Veheragala Sirisangabo Viharaya

Sirisangabo Raja Maha Viharaya is a Buddhist temple in Veheragala. It is the site where the famous Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Statue was unearthed.
Veheragala Viharaya
Veheragala Sirisangabo Viharaya Ruins

Sirisangabo Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: වෙහෙරගල සිරිසංඝබෝ රජමහා විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple in Veheragala situated about 15 km east of Mihintale in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka. It is notable as the location where the famous Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Statue was unearthed.


The history of this site runs back to the Anuradhapura Period. Several ruins belonging to that period such as a Stupa and a pillar inscription are found on the temple premises. Besides them, several bronze statues and artefacts of Buddhist origin were discovered in 1968 among the ruins of an ancient building of this temple by the then-chief incumbent, Mahamessalave Rathanapala Thera (Chandrajeewa, 2016; Chutiwongs et al., 2007).

Bronze Artefacts

The bronze artefacts discovered from this temple are currently on display in the Anuradhapura Gallery of Colombo National Museum (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018).

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Statue

This solid-cast gilt bronze represents Avalokiteshvara, a Mahayana Bodhisattva who is the emanation of the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha. It is variously dated by scholars between the 6th and the 10th century A.D. (Chandrajeewa, 2016). Senarath Paranavitana dated this to the 6th century while others dated it to the 8th-10th century (Chandrajeewa, 2016; Chutiwongs et al., 2007; Holt, 1991). The style shows affinities to South Indian sculptures of the 7th-9th centuries (Chutiwongs et al., 2007).

Seated Buddha Statue

Seated on a lotus pedestal, this Buddha is depicted in the Veerasana posture with hands in Samadhi mudra (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). It is 33.5 cm in height and dated by scholars to the 9th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al., 2007).

Standing Buddha Statue

This statue is 66 cm in height and depicted in the Samabhanga position (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). It is believed to be an object of worship displayed in a shrine (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). Scholars dated the statue to the 9th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al., 2007).

Bodhisattva Sandals

The two bronze sandals discovered from this temple are considered a unique product with gem-set but simple ornamentation. The rear part of the sandal is carved separately and fixed to the front section. Presumbly, the two sandals were made for a bronze standing Bodhisattva statue of about 3 m high. If this figure was found, it would have been yet another masterpiece in Sri Lankan bronze art.

Veheragala Viharaya
Veheragala ruined Stupa and artefacts recovered

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Books, Journal Articles

1) Chandrajeewa, S., 2016. Veragala Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva: an Inquiry into its Style & Period (The Mahayana Buddhist Bronze Statue in Colombo Museum). Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, pp.69-106.
2) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2007. Sri Lanka Murthi: Bodhisattva (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Bodhisattva). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs. pp.54-55,74-75,86-87.
3) Holt, J.C., 1991. Buddha in the crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist traditions of Sri Lanka. Oxford University Press. p.86.
4) Prematilaka, L., Hewage, R., 2018. A guide to the National Museum, Colombo: Department of National Museum. ISBN: 978-955-578-035-3. p.12.

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To Whom extends its gratitude to Sameera Malagala for providing the necessary photographs required for this article. All the photos are published here with the permission of the author.

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