Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Bingiriya Tempita Viharaya

Bingiriya Tempita Viharaya
Bingiriya Tempita Viharaya or Sri Devagiri Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: බිංගිරිය ටැම්පිට විහාරය, බිංගිරිය ශ්‍රී දේවගිරි රජ මහා විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Bingiriya in Kurunegala District, Sri Lanka.

History
Located between the Deduru Oya and Kolamuna Oya, Bingiriya was a resting place for caravans travelling between the ancient port at Salapura (present Halawatha/Chilaw) and Panduwasnuwara or beyond during the early part of the Anuradhapura Period (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021). It is said that a Stupa was established at this site by traders who were travelling across this village (Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021; Wijayawardhana, 2010).

Several monastic structures are said to have been added to the temple during the reign of a king named Agghabodhi and the place was renovated during the time of King Parakramabahu I [(1153-1186 A.D.) Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021; Wijayawardhana, 2010]. The temple was renovated again in the 18th century by a pupil of Weliwita Saranankara Thera (1698-1778 A.D.) after it was abandoned in the wake of the Kotte Kingdom (Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021).

The ruins of an Uposathaghara (chapter house)
The ruins of an Uposathaghara building used for disciplinary functions (Vinayakarma) of Buddhist monks during the Anuradhapura Period have been identified on the temple premises. This building is 61 ft. long, 41 ft. wide and consists of 30 stone pillars of about 11 ft. high (Wijayawardhana, 2010). The structure is believed to be had two or more stories in the past. 

Also, the parts of two broken Buddha statues belonging to the 8th century A.D. have been unearthed from the site (Wijayawardhana, 2010).

Tempita Viharaya
Tempita Viharas were a popular aspect of many Buddhist temples during the Kandyan Period. These structures were usually built on a wooden platform resting on bare stone pillars or stumps which are about 1-4 feet tall. The roof is generally made of timber and held by wooden stumps. The walls are usually made of wattle and daub and they form the main enclosed shrine room containing the Buddhist sculptures and murals belonging to the Kandyan style. Some Tempita Viharas have narrow verandas and ambulatories circulating the main enclosed space. The construction of these buildings started in the 17th century and lasted until the end of the 19th century (Wijayawardhana, 2010).

Bingiriya Tempita Viharaya
The Tempita Viharaya of Bingiriya temple may have been done in the early 19th century and perhaps the largest of its kind in Sri Lanka (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021; Wijayawardhana, 2010). It is a two-storied building, 34 ft. in length and 24 ft. in width (Wijayawardhana, 2010). The lower level of it had been used as an Uposathaghara and its consecrated limits marked by boundary stones are still visible (Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021). A lower roof runs on all sides, highlighting its two-storey design (Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021). 

The upper floor rests on 22 stone pillars of about 6 ft. tall (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Wijayawardhana, 2010). Two flights of steps made of wood provided access to the upper floor from the east and the west directions but only one remains today (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015; Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021). The upper floor consists of a Buddha shrine surrounded by an ambulatory. A seated Buddha statue of about 7 ft. tall and four standing Buddha statues of about 8 ft. high are found in the shrine room (Wijayawardhana, 2010). The wooden columns and exposed beam framework of the ambulatory contain wood carvings depicting traditional motifs and other decorations. The interior and exterior faces of the upper floor walls are decorated with paintings depicting Buddhist themes (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

A protected site
The Tampita Viharaya at Bingiriya Raja Maha Viharaya situated within the Grama Niladhari Division Bingiriya in Kiniyama/Katugampotha Divisional Secretary Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 22 November 1974.

References
1) Anuradha, R.K.S.; Kumari, A.S., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kurunegala Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-37-2. pp.46-48.
2) De Silva, N.; Chandrasekara, D.P., 2009. Heritage Buildings of Sri Lanka. Colombo: The National Trust Sri Lanka, ISBN: 978-955-0093-01-4. p.38.
3) Silva, K.D. and Chandrasekara, D.P., 2021. The Tämpiṭavihāras of Sri Lanka: Elevated Image-Houses in Buddhist Architecture. Anthem Press. pp.100-101.
4) The government gazette notification. No: 139. 22 November 1974.
5) Wijayawardhana, K., 2010. Sri Lankawe Tampita Vihara (In Sinhala). Dayawansa Jayakody & Company. Colombo. ISBN: 978-955-551-752-2. pp.12,168-179.

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This page was last updated on 3 August 2022

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