Nawagala Viharaya

Nawagala Stupa
Nawagala Raja Maha Viharaya is a Buddhist temple situated in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka. 

This monastic complex is thought to have been built during the early Anuradhapura Period. As per the belief of the locals, this could be one of the 32 temples mentioned in the chronicle Mahavamsa that had been built by Queen Viharamahadevi (2nd century B.C.). 
The Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating carried out for two brick samples collected from the base of the lower perimeter wall and the exposed brickwork of the upper section of the dilapidated Nawagala Stupa have revealed that they belong to two periods; i) 130±165 A.D. and ii) 860±85 A.D. (Bailiff et al., 2013).

The Stupa
The Stupa at this site is probably the biggest one built in the hinterland of Anuradhapura and it was there in a state of ruins for a long time wholly grown with vegetation. The villagers found this ruined site in the 1940s in the middle of the paddy fields and started to conduct usual Buddhist rituals (Ratnayake, 2018).

In 2009, the villagers of Nawagala decided to restore the ancient Stupa in their temple to mark the end of 26 years of civil war in Sri Lanka (Ratnayake, 2018). With the collaboration of the Department of Archaeology, the villagers formed a Stupa restoration society and provided the materials, manpower and other services that are necessary for the conservation work of the Stupa (Ratnayake, 2018).

Excavations revealed that there are two construction stages of the Stupa (Ratnayake, 2018). The oldest one is smaller than the latter one but does not coincide with the same centre (Ratnayake, 2018). Remains of lime plaster bands on the surface indicated that the Stupa was originally plastered and whitewashed (Ratnayake, 2018). A broken Yupa stone and two Chatra stones (umbrellas) were also discovered during the excavations (Ratnayake, 2018).

Relic caskets of Nawagala Stupa
Several relic caskets were found during the first stage of excavation conducted to explore the shape of the Stupa (Ratnayake, 2018). These relics were kept in tiny golden caskets shaped like Stupas and stored in a small glass casket inside a bigger stone casket (Ratnayake, 2018). Although there was a proposal to bring the relics and relic caskets to Colombo National Museum, they were deposited back in the Stupa due to the strong opposition that was arisen from the village community and the priests (Ratnayake, 2018). However, several caskets are presently preserved in the Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum.
1) Bailiff, I.K., Lacey, H.R., Coningham, R.A., Gunawardhana, P., Adikari, G., Davis, C.E., Manuel, M.J. and Strickland, K.M., 2013. Luminescence dating of brick Stupas: an application to the hinterland of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Antiquity, 87(335), pp.189-201.
2) Ratnayake, P.B., 2018. Authenticity in the Sri Lankan context: traditional maintenance systems, modern management systems, and present challenges. ICCROM. ISBN 978-92-9077-283-5. pp.141-152.
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This page was last updated on 1 January 2023

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