Lankatilaka Viharaya (Kandy)

Not to be confused with Lankatilaka Image House (Polonnaruwa)

Lankatilaka Viharaya
Lankatilaka Viharaya (Sinhala: ලංකාතිලක විහාරය, මහනුවර) is a Buddhist temple built on the Panhalgala rock in the village of Hiyarapitiya in Kandy District, Sri Lanka.

The history of Lankatilaka Viharaya is related to the Gampola Period. Rock inscriptions found in the temple premises reveal that Senalankadhikara, a minister of King Buvanekabahu IV (1341-1351 A.D.) built Lankatilaka Viharaya in the Saka year 1266 which corresponds to 1344 A.D. (Abeyawardana, 2004; De Silva, 1990; Jayasuriya, 2016; Seneviratna, 1983).

Thereafter, the temple received the patronage of several kings. As is recorded in Culavamsa, King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.) of Kotte carried out some stucco work in the temple in the 15th century A.D. (Jayasuriya, 2016; Seneviratna, 1983). During the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1782 A.D.), the inner walls were decorated with murals (Jayasuriya, 2016).

Lankatilaka image house
The architect of the image house of Lankatilaka Viharaya, according to the rock inscription in situ, is a South Indian named Sthapati Rayar (Jayasuriya, 2016; Seneviratna, 1983). Therefore, as in the case of Gadaladeniya Viharaya, it evidently displays a South Indian architectural layout. Shrines with similar layouts are commonly found in Tamil Nadu in India and Candi Singhasari in Java (Jayasuriya, 2016). According to the view of Abeyawardana, this image house depicts a combination of Indo-China architectural patterns mixed with the Polonnaruwa architectural features influenced by temples in Myanmar and Japan (Abeyawardana, 2004).

Originally, the Lankatilaka image house was a four-storied building and it has gone through several renovations over the course of years (De Silva, 1990; Jayasuriya, 2016; Rajapakse, 2016). However, only the ground floor and a part of the second floor remain today (Jayasuriya, 2016; Rajapakse, 2016; Seneviratna, 1983). It is believed that the upper stories have collapsed with the passage of time (Seneviratna, 1983). According to the Lankatilaka copper plate inscription, the original building was 32 cubits (24.9 m) high but the height of the present building is 18.3 m (De Silva, 1990; Seneviratna, 1983).

Lankatilaka image house
Lankatilaka image house is an example of a Buddhist shrine associated with Hindu elements (Jayasuriya, 2016). The Buddha shrine has been built towards the eastern direction and the Hindu shrine towards the west (Jayasuriya, 2016). Figures of deities such as Upulvan, Sumana, Vibishana, Ganapati, Kumara Bandara, and their consorts have been placed on the exterior in niches in the centre of each of the outer walls and on the two sides of the front facade (De Silva, 1990; Jayasuriya, 2016).

The image house has been built out of stones and bricks along the east-west axis (Abeyawardana, 2004; De Silva, 1990).  It consists of Hewisi Mandapaya (the drumming hall), Antaralaya, and Garbha-gruha (Rajapakse, 2016). The main statue of the shrine is a seated Buddha statue under a Makara Torana [(dragon arch) Abeyawardana, 2004]. Murals and a few sculptures are also found in the shrine room. The Stupa of the temple is a construction of the recent past (Abeyawardana, 2004).

Rock inscriptions Lankatilaka inscriptions
Two Sinhala and one Tamil inscription are found engraved on the rock to the south of the temple (Paranavitana, 1960). Of the two Sinhala inscriptions, the first one belongs to the reign of King Buvanekabahu IV (1341-1351 A.D.) and the other belongs to his successor, King Vikramabahu III [(1357-1374 A.D.) Paranavitana, 1960]. The Tamil inscription is the translation of the Sinhala inscription of  Buvanekabahu IV (Abeyawardana, 2004).

Another rock inscription belonging to the reign of King Buvanekabahu V (1372-1408 A.D.) is found on the rock outside the Vahalkada to the west of the temple (Paranavitana, 1960).

Four copper plates are preserved in the Lankatilaka temple (Paranavitana, 1960). Of them, one records grants of lands made to the shrine in the reigns of King Sri Rajadhi Rajasinha (1781-1798 A.D.) and his predecessor King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe [(1747-1782 A.D.) Paranavitana, 1960].

A protected site
The old Vahalkada, the Buddhist shrine, Devale, and the inscriptions of Lankatilaka Vihara situated in the village of Hiyarapitiya in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Udunuwara are archaeological protected monuments, declared by government gazette notifications published on 16 December 1949, and 23 February 1967. 

Lankatilaka Viharaya .

1) Lankathilaka Viharaya 03 by Cherubino is 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.76-77.
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). pp.82-84.
3) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. pp.121-123.
4) Paranavitana, S., 1960. Lankatilaka inscriptions. University of Ceylon Review. Vol. XVIII, Nos. 1 & 2. pp.1-45.
5) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.60-61.
6) Seneviratna, A, 1983. Kandy: An Illustrated Survey of Ancient Monuments, with Historical, Archaeological, and Literary Descriptions Including Maps of the City and Its Suburbs. Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs. pp.119-123.
7) The Gazette notification of Ceylon. No: 10054. 16 December 1949. 
8) The Gazette notification of Ceylon. No: 14775. 23 February 1967.

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This page was last updated on 12 January 2023

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