Nagalakanda Archaeological Site

Not to be confused with Nagalakanda Viharaya (Nikawewa)

Nagalakanda Archaeological Site, also known as Mahasena Aranya Senasanaya (Sinhala: නාගලකන්ද පුරාවිද්‍යා ස්ථානය), is a ruined Buddhist monastery situated in Nagalakanda near Minneriya in Polonnaruwa District, Sri Lanka. Presently the monastery functions as a forest hermitage.

Believed to have been erected by King Mahasena (276-301 A.D.), this monastery was known among locals in the past as Minneri Maha Vehera. The dolomite standing Buddha statue on the temple premises is a work belonging to the 8th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). A 9-10th century Sinhala slab inscription of an unidentifiable king-titled Sirisangbo has been unearthed from this site and it registers a decree of a grant of immunities (Ranawella, 2005). Also, a 10th-century slab inscription of an unidentifiable king-titled Abha Salamevan has been recorded from nearby Belumgala premises (Ranawella, 2005)

The site
The site consists of the ruins of a Stupa, a Bodhigarara, image houses and other monastery structures. Of the image houses, the one built in the shape of an octagon is architecturally unique. The image house that contains the standing Buddha statue is believed to be a structure of Gedige-type.

The standing Buddha at Nagalakanda
Made of dolomite, the standing Buddha statue at Nagalakanda Viharaya is 2.8 m (9 ft. 2 in.) in height (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). The image carved round shows evidently the pose of protection (Abhaya-mudra) by the right hand which is now broken off while the left hand would have held the robe falling over the forearm (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). A shallow Usnisha is visible over the head and the hair is shown in curls like snail shells. The robe covers the whole trunk but leaves the right shoulder bare. The robe is indicated by broad pleated folds with regular convex ridges as in the statues of the late Amaravati style (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). The statue bears closer affinities with the Limestone Images at the Ruwanweliseya Stupa, images of Medirigiriya and Polonnaruwa (Chutiwongs et al., 2007).

Scholars have dated this statue to the 8th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al., 2007).

1) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2007. Sri Lanka Murthi: Buddha (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Buddha). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs. pp.48-49.
2) Ranawella, S., 2005. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume V, Part III. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 955-91-59-57-7. pp.57,82-83.

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This page was last updated on 2 December 2023

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