series by Gaveshaka in association with Studio Times
The most beautiful temple around Kandy
With the advent of Buddhism, art and culture began to flourish in
Sri Lanka. While there is little evidence of what went on during
the pre-Buddhist era, there is ample mention of religious and other
activities after the introduction of Buddhism. With the construction
of Thuparama by King Devanampiya Tissa, the era of Buddhist stupas
or dagobas began. Gaveshaka has already traced the progress of Buddhist
art and architecture during the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruva periods.
The ancient kingdom was at its peak during these eras and the country
was prosperous and wealthy.
a great force, a Pandya prince named Parakramapandu invaded Sri
Lanka in 1211 A.D during the reign of Lilavati. During the third
year of his reign, Magha from Kalinga (Malaya & Sumatra) came
over with an army of 24,000 Malay soldiers and captured Parakramapandu,
put out his eyes and plundered all the treasures. He broke down
the Buddhist stupas and ruined the city. Libraries were destroyed.
The monasteries were given to his soldiers for them to live. The
people were tortured. During his ruthless regime, the Sinhala princes
fled to the hills and other parts of the country and were hiding.
It was a reign of terror.
the Rajarata was under the oppressive rule of Magha, a number of
Sinhalese leaders in Ruhuna and Mayarata were successful in keeping
the invaders away from their territories. A prince named Bhuvanekabahu
checked their advance into Ruhuna from a stronghold at a place called
Govindamala in the Uva Province. A military leader named Sankha
defended the area around Minipe. Yapahuva was the stronghold of
another military leader named Subha. A prince named Vijayabahu succeeded
in leading a movement against Magha and establishing himself at
Dambadeniya in the present Kurunegala District around 1232. The
next century saw the capital moving back and forth between Polonnaruva,
Dambadeniya, Yapahuva and Kurunegala until Bhuvanekabahu IV established
Gampola as the capital around1340 A.D.
erection of what is described as the most beautiful of the Buddhist
temples near Kandy was built by him at a place called Rabbegumuwa
in Udunuwara. It came to be known as Lankatilaka Vihara and stands
at a picturesque site on top of an immense rock.
of steps leads to the temple. Two inscriptions have been found there
one in Sinhala and the other in Tamil. The Sinhala inscription records
the erection of the temple and the grants of land made to it by
the king. The year mentioned in it (1266 of the Saka era) corresponds
to 1342 A.D.
‘sannasa’ (royal grant) states: “In the year 1266
of the Saka, in the third year of the reign of Bhuvaneka Bahu, Sena
Lanka Adhikari, on the full moon day in Vesak, jointly with the
priesthood in general, made a site of granite on the rock called
Pan-hal-gala in Udunuwara, 60 cubits, to the height of a human body,
levelled the upper surface of it, and on it raised a vihara of brickwork
with four stories, having an entrance on the eastern side, and also
five dewala round it, with figures of celestial beings, elephants,
oxen, lions, panthers and fish; in height 32 feet, having four dagobas
at the four corners and one in the centre, all surmounted by golden
the central dagoba a depository was made for the books of the three
Pitakas, 28 well finished images, and one in sleeping posture 5
cubits long in the fourth story.” It goes on to describe the
remainder of the vihara also in detail.
further mentions that the remuneration paid to the artists in paddy,
gold, silver and cloth was valued at 3,600,000 gold pieces (‘kahavanu’).
The vihara could be reached by “a flight of stone steps 120
cubits long, having such a width that four or five people may pass
and re-pass at one and the same time.” The ‘sannasa’
then describes the lands given for its maintenance. More lands had
been granted by the King of Kandy (Sri Vickrema Rajasinghe) in 1798
archaeologist S. Paranavitana described the architecture at Lankatilaka
Vihara as “essentially a continuation and development of the
Sinhalese architecture of the Polonnaruva period with some Dravidian
and Indo-Chinese features.” The paintings are those of the
vihara can be approached by the Davulagala road, which turns right
from near the 65th mile on the Colombo-Kandy road. It is about three
miles from the turn off.