Anointing Pavilion (Abhayagiriya)

Anointing Pavilion is a ruined building situated near the pond on the right hand of the southern entrance to the Abhayagiri Stupa in Anuradhapura.
Anointing Pavilion
Abhisheka Mandapaya (Anointing Pavilion)

Anointing Pavilion or Anointing Hall (Sinhala: අභිෂේක මණ්ඩපය) is a ruined building situated near the pond which is on the right hand of the southern entrance to the Abhayagiri Stupa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. This is probably used for anointing Buddha statues and other sacred items (Hettiaratchi & Kulatunge, 1993).


It is a building that belongs to the type known as Snanaghara (bathing house) described in the Bodhicharyavatara (Wikramagamage, 2004). In ancient times there was a practice of anointing the Buddha images with scented waters and this ritual is held even today in Sri Lanka at some places such as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises in Anuradhapura and Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy (Wikramagamage, 2004). The chronicles also mention a Mahayana anointing ceremony performed with six pots of fragrant water (Hettiaratchi & Kulatunge, 1993).

This ruined building in Abhayagiriya premises is believed to have been used for the consecration of the Buddha and Bodhisattva images with scented water according to the Mahayana traditions.

The Structure

The stone pavilion where the water vessels and the images were placed and the drains bringing the consecrated water out of the hall are still visible here. There are stone conduits on three sides of the building leading to the pond and opposite the entrance of the building is a narrow stretch of ground paved with stone slabs (Hettiaratchi & Kulatunge, 1993). In the middle is a small enclosure on each side of which are two raised platforms with an entrance to each (Hettiaratchi & Kulatunge, 1993). These two may have been used for depositing sacred items that were brought here for anointing (Hettiaratchi & Kulatunge, 1993). The water used for anointing is believed to have been used later for various purposes as sacred water (Hettiaratchi & Kulatunge, 1993). The hollows carved out of the stone slabs at the foot of each platform are believed to have been used to place the pots of fragrant water used for anointing (Hettiaratchi & Kulatunge, 1993). The use of pots to bring fragrant water is evidenced by the findings or remnants of a number of pots to the north of this building (Hettiaratchi & Kulatunge, 1993).

This ruined building is believed to be a work of the late Anuradhapura Period.

Anointing Pavilion
Anointing Pavilion

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1) Hettiaratchi, S. B., Kulatunge, T. G., 1993. Abhayagiriya. Unesco/World Food Programme, Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle, Abhayagiri Vihara Project. Central Cultural Fund. pp.11-12.
2) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.97.

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