Sunday, 13 March 2022

Ancient Uposathaghara in Sri Lanka

Uposathaghara in Sri Lanka
Uposathaghara or Pohoya-ge (lit: Chapter-house) is a type of Buddhist structure in Sri Lanka used for the Uposatha ceremony and sometimes as a monastic dwelling (Bandaranayake, 1990; The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007). Consisting usually of two or more storeys and with a rectangular plan, Uposathaghara was an essential and major element in almost all major, suburban and rural Buddhist temples in ancient Sri Lanka (Bandaranayake, 1990; The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007).

Uposathaghara is the central building linked with the order and organization of the body of monks in charge of a monastery or a chain of monasteries (Bandaranayake, 1990). On the main Uposatha days of the new moon and the full moon, monks assemble at the Uposathaghara and observe various religious acts connected with the Vinaya (the monastic rule) and the Sangha [(the monastic order) Bandaranayake, 1990; Prematileke, 1990].

In the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods, the Uposathagharas of the major monasteries were multi-storeyed edifices (Bandaranayake, 1990). Mainly, two types of Uposathagharas have been identified in the remains of these periods, viz; i) Uposathagharas with a square ground plan and, ii) Uposathagharas with a rectangular or elongated ground plan. Of the two, the square type Uposathagharas are rare (Bandaranayake, 1990).
 
The Lovamahapaya in Anuradhapura is considered the best example for square type Uposathaghara (Bandaranayake, 1990). Originally built in the 2nd century B.C., it was a storeyed structure with 1,600 pillars (The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007). The Baddhasima Prasada in Polonnaruwa was a 12-storeyed structure and is considered the largest Uposathaghara ever built in ancient Sri Lanka (Prematileke, 1990).

Some of the ancient Uposathagharas in Sri Lanka are listed below;
#) Diyasenpaya (chapter house of Jetavanarama Monastery)
#) Lovamahapaya (chapter house of Maha Viharaya)
#) Ratnaprasadaya (chapter house of Abhayagiri Monastery)
#) Baddhasima Prasada (chapter house of Alahana Pirivena)

Reference
1) Bandaranayake, S., 1990. The architecture of the Anuradhapura period 543 B.C.-800 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). pp.29-30.
2) Prematileke, L., 1990. The architecture of the Polonnaruwa period 800-1200 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.53.
3) The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007. (2nd ed.) Survey Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-9059-04-1. p.104. 


This page was last updated on 13 March 2022
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