Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Deepaduttaramaya, Kotahena

Deepaduttaramaya (also known as Dipaduttarama Purana Thai Raja Maha Viharaya) is a Buddhist temple situated in Kotahena in Colombo District, Sri Lanka. It is considered the oldest Buddhist place of worship in the Colombo city area (Bajpai, 2019; Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

Establishment of the temple
This temple was established in 1745, in a part of an aristocratic residence called Kulatunga Wijayasiriwardana Walawwa and therefore known as the "Walawwe Pansala" which means the "Temple of the Mansion" (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). In the beginning, the doors of this temple were only opened for elites as it was on a private property (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Although it was bestowed to Buddhist monks in 1784, only the aristocratic people had permission to enter the temple (Manathunga, 2016). However, due to the effort of Seenigama Dhammakkhandha Thera, it became a Buddhist place of worship for the public in 1806 (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018).
Period of Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera
The temple later became the home of Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera (1823-1890) who is well-known for the debates held between Buddhists and Christians (Bajpai, 2019; De Silva, 2009; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Of the debates headed by him, the Panadura-vadaya (1873) debate made a phenomenal impact on the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and it also attracted some influential western personalities to the country such as Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907) and Madam Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) the co-founders of the Theosophical Society (De Silva, 2009; Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

1883 Kotahena riot
Sri Lanka was under the British regime from 1815 to 1948. During this period Christianity received more support from the British Government than Buddhism. At the time Kotahena was regarded as a Roman Catholic stronghold and Deepaduttaramaya was the only Buddhist place of worship there (De Silva, 2009; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). After Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera took over the charge of Deepaduttaramaya, the Buddhist activities in the area continued in an atmosphere of overt and covert opposition from missionary organizations and government officials (De Silva, 2009). During the Easter Week of 1883, Catholics in Kotahena attacked a precession of Buddhists headed by Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera and as a result of this, one Catholic and one Buddhist were killed leaving hundreds injured (Bartholomeusz, 1995).

A number of Roman Catholics were arrested over these riots but the government dropped charges against most of them (De Silva, 2009). A report by a commission appointed by Governor James Robert Longden (1877-1883) held the view that the Catholics who had been provoked by Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera's fiery speeches had indeed attacked the Buddhists (De Silva, 2009). However, by disappointing the Buddhist party, the government placed restrictions on all religious processions (De Silva, 2009).

Olcott and Blavatsky who were absent from Sri Lanka during the riot period returned in January 1884 and established a Buddhist Defence Committee to present this case of the Buddhists to the colonial government (Bartholomeusz, 1995; De Silva, 2009). However, it didn't succeed in influencing the government position towards the Buddhists but succeeded in honouring the identity of the Buddhist community (Bartholomeusz, 1995).

Hoisting the Buddhist flag
As a universal symbol of Buddhism, the present Buddhist flag was designed in 1885 by the Colombo Committee, Sri Lanka with the participation of scholarly monks such as Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera (1827-1911) and also Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera. It was first publicly hoisted on Vesak day, 28 May 1885 at the Deepaduttaramaya, by Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera (Bajpai, 2019). It was the first Vesak public holiday in Sri Lanka under British rule (Bajpai, 2019).

Thai Prince Priest
Deepaduttarama Viharaya is presently called the Thai Temple because of a Siamese prince named P.C. Jinavaravansa Thera (Jinavaravansa & Jumsai, 2003). Born in 1851 as Prince Prisdang Chumsai, he was a grandson of King Rama III (1824-1851) of Siam (Jinavaravansa & Jumsai, 2003). He arrived in Sri Lanka in 1890 and was ordained at Sri Subhuti Viharaya in Waskaduwa as a monk in 1896 (Jinavaravansa & Jumsai, 2003). He became the incumbent of this temple and the Sangha Nikaya of Colombo from 1905 to 1910 (Jinavaravansa & Jumsai, 2003). During this period, the temple received the patronage of the members of the Siamese Royal Family (Jinavaravansa & Jumsai, 2003). P.C. Jinavaravansa Thera returned to Siam in 1910 and never back to set foot in Sri Lanka again (Jinavaravansa & Jumsai, 2003).

The temple
Deepaduttaramaya was established during the Dutch colonial period in Sri Lanka [(1640–1796) Bajpai, 2019]. Therefore, traces of Dutch architecture is still visible along with British architecture on several monuments of the temple. As it received the patronage of the royal family of Thailand, some buildings of this temple have been built according to Thai architecture. Of the buildings, the image house, monks' dwellings, and Stupa are considered special (Rajapakshe et al., 2018).
Two commemorative trees planted by Thailand King Ananda Mahidol (1935-1946) and King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1946-2016) are found in the temple premises.

Image house
Originally built by Wijayasiriwardana, the image house displays the Dutch and British touches of architecture (Bajpai, 2019; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). A facade was added to it in 1785 and in 1873 and the British Royal emblem is found on the upper part of it (Bajpai, 2019; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Inside the image house are the statues of the Buddha with murals depicting some of his life events. The Antaralaya section is filled with sculptures of gods, Bodhisattvas and paintings of Jataka stories (Rajapakshe et al., 2018).
Monks dwelling
The building with five Victorian arches is said to be the dwelling of Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera (Manathunga, 2016). It was preserved by the Department of Archaeology during the 2016-2017 period (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Besides this dwelling, another building has been built for monks.

The Stupa at Deepaduttarama Viharaya is called the Ratna Chetiya and the architect of it was P.C. Jinavaravansa Thera (Jinavaravansa & Jumsai, 2003). It was built during the period of 1908-1910 (Jinavaravansa & Jumsai, 2003). The architecture of this monument is similar to that of the Mulagandha Kuti Vihara in India (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

A protected site
The old Vihara-geya (the image house) and the Avasage (the monks' dwelling) situated in the premises of Deepaduththarama Vihara in Kotahena Grama Niladhari Division in Colombo Divisional Secretariat Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 18 June 1999.

1) Bajpai, L.M., 2019. Stories of the Colonial Architecture: Kolkata-Colombo (Vol. 1). Doshor Publication. pp.140-141.
2) Bartholomeusz, T., 1995. Catholics, Buddhists, and the Church of England: The 1883 Sri Lankan Riots. Buddhist-Christian Studies, 15, pp.89-103.
3) De Silva, K.M (Editor in chief), 2009. History of Ceylon: Vol. III. Ministry of Higher Education. pp.199-202.
4) Jinavaravansa, P.C. and Jumsai, S., 2003. The Ratna Chetiya Dopaduttarama, Colombo. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 48, pp.213-236.
5) Manathunga, S. B., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-39-9. pp.77-78. 
6) 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. pp.40-41. 
7) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1085. 18 June 1999.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 28 October 2021
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map


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