Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lankatilaka Raja Maha Viharaya

Kandy was not the first capital of Sri Lanka situated in Central Highlands. More than 250 years before Sri Lankan kings established their final capital in Kandy, Gampola became the capital of the kingdom. It is true that Gampola period was not so long. But, it gave us some of the best preserved and famous religious sites in the island. Lankatilaka Raja Maha Viharaya is one such place.

Lankatilaka Viharaya is one of the three famous temples near Peradeniya which are associated with the Gampola period. When travelling from Colombo to Kandy, you’ll come to Pilimathalawa, 104 kilometers from Colombo. Turn left to Daulagaha road and travel four kilometers along this road. You’ll come to Hiyarapitiya village, where the temple is located.

The Lankatilaka Viharaya is said to have been built in 1344 by the Chief Minister, Senalankadhilankara, on the orders of King Buwanekabahu IV. The king, who ruled the island from 1341 to 1353, had moved the capital to Gampola. He must have commissioned the temple as a means to convince the people of the area that he is a good, devout monarch.

South Indian architect Sthapati Rayar has designed the image house of the temple, the most prominent landmark at Lankatilaka Viharaya. According to late Professor Senarat Paranavitana, he had blended Sinhalese architecture of Polonnaruwa period and Dravidian and Indo Chinese styles in designing the building. The name itself recalls the Lankatilaka image house at Polonnaruwa, which is one of the three famous image houses in that ancient city. Furthermore, the image house is considered to have followed the Gedige type architecture of Polonnaruwa period.

The image house is built on an uneven rock surface, on a foundation made of stone. The building has been made of brick. Earlier, it is said to have been a four storey building. Today, only the first storey and a part of the second storey remain. One can imagine what a sight it must have been all those years ago, when it was even taller.

The approach to the Buddha Image house is from the vihara facing the Eastern side which is the approach from the flight of stone steps. There is a Moonstone or a Sandakadapahana at the steps leading into the temple. Two Balustrades (Korawakgalas) of Gajasinha (Elephant-Lion) design is erected by the sides of the steps leading to arched doorway. The outer Dragon arch or the Makara Torana has unique features, making it very special. Inside the arched doorway, paintings of two Lion figures can be seen. Inside the image house is a Seated Buddha statue with a Makara Torana above the image. The paintings from Suvisi Vivarana are painted in the surrounding walls of the image house. These paintings are from Kandy period. (18th century)
Suvisi Vivaranaya

Sinhalese in Central Highlands have a unique lifestyle, even today. They worship the Buddha and they also have a number of deities. In Gampola period, this was even more evident. Lankatilaka Temple has devales for several deities. God Kumara Bandara is considered to be the god whom the temple was entrusted to.

Pics: Dr. Irantha Karunaratne

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