Rankoth Viharaya (Panadura)

Not to be confused with Rankoth Vehera, (Polonnaruwa)

Rankoth Viharaya (Sinhala: පානදුර රන්කොත් විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Panadura in Kalutara District, Sri Lanka.

The beginning
The temple was established in 1810 as a small cottage (Abeyawardana, 2002). According to folklore, this temple has been built on a ground that gives victory for the weaker party. It is said that the residents in the area thought to establish a temple on this ground after seeing an attack on a cobra by a multitude of frogs (Abeyawardana, 2002). In the beginning, the temple was called Galwala Pansala or Galkande Vihara, but after the painting of the pinnacle of the Stupa in gold in the year 1890, it was begun to known as Rankoth Vihara which means the "Gold-pinnacled temple" (Abeyawardana, 2002). Before the end of the 19th century, the temple developed into a fully-fledged Vihara in the area. The two-storey residence of monks was built in 1886 and the works of the Stupa were finished in 1894 (Abeyawardana, 2002).
The preliminary discussions before the commencement of the popular debate between Buddhism and Christianity called Panadura-vadaya (1873) are said to have been held at the premises of this temple. The cause for this debate arose when Walpita Gunaratana Tissa Thera, the then incumbent of Rankoth Vihara was compelled to address the arguments raised by the nearby Wesleyan Chapel against the Buddhist faith (Abeyawardana, 2002). These arguments finally led the Buddhist monks to come together and hold an open debate between the two parties; Christians and Buddhists. The debate was held at Panadura on two days in August 1873 and Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera (1823-1890) represented the side of the Buddhists as the main debater (Goonatilake, 2004).

The impact of the debate was phenomenal, both locally and internationally. Reports on this historic debate were published in the outside world and as a result of that some western personalities such as Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), the co-founder of the Theosophical Society, came to Sri Lanka and heavily involved in reviving Buddhism in the country (Goonatilake, 2004). He visited Rankoth Viharaya in May 1880 (Abeyawardana, 2002).

The Pirivena
Rankoth Viharaya also gained its recognition as a prominent education centre of Buddhist learning. Beruwala Sri Niwasa Thera, Kahandamodara Sri Piyaratna Thera, Ambalangoda Dhammakusala Thera were a few scholarly monks graduated from the Pirivena of Rankoth Viharaya (Abeyawardana, 2002). This temple was also served as the residence of the renowned Mahayana and Sanskrit scholar Prof. Moratuwa Sasararatna Thera (Abeyawardana, 2002).

The temple
The temple today is a fully-fledged Buddhist place of worship. The temple ground comprises two terraces, the upper and lower. The Stupa, Bodhi tree, image house, belfry, and a library are located on the upper terrace while the dwellings of monks and other ancillary buildings are on the lower terrace. 

The image house
The image house (or the Buddha shrine) of Rankoth Viharaya is archaeologically important. It consists of two parts; the inner shrine and the walled ambulatory area around it. The facade of the image house is highly decorated with plaster mouldings. The walls and the ceiling of the ambulatory have been filled with paintings depicting Jataka stories, hell, and life stories of the Buddha such as Mara Parajaya (the defeat of Mara), Buddha Chithakaya (the cremation of the Buddha), and Datu Bedima (the distribution of relics).

A protected site
The ancient Buddha shrine of Panadura Rankot Vihare situated in the Grama Niladhari Division No. 686-B-Pattiya South, in the Panadura Divisional Secretary’s Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government notification published on 6 June 2008.

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2002. Heritage of Sabaragamuwa: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Sabaragamuwa Development Bank and The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-077-7.  pp.98-99.
2) Goonatilake, S., 2004. Pānadurā Vādaya and Its Consequences: Mischievous Association with Fundamentalism. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 49, pp.87-118. 
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, no: 1553. 6 June 2008. p.533.
Location Map
This page was last updated on 11 March 2023

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