Alahana Pirivena

Alahana Pirivena
Alahana Pirivena (lit: Crematory Monastery) is the largest monastery complex located in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City, Sri Lanka.

The Pirivena was established by King Parakramabahu I [(1153-1186 A.D.) Jayasuriya, 2016; Nicholas, 1963; Wikramagamage, 2004]. Its name "Alahana" suggests that the site had been a former cremation ground and this has been confirmed by archaeological excavations carried out here in several places (Jayasuriya, 2016). The small Stupas at the site are believed to have been constructed on the cremation grounds of prelates or royals.

As mentioned in chronicles, the limits of Alahana Pirivena had been marked by 10 boundary stones and it comprised; Lankathilaka Pilima Ge, Rupavathi Thupa, Subaddha Cetiya, Baddhasima Prasada, Khandasima, a Pasada and several other buildings (Nicholas, 1963).

The monastery
Alahana Pirivena is considered the largest monastery complex in Polonnaruwa. Located on a hillock, it is bound in the North by the Gal Viharaya and Gopala Pabbata in the South. It extends over more than 18 hectares and has a terraced layout (Jayasuriya, 2016). Kiri Vehera, Lankathilaka Pilima Ge, Baddhasima Prasada, and several small Stupas are located on the two upper terraces while the Monastic Hospital, ponds, and a number of residence monks' cells are located on the lower terrace.

The excavations done at the site by archaeologists have exposed a stepped pond with a unique design. According to the view of Prof. Prematilaka, the design of it is similar to the 14th century stepped pond at Hampi, Vijayanagar in India (Jayasuriya, 2016).

1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.81.
2) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). p.179.
3) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.214.

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This page was last updated on 3 June 2022

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