Lewke Tempita Viharaya and Walawwa

Lewke Tempita Viharaya (Sinhala: ලෙව්කේ ටැම්පිට විහාරය හා වලව්ව) is situated on the premise of Lewke Walawwa in Lewke village in Kegalle District, Sri Lanka. This is considered the only Tempita shrine in the country found within a private residential plot of land (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

Lewke Bandara, a Disawa (governor) of Sathara Korale hailed from a generation of chieftains who had their roots extended to the Dambadeniya Kingdom (Abeyawardana, 2002). During the Kandyan Period, the Maha Disawa position of Sathara Korale was given to Lewke to take the front vanguard in the army of that region (Abeyawardana, 2002). Accordingly, his ancestral home at Galatara in the Galboda Korale was shifted to Lewke village and the parts of this building along with the Tempita Buddha shrine are still visible at the site (Abeyawardana, 2002). The last descendent of the Lewke generation, Lewke Wijayawardana Bandara was executed by King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1798-1815 A.D.) after his failure to fight the invading English army in 1803 (Abeyawardana, 2002; Wijayawardhana, 2010).

Tempita Viharaya
The Tempita Viharaya on the Lewke Walawwa premises is said to have been constructed by Lewke Wijayasundara Bandara Disawa (1740-1751 A.D.) for the personal use of his family (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021; Wijayawardhana, 2010).

Tempita Viharaya
Tempita Viharas were popular in 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 form the main enclosed shrine room containing Buddhist sculptures and murals in 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).

Lewke Tempita Viharaya
The Lewke Tempita Viharaya is 5.25 m in length and 4.20 m in width and has been balanced on 19 short stone pillars (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The inner and outer walls, door, and door frame have been adorned with paintings depicting Buddhist themes such as Jataka tales and Sath Sathiya (the first seven weeks after the enlightenment). Murals of Lewke Disawa and possibly King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1798-1815 A.D.) have been painted on the interior walls of the shrine (Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021; Wijayawardhana, 2010). A seated Buddha statue is accommodated in the sanctum and a space has been made in front of it to make room for the gathering of family members of the Lewke. The pitched roof of the shrine is covered with flat clay tiles.

The Lewke Tempita Viharaya is an example that shows how the elite of the Kandyan Kingdom adapted the Tempita tradition (buildings on pillars) to build their own household shrines (Silva & Chandrasekara, 2021). It was restored and conserved in 1997 by the Department of Archaeology (Wijayawardhana, 2010).

A protected site
Lewke Walawwa and the Tempita image house situated in Lewke village in the Mawanella Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 3 September 1999.

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2002. Heritage of Sabaragamuwa: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Sabaragamuwa Development Bank and The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-077-7. p.74.
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.32.
3) Silva, K.D. and Chandrasekara, D.P., 2021. The Tämpiṭavihāras of Sri Lanka: Elevated Image-Houses in Buddhist Architecture. Anthem Press. pp.136-137.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 948. 3 September 1999.
5) Wijayawardhana, K., 2010. Sri Lankawe Tampita Vihara (In Sinhala). Dayawansa Jayakody & Company. Colombo. ISBN: 978-955-551-752-2. p.12,291-294.

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This page was last updated on 19 March 2023

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