Pepiliyana Sunethradevi Pirivena and Viharaya

King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.) constructed the great Pepiliyana Viharaya & Pirivena in memory of his loving mother Sunethra Devi.
Pepiliyana Sunethradevi Pirivena
Sunethradevi Pirivena and Viharaya (Sinhala: පැපිලියාන සුනේත්‍රාදේවි පිරිවෙන හා විහාරය) are two Buddhist temples situated adjacent to each other in Pepiliyana in Colombo District, Sri Lanka.

Pepiliyana Sunethradevi Viharaya
The history of Pepiliyana Sunetradevi Pirivena runs back to the period of the Kotte Kingdom. Epigraphical evidence (see the below "Inscriptions" section) reveals that King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.) constructed this temple in memory of his mother Sunethra Devi (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018; Rohanadeera, 2007). Mangala Sami, a student of Galathuramula Medhankara is said to be the first incumbent of this temple (Rohanadeera, 2007).

A prominent educational centre
Sunethradevi Pirivena (along with Padmavathi Pirivena at Keragala, Siri Ganananda Pirivena at Veedagama, Vijayaba Pirivena at Totagamuwa and Siri Perakumba Pirivena at Kotte) was one of the most prominent Buddhist teaching institutions that engaged in spreading literacy to the country during the Kotte Period. The 15th-century Gira Sandeshaya has a reference to this temple (Manathunga, 2016).

With the downfall of the Kotte Kingdom in the latter part of the 16th century, the temple lost its state recognition and is said to have been vandalized by Westerners including the Portuguese who landed in Sri Lanka in 1505 (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018; Sarma, 2007).

A fragmentary slab inscription (with an appendix) and several Sannasas issued by King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.) reveal the history of this temple as well as the properties bestowed on it (Rohanadeera, 2007).

Pepiliyana Sannasas
Several Sannasas pertaining to the lands and properties endowed to the Sunethradevi Pirivena by King Parakramabahu VI are currently in the possession of the temple (Rohanadeera, 2007). They have been issued by the king in 1431, 1432 (12 April), 1432 (10 November), and 1459 (Rohanadeera, 2007).

Pepiliyana Sunetradevi slab inscription of Parakramabahu VI
This slab inscription has been engraved in March 1454  (Rohanadeera, 2007). It contains a proclamation issued by King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.) in his 39th regnal year (Rohanadeera, 2007). It says that Mangala Sami, the pupil of Galaturu Mula Mahasami, has been appointed to the post of Head of the Sunethradevi Pirivena and the income from the temporalities belonging to Pepiliyana Viharaya and the Pirivena should be utilized in accordance with the instructions given in the proclamation (Rohanadeera, 2007).

Period: 15th century A.D.                Script: Modern Sinhala               Language: Modern Sinhala
Content: This inscription discloses that King Parakramabahu VI who came to the throne in the year 1958 B.E. (1415 A.D.) made an order in the 39th year of his reign to the official named Sikura Mudalpotun to commence the construction of a new temple to accrue merit for Queen Mother. Accordingly with an expenditure of money amounting to 25,000 Pepiliyana Vihara was constructed with boundary walls, gateways, image houses, assembly halls, a Bodhi tree, Dagobas, monastic residences, temples of gods, libraries, and flower altars. It also reveals details of paddy lands and other property grants offered to maintain the temple and provide necessary expenses for the alms of the resident monks. This temple named after the Queen Mother was offered to Ven. Mangala, the student of Ven. Galaturumul Medhankara. King has offered cash and other donations to cover expenses pertaining to religious ceremonies of the three Bodhi (Stupa, Bodhi-tree, and image house) and maintenance of the monastery. Various other donations for the chief incumbent monk and other monks have been granted by the king as well. 

The inscription further reveals details of the servants assigned for various purposes. It also mentions that until the temple exists; subsequent kings, sub kings and other nobles should donate various grants to the temple and that any violators of this custom will be reborn as Pretas, while those who assist the ceremonies even by word will be rewarded in this world and in heaven.
Citation: The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage.

Pepiliyana slab inscription: Appendix
This inscription has been inscribed in December 1459 on the lower half of the main inscription as an appendix to it. 
Content: King Parakramabahu VI in the 44th year of his reign built the Aramanapola Vihara in Navayodun Koralaya with an image house and the residence for the monks and bestowed it to the Triple Gem and then to Mangala Maha Thera, the chief incumbent of Sunethradevi Pirivena at Pepiliyana. The donations included villages, lands, large extents of paddy fields, servants and money to buy rice, chillies, salt and other ingredients for the kitchen, betel, and areca nut, etc. scented water, fragrant flowers for the rituals performed for the three Bodhis. Eight accoutrements were distributed once a year to the chief incumbents and the resident monks. Money had been allocated to buy cloth for the clerk and other officials working at the Pirivena. The income derived from the revenue on a daily, monthly and yearly basis consisted of cash and kind. All these grants should be used for the rituals performed in the Pirivena to supply four requisites to the resident monks and guest monks and for the national service of issuing books by the Pirivena. The inscription also discloses the fact the Pirivena and resident monks were maintained without any help from devotees. It further mentions that anyone who interrupts these grans will be reborn in hell, while those who help these meritorious acts will enjoy living in this world and in heaven and eventually will see the Maitree Buddha and attain Nirvana or the Supreme Bliss.
Citation: The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage.

A protected site
The ancient image house and the Avasage belonging to the premises of Pepiliyana Sunethradevi Raja Maha Viharaya situated in Grama Niladhari Division of Pepiliyana West bearing No. 535, Kesbewa Divisional Secretariat Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by the government Gazette notification published on 23 February 2007.

Pepiliyana Sunethradevi Pirivena
1) Manathunga, S. B., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-39-9. pp.100-101.
2) Rajapakshe, S.; Bandara, T. M. C.; Vanninayake, R. M. B. T. A. B. (Editors), 2018. Puravidya Sthana Namavaliya: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Vol. I. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 978-955-7457-19-2. p.60.
3) Rohanadeera, M., 2007. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon. (Vol. VIII). Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-64-3. pp.23-28,40-45,47-50.
4) Sarma, B.S., 2007. History of Munneswaram Temple. Sri Sankar Publications. p.21.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1486. 23 February 2007. p.123.

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This page was last updated on 5 March 2022

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