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Places of Worship in Sri Lanka. The island of Sri Lanka has been a favorite haunt of aliens, extra terrestrials, gods, devas, angels, sky dwellers, demons, deities whichever way you describe them. Our chronicles, traditions, folklore, prehistoric cave drawings, archaeological evidence and ancient traveler’s’ records testify that there have been strange beings living in this island from time immemorial.
“There were and there are Mountains, Hills, buildings and even plants with full of mysteries, power and wisdom which are beyond human understanding. 200 million years ago, geologically Sri Lanka was linked with India, Madagascar, Australia and Antarctica, in a land mass known as Gondwana. Sri Lanka separated into a land mass known as Lanka Dvipa (Island of Lanka), and part of the land submerged into the sea. According to the Ramayana epic this took place because of the misdeeds of Ravana, but this seismic happening is confirmed by modern science.
The spot on which this vihara stands derived its sanctity in the Buddhist era 2531, with the third visit of the Buddha to this country.The fact that the Buddha visited the spot on a Wesak day on the invitation of King Maniakkhika is given in the historic epics of Sri Lanka.
The Naga King, according to these chronicles had invited the Buddha to a repast at this spot which following the expounding of the Dhamma was consecrated and on which the King had built a vehera wherein the Buddha’s hair and the utensils use at the repast together with the seat on which the Buddha sat were buried.
However with the advent of time and the destruction of the vihara by the foreign invaders has resulted in the original dageba being lost today.
Kaleniya Vihara however, received its hallowed status and became a place of Buddhist worship after venerable Mahinda brought the Dhamma to this country.
According to the Mahawansa King Devanampiyatissa’s brother Uttiya renovated the vihara for the first time. He is also said to have built the first Quaters of the Monks (Sanghawasa) there.
Historical evidence shows that the Kelaniya Vihara was at its highest glory during the Kotte Era. By the time the Portuguese conquered the country considerable land had been donated by the kings to the Kelaniya Vihara, and when in 1510 the Portuguese entered and destroyed the secret temple. They had confiscated this land preventing Buddhists from worshiping at the temple.
Restrictions placed on the development of Kelaniya were reduced with the advent of the Dutch. They in 1767 perhaps in order to gain King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha’s good will permitted him to develop Kelaniya Vihara. Thus the reconstruction of the Vihara was undertaken by the then Chief incumbent Venerable Mapitigama Buddharakkhita. He was provided with funds from the treasury. The King was so overjoyed at the way the work was handled that further grants of lands had been given to the vihara.
The 150-year-old shrine the resting-place of the Muslim saint, His Holiness Seyedina as-Sheikh Usman Siddique Ibn Ahdurrahman, who visited Ceylon from Arafat, Arabia and visited Adam’s Peak and Dafter Jailani shrine at Balangoda, and later resided in what was later known as Cinnamon Gardens,
The Sacred Tooth Relic, which is housed at the Dalada Maligava in Kandy , is the most precious and venerated object for Buddhist in Sri Lanka . It is treated with the same reverence and dignity as a living Buddha.
It remained in Anuradhapura for over 700 years and removed to Polonnaruwa when the kindom saw a foreign invasion. The relic was moved each time a new kingdom was established and special premises were built to accommodate it. It moved from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa and thereafter to Dmbadeniya, Kurunegala, Gampola, Sri Jayawardenapura and Kotte before making its way to Kandy .
The present Temple was of the Tooth in Kandy was constructed by King Wimaladharmasuriya I and was renovated by Wimaladharmasuriya II.
The inner palace was created by King Kreethi Sri Rajasinha who carried out special Dalada Poojas without a break and also introduced the Dalada Maligawa Perehara to the annual Kandy Perehara.
He protected it during Dutch invasions too. The Tooth Relic was under King Sri Wickrema Rajasinha when the British invaded and was removed to various safe places outside the main city for protection.
It is said that Wariyapola Sri Sumangala Thera kept the relic hidden in his robes to protect it from foreign invaders. The British, hearing of this, arrested the Thera and took the relic under their wing.
When they finally took over Sri Lanka on March 2, 1815, the Sacred Tooth Relic was brought back to Kandy and was reinstalled at the Dalada Maligawa with full honours on April 25, 1815.
After Sri Lanka regained independence, the Tooth Relic was put under the charge of the Malwatte and Asiri Theras and the Diyawadane Nilame.
The Sacred Tooth Relic is now placed under seven protective golden caskets.It is brought out only during special public viewings held once every couple of years. Ever since the sacred Tooth Relic arrived in Sri Lanka, it had been afforded pried of place by the country’s rulers and there have always been strong links between the rulers and those in charge of the Dalada Maligawa.
Degaldoruwa and Gangarama temples are approachable along the Thennekumbura road by the side of the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Both these viharas, built by King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe, are cave temples of the 18th Century and are famous for the Kandyan murals. The first temple has a standing Buddha image and the second has a redining image of Buddha in the main shrine. The Gangarama is the closest to the town. The frescoes depicting the Buddhist Jathaka Tales, represented as scenes from everyday life in contemporary Kandy, are some of the finest examples of Buddhist Temple Art in Sri Lanka.
The Vihara, also known as the Blue Temple, is built on the summit of a rock known as Panhalgala is the village of Rabbegamuwa in the Udunuwara Division of the Kandy district. The Temple which depicts both Buddhist and Hindu features, is situated about 12 kilometers away from the Peradeniya bridge.
The Lankathillake Vihara is believed to have been constructed between the 14th and 18th centuries and is said to be one of the largest buildings to be constructed during this period.
Senalankadhikara, a warrior under King Buwanekabahu IV (who reigned from 1344 to 1354), is generally believed to have constructed the temple.
Its architectural features, sculpture, inscriptions on the rock – face and paintings are distinctive to the Kandy period. Some say the brick-built structure has feature similer to those of the Polonnaruwa era except for the two halls infront of the image house.
The wall built around the building has given it a rather square shape instead of the usual rectangular shape.The temple’s long series of steps cut directly into the rock is a peculiar architectural design. Beautiful paintings can be seen all over the temple which also carries images of the 24 Buddhas and a huge seated statue of the Budda. The three-storeyed building has carvings belonging to the Kandy period.
It provides a magnificent view of the surrounding country-side.
Approximately 3km (2 miles) on foot or by bus north of Lankatilake, and l km (0.6 miles) south of the main Colombo road, this is a mainly Buddhist temple with a Hindu shrine attached. It contains some interesting Buddha images and frescoes from the 14th century.
Gadaladeniya Viharaya Pilimatalawa, Kandy Built almost exclusively of stone in 1344 by the Gampola King Wicramabahu, situated on a hilltop, commanding views of the surrounding countryside.
The architecture is Dravidian. The entrance porch features large stone pillars which support a roof of huge stone slabs. The 638 year old jak wood doors still exhibit their original paintings.
Mahiyangana is 42 km from Kandy.
Several of the kings of Kandy made pilgrimages to Mahiyangana. King Narendrasinghe went twice and King Virawickrama performed the whole pilgrimage on foot. By the 19th century the stupa and most of the shrines around it were in a very dilapidated state and in 1949 a society was formed to restore it.
The Department of Archaeology was invited to do a thorough investigation of the stupa before it was repaired. The relic chamber was opened and its walls were found to covered with paintings, their colours as fresh as if they had just been done. The paintings show the Buddha being tempted by Mara as he sits under the Bodhi Tree. Other paintings show Brahma, Siva, Vishnu and other devas. The relic chamber is thought to date from Vijayabahu?s renovations in the 11th century and has now been reassembled in the Anuradhapura museum.
Outside the entrance archway to Pattini Devale at the Northern wall is an ancient Bo-tree shrin, ‘ Well Bodhiya’ on top of a stepped terraced platform. This Bodhi tree, is venerated as one of the off-shoots of the Sacred Bo-tree in Anuradhapura.
Here is a small village called “Arathtana” which was, many moons ago in Sri Lanka, well known for its dancers and drummers. In this village lived a drummer who had a skin disease. He tried every possible treatment to rid himself of his problem, but none of them worked. Every medicine failed to cure him. He decided to go to the “temple of Katharagama”, a temple in the southern part of Sri Lanka. This temple was built for the god of Katharagama.
He went there and asked the god of Katharagama to cure his illness, promising to worship the temple annually. Then his illnesses were cured, and he kept his promise to Katharagama for many, many years.
It was a long, tiresome journey to the south and finally the time came when he knew his body could no longer make the trip. For the last time he traveled to the temple and praied the god that he could no longer continue his annual ritual, as he was too old. The sad drummer returned home and that night, the god of katharagama spoke to him in his dreams. He made a prediction.
The god said, “in few days, a miracle will happen! You must go there and perform your traditional drumming!” As predicted by the god the miracle happened.
There was a flower garden known as Ambakka, which belonged to the wife of King Wickramabahu- Queen Henakanda Bissobandara.
When the gardener was working in the garden he tried to remove a “Kaduru” tree from the garden. When he cut it a stream of blood began to flow from the tree. The drummer heard of this miracle and so went to the flower garden to perform the rituals as he was ordered to do by the god. He built a small temple out of tree branches around the tree. It has been called the “Ambakka Devalaya” ever since.
After some days the king of “gangasiripura”, “gampola” king Wickramabahu, was informed about the event. The king ordered to build a three story building in the land. He gave land and Elephants as gifts to the temple. His queen’s jewellery was also given to the temple as a gift. Since then the temple of ambakka is worshipped by thousands of people every year. They say, even today, the drummer’s ancestors’ perform rituals in the temple.
Ambakka is very special because it owns some of the gratest carvings in Sri lanka. the temple is situated in the central province. there are several ways to get there. the road map is as shown bellow.
here are total of eight buildings built for the temple of Ambakka. Six buildings are in the inner temple, and two of them outside. The structures that are inside the surrounding wall are known as the ‘inner temple’. The structures that are outside the wall are known as the ‘outer temple’.
This is the oldest living tree in documented history. It was planted on a high terrace about 21 feet above the ground and surrounded by railings and today it is one of the most sacred relics of the Buddhists in Ceylon. These are other bo-trees in close proximity to this sacred bo-tree. The parapat wall round the compound where the bo-tree is planted is about 700 ft. in length. This wall was constructed during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha, to protect it from the wild Elephants.
The Mahavamsa or the Great Chronicle of the Sinhalese provides an elaborate account of the establishment of the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi in the island. Bodhi means wisdom that understands the four Noble Truths.
Thus the tree which assisted Lord Buddha to achieve wisdom or enlightenment is called Bodhi.
This dagaba was built on a firm foundation. It is recorded that inside the dagaba are enshrined valuable gems statues made out of gold, various valuable objects and also relics of the Buddha. On the four side of the Stupa are the frontispieces (Vahalkada). The Courtyard on which the stone tablets are laid is known as the Salapatala courtyard. Below the Salapatala courtyard is the compound made of Sand (Valimaluwa). On the four sides of the compound are the parapat walls with its figures of Elephants and has been made to appear as though it was supported by the elephants. There are 1900 figures of elephants on the wall consisting of 475 on each side. Therefore it is known as the elephant compound. In the temple courtyard are the old models of Ruwanvalisaya made of stone, a statue of King Dutugemunu worshipping the dagaba. In the image house situated in the temple courtyard are 4 statues of the Buddhas who have attained Buddhahood in this aeon (kalpa) and future Buddhas (Maitri). All these creations are very old. The pinnacle of Ruwanvelisaya is 24 ft, in height. The crest gem on the pinnacle is a gift from Burma. Ruvanvalisaya is situated a few yards away from Lovamahapaya.
It is recorded in books that King Lajjitissa erected 3 altars in marble. King Mahadathika Mahanaga constructed the circular portion of the courtyard made of stone tablets.
(Salapatala courtyard). Ballathanaga constructed the valimaluwa (made of sand), while King Parakramabahu the Great renovated the dagaba.
The famous Lohaprasada built by King Dutugemunu described as an edifice of nine storeys, was a building of this class. One side of the building was 400 ft in length. As the roof was covered with tiles made of bronze, this was known as the Brazen Palace. There are 40 rows, each row consisting of 40 stone pillars and a total of 1600 stone pillars were used for the building. It is believed that it took 6 years for the construction of the building and the plan was brought from the heavens. The building was completely destroyed during the reign of King Saddhatissa.
Thereafter the bhikkhus of the Abhayagiri Vihara founded a separate sect there. King Valagamba’s reign is marked by an important event – the first schism in Buddhism in Ceylon. Most learned bhikkhus lives in Abhayagiri Vihara. It consisted of a large library. It is recorded that during the reigns of King Voharakatissa and King Gothabhaya this library was destroyed and the heretical monks driven away.
King Parakramabahu renovated Abhayagiri Vihara, then the height is said to have been 140 cubits. In the year 1875, Abhayagiri Vihara which had a diameter of 307 feet at its base, stood to a height of 231 feet.
The relics of the Buddha is said to have been enshrined in a figure of a bull made out of thick gold.
This stupa belongs to the Sagalika sect. The compound of the stupa is 8 acres. One side of the stupa is 576 feet in depth. The 4 flight of steps at the four sides is 28 feet in depth. The doorpost to the shrine which is situated at the courtyard is 27 feet in height. It is a feet underground. There are some stone inscriptions in the courtyard with the names of donors inscribed.
This stupa built in bricks, is square in shape. This is constructed according to an unusual model and would have been similar to the 7 storeyed building (Satmahal Prasadaya) in Polonnaruwa. Excavations done in this place reveal that there were several clay caskets.
The remains of this vihara shows that it is 30 feet in height and the circumference is 425 feet. The date of construction and the king who built it, is unknown. In close proximity to this are the ruins of an image house. There is contraversy whether the Pattamaka Chetiya built by King Devanampiyatissa is one and the same.
This is one of the largest statues in Ceylon and situated facing Kalawewa. This standing Buddha statue including the pedestal is 42 feet in height. The right hand depicts the Abhaya Mudra (The posture of hand in icons in which the raised upper arm of the right hand is held, palm outwards indicating freedom from fear). The left hand shows that it is holding the robe. One of the special features of this statue is that both hands are turned upwards. On the head is the Siraspatha (A feature over head of the Buddha statue), excluding the Siraspatha and the pedestal, the height is 38’10’.
The rock cut colossus at Avukana, which is almost in the round and there being a narrow strip left to hold the image to the rock is one of the magnificent statues of Ceylon. From the ruins of the foundation and the walls, it can be seen that the statue would have been enclosed in a building. The hood over the statue is a modern construction. It is believed that King Dhatusena the architect of Kalawewa is the builder of the statue.
Situated Vijithapura, Anuradhapura District
Proceeding on the Kalawewa (tank) bund at the 9th milepost is this remarkable stone statue of the Buddha 38 feet 10 inches in height. It is the work of King Dhatusena (455-477 CE).The Ancient Temple developed during Anuradhapura period. 3rd Cen. BC-11th Cen. CE.
The largest dagoba in Polonnaruwa at 55m (180ft) high, this building is the hub of the group of buildings known as the Alahana Pirivena (‘Crematory College’) group which formed part of a monastic college during the reign of Parakramabahu.