Naipena Viharaya (Polonnaruwa)

Naipena Viharaya
The ruins of the Naipena Viharaya (Photo credit: Google Street View)

Naipena Viharaya (Cobra Hood Shrine) is referred to a complex of two Hindu shrines namely Siva Devale No. 5 and Visnu Devale No. 4, situated in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Although this site is popularly known as Naipena Viharaya (Viharaya is a suffix use to denote a Buddhist temple), it has been identified that this is a Hindu temple complex. The present name is thought to have been derived due to the cobra-hood (Naipena) decoration of the Vimana of the Visnu shrine (now fallen down) located in the northern part of the complex (Jayasuriya, 2016; Prematilleke, 1990; Wikramagamage, 2004).
The ancient name or the builder of this complex is not known. However, it is believed to have been constructed during the Cola Period of Sri Lanka [(1017-1070 A.D.) Wikramagamage, 2004].
The temple complex
The temple complex surrounded by a wall has in its centre a Siva temple and a Visnu temple (Jayasuriya, 2016). The two shrines stand adjacent to each other and separate only by a boundary wall (Prematilleke, 1990). The ancillary buildings around the temples have been used for offerings associated with these shrines.
Siva Devale No. 5
Siva Devale No. 5
Located in the south section of this complex, Siva Devale No. 5 is the largest ancient Siva temple found in Polonnaruwa (Jayasuriya, 2016; Prematilleke, 1990). It consists of a Garbhagrha (sanctum), Antarala (vestibule), Ardhamandapa, Mandapa (inner hall), and Mahamandapa [(outer hall) Prematilleke, 1990]. In the Garbhagrha is a Siva-linga placed on a slab of stone with a drain at the base of the Linga (Wikramagamage, 2004). The brick-built Vimana which is on the roof of the building is fallen on the ground.
The largest hoard of Hindu bronzes from the Polonnaruwa ancient city was discovered on the premises of Siva Devale No. 5. Some of these artefacts are presently on the display in the Polonnaruwa Museum and the Colombo National Museum.

Visnu Devale No. 4
The Visnu Devale is located in the northern section of the complex. It has the same ground plan as the Siva Devale, except that it did not possess the Mahamandapa of the Siva shrine (Prematilleke, 1990). Its Garbhagrha has been constructed according to the Gedige tradition with a roof made of bricks. A fallen down part of this ancient roof can be still seen on the premises and decoration of a five-hooded cobra is found on it.

Naipena Viharaya
The Siva Lingam in the Siva Devale No. 5 [Photo credit: Gatewayto east (Google Street View)]
See also

1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.86.
2) Prematilleke, L., 1990. The architecture of the Polonnaruwa Period B.C. 800 - 1200 A.D. [Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)]. Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.57.
3) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.227.

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This page was last updated on 3 May 2023

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