
2) DSC00875, & DSC00874 by Kumudupinto 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. p.60.
2) De Silva, N., 1990. Sri Lankan architecture during the period 1200-1500 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.86.
3) De Silva, N.; Chandrasekara, D.P., 2009. Heritage Buildings of Sri Lanka. Colombo: The National Trust Sri Lanka, ISBN: 978-955-0093-01-4. p.44.
4) 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.116.
5) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.144-146.
6) Ranawella, S., 2014. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. VII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-9159-62-9. pp.69-76.
7) The Gazette notification of Sri Lanka. No: 14958. 14 May 1971.

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This page was last updated on 14 January 2023
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