Friday, 28 January 2022

Asanaghara in Sri Lanka

The Asanaghara shrine at Rajagala
Asanaghara is a type of ancient Buddhist structure found in several places in Sri Lanka. They have been built to house an Asana (a seat or throne) which symbolizes the Adamantine throne (Vajrasana) of the Buddha on which he attained enlightenment (Perera, 1976).
 
History
In the early period of Buddhism, Asanas were venerated by Buddhists as a sacred object as it was considered a symbolical representation of the Buddha. In Sri Lanka, edifices housing Asanas were built during the period of Anuradhapura (from 377 B.C. to 1017 A.D.) several such shrines have been found in sites associated with Bodhi Tree Shrines or Stupas (Bandaranayake, 1974).
 
The structure
Asanaghara shrine at Hatthikuchchi Viharaya
It is apparent that the Asanagharas (Asana = seat, Ghara = house) have been built according to a particular architectural plan and design. The only object of veneration in an Asanaghara shrine was a throne in the shape of a large rectangular slab of stone, smoothly chiselled, set up on a raised platform (Beligatamulla & Siyambalapitiya, 2016).

Distribution of Asanaghara shrines in Sri Lanka
Asanaghara shrines have been discovered at a number of places scattered in various districts of the country. 
 
1) Abhayagiri Bodhigharaya III        (2) Allewewa                              (3) Erupotana
(4) Gan-arambe                                 (5) Ganewewa                            (6) Kotagamuwa
(7) Hammillawetiya                          (8) Katuwannawa                      (9) Kok-ebe
(10) Mahanaga Pabbatharamaya  (11) Manik Vatadage                (12) Naigala Viharaya
(13) Pihimbiyagollewa                     (14) Pulukunawa Viharaya       (15) Rajagala
(16) Rajangane Hatthikucchi          (17) Seruvila Viharaya              (18) Tantirimale Viharaya
(19) Uttimaduwa                               (20) Veheragala                         (21) Yatala Vehera

Reference
1) Bandaranayake, S., 1974. Sinhalese monastic architecture: the Viharas of Anuradhapura (Vol. 4). Brill. p.178. 
2) Beligatamulla, G.; Siyambalapitiya, N., 2016. Preaching Identity: Cultural Meaning of FurnitureIn Religious Contexts in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Design Journal 01 (03). p.19.
3) Perera, A.D.T.E., 1976. Asanaghara Shrines of Ancient Sri Lanka: Who built them, the Buddhists or pre-historic Yakkhas?. Journal of the Sri Lanka Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 20, pp.31-41.

This page was last updated on 2 June 2022
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