A 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.

Leading 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.

While 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.

The 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.

A flight 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.

The ‘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 pinnacles.

In 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.

It 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 A.D.

Renowned 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 Kandyan period.

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.

Back to Top  Back to Mirror Magazine  

| Front Page | | News | | Editorial | | Columns | | Sports | | Plus | | Financial Times |
| Mirror Magazine | | TV Times |
| Funday Times |

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.