The Rock Temple (Rangiri Dambulla Rajamaha Viharaya)and The Golden Temple(Rangiri Dambulla Uyanwatta Rajamaha Viharaya) are interconnected temples with single administration. The history of Rock Temple goes back to the first century B.C., commenced by the King Vattagamini Abhaya and thereafter kings, Maha Parakramabahu, Nissankamalala, Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe and five cave temples, particularly named, Devaraja Viharaya, Maharaja Viharaya, Maha Alut Viharaya. Paschima Viharaya and Devena Alut Viaharaya respectively.
Within these five caves is housed a collection of 157 valuable images of the Buddha and Bodhisatta etc. Inside the caves the rock surfaces, ceiling and side walls are covered with paintings executed with indigenous traditional colour schemes to an extent of about 22,000 square feet. The inscription in the premises records that the temple had been named "Rangiri Dambulla" when the images were painted in gold by King Nissankamalala of the Polonnaruwa regime. The temple with its historical, archeological and artistic significances had in the year 1991, been declared one of the world heritages sites by the UNESCO.
The administration and the guardianship are under the Most Venerable Inamaluwe Sri Sumangala Maha Nayaka thera of the Rangiri Dambulla Rajamaha Viharaya Chapter. Activities are performed preserving the antiqueness of the sacred temple. Ancient rituals and practises and functions have been systemized and the Temple Land Administration has been reorganized. Metalling and consolidation of the internal and external floor areas of the temple by the Central Cultural Fund; provision of copper sheets to temple roof; arresting leaks on the rock surface to rid damages to the paintings during rain by the Temple Fund; conservation of the images and paintings by the Department of Archeology; widening and improvements to the temple access up to the entrance ; supplying drinking water to the incoming pilgrims, provision of guard fence to the front elevation of the temple, establishment of the Security Service, complete rehabilitation of the interior, exterior and temple access electrical system have been implemented pertaining to the uplift of the temple by the Temple Fund and several such have been programmed.
DIMBULAGALA CAVE TEMPLE
Dimbulagala Raja Maha Vihara is situated 16 kilometres south east of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. The Dimbulagala range houses a number of caves cut into the rock with Brahmi inscriptions over their drip ledges. This forest hermitage of medieval times and holy abode since time immemorial, home to some of the most valued fragments of early frescoes was called the Gunners Quoin by the British. This Buddhist monastery which was abandoned after the times of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was restored to the present status in the 1950s due to the efforts of Kithalagama Sri Seelalankara Thera, who was the chief incumbent of the Vihara until his death in 1995.
DOWA CAVE TEMPLE
It is said that the Dowa Cave Temple was a cave temple built by King Walagamba in a hurry. Not only the surrounding areas offers breathtaking beauty courtesy the mountains and the lush green forest but the temple is also another attraction with hordes of historic secrets and is a must visit sightseeing spot of Sri Lanka. According to a legend while he built this temple King Walagamba was actually hiding and before the temple could be fully finished he fled from the place. Supporting this myth is a stone statue of Buddha which is unfinished and the villagers say that the king left the temple using a secret tunnel before this statue was finished. This secret tunnel which is guarded by a statue of cobra is nowadays cemented.
The Dowa Cave Temple’s architecture mostly relates to the Kandyan period. The entrance of the shrine room has two statues of Watuka and Kuvera who are two Rakshasa leaders and they are the guards of the entrance to the shrine room. The shrine room itself decorated with Kandyan paintings which are two-dimensional. These paintings depict the Jataka stories. In the rock canopy you would find paintings of lotus and various other flowers and among these flowers you would find a rare painting hidden. This painting which is known as 'Ath-Gon Satana' is an illustration of a fight between a tusker and a bull. Another creature that is present in the paintings as well as the jug used for serving water to Buddha is that of cobra. This creature is depicted in the entrance gate and in the various paintings within the temple meaning intruders are prohibited.
ALUWIHARAYA CAVE TEMPLE
Aluvihara; Luminous Cave Temple is synonymous with the teaching of the Buddha. Aluvihara rightly assumes its significance in the annals of the history of world Buddhism. It is in this very location that the Tipiţaka was documented on palm-leaves. “Assembled the priests, who here compared their texts, which were then, or soon afterwards, committed to writing, and form the Banapota or Buddhist Bible. This took place about ninety-two years B.C.” “Therefore, to the enlightened Buddhist” says Major Forbes in his work Eleven years in Ceylon written in 1840 “This secluded and comparatively unpretending cavern must be of infinitely greater interest than the Temple of the Tooth or Thupārāmaitself.” Aluvihara also preserved with it a host of rich literature that had woven around the Tipitaka including commentaries.
The name Aluvihara has many meanings and legends associated with it. It was originally known as ‘Alu-Lena’ or ‘Aloka-Lena’ (Luminous Cave) based on a legend. During the reign of King Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BC) a monk was working on the commentaries (Attha Katha). On seeing this, the King of Devas, Sakra illuminated the cave to facilitate his work.
The cave temple faced east and it received the morning rays of sunrise. This was the reason the cave was named Aloka-Lena since ancient times. It cannot be disputed that the writing of the Tipitaka brought doctrinal illumination to mankind. This brought illumination to the world from ignorance and suffering, thus Alu-Lena would suggest this event. In Pali it is called Aloka-Vihara which means Alu (Luminous) and Vihara (Temple).
The village of Embekka is found in the area known as Udunuwara in the Kandy district. It is situated about three kilometres from the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.
There are 16 wooden pillars at the entrance to the devale. The 52 feet, 10 inches long and 25 feet, 9 inches wide digge has 32 square-shaped pillars. The wood known as gammalu has been used here, while other types of wood such as ginisapu, na and pihibiya have been used in the other sections. Most of these intricately carved wooden pillars have stone pillars as their base. The UNESCO has identified these marvellous but elaborate carvings on wooden pillars to be the finest products of woodcarvings to be found in any part of the world.
The main devale is a 28 feet long, 23 feet and 7 inches wide two-storeyed building. The smaller devale is built close to it. The entrance is through a large doorway built of wood and there is a verandah spreading on three sides of the building. The most impressive feature of the devale is its roof. It does not have one central beam, but 26 smaller rafters are fixed to the roof through huge wooden nails, resembling spokes in the wheel of a cart. It is the only place in Sri Lanka where such a construction can be witnessed. Among the carvings, there are 125 series of decorations, 256 liyawel, 64 lotus designs in Pekada, 30 decorative patterns on timber, roof members, making a total of 514 such exquisite carvings.
The other constructions which can be seen at the Embekka Devala site are vahalkada, image house, kitchen and granary. They are located within a wall. The ambalama (resting place) and throne are located outside these premises, but also belong to the devale.
The most impressive sculptures at Polonnaruwa are the colossal Buddha images carved on the face of a granite boulder at the Gal Vihare. It includes some of the masterpieces of Sri Lankan Buddhist art, and these were commissioned by Parakramabahu I.
The first sculpture is a seated Buddha image in a deep meditation, on a throne decorated with lions and thunderbolts and behind the Buddha is a halo. The statue is one of the most impressive examples of Sri Lanka's sculpture.
The next sculpture is inside a cave out of solid rock. The seated Buddha is protected by an umbrella. Between the cave and the tall standing figure is a large inscription of Parakramabahu, which records in detail his struggle to unite the Buddhist order, and sets out the reformed rules of conduct.
The standing figure, twenty three feet high (7 metres), with crossed arms is the next sculpture to be seen. The carving of the serene face is extremely sensitive, and the relaxed, elegant execution of the body and drapery distinguishes this figure as one of the masterpieces of Sri Lankan art.
Gal ViharayaThe immense figure of recumbent Buddha measures 46 ft (14 metres). is the last sculpture in the group. The Buddha is lying down, at the final moment of his earthly life, entering Parinibbana, the state of supreme enlightenment. Here too the liquid flow of the robes over the body and the calm expression of the face are beautifully interpreted.
LOHA PRASADA - THE BRAZEN PALACE
The Loha Prasada, or the Brazen Palace was first founded by King Tissa in the 3rd century B. C. as a chapter house for the Bodhi-tree monks. But it was made in to a palace by King Duthagamini(Dutugamunu) for the monks of the Mahavihara to live in. Duthagamini(Dutugamunu) built a nine storied building with a thousand rooms, which had a roof of copper tiles. From which the building takes its name.
Tragically, this splendid building was of wood and it was burnt down in a fire, probably caused by coconut oil lamp only fifteen years after it was built. Saddhatissa, Duthagamini´s brother rebuilt the palace to a height of seven stories. The brazen palace has been destroyed several times and rebuilt. The present ground floor of 1,600 pillars (40x40) bears witness to its former grandeur. These columns are the remains of the restoration work of Parakramabahu the Great, and have clearly been collected from several nearby buildings.
The small building in the center is late construction and is the Venue of Uposatha (chapter house) of the Maha Vihara even now.
PARAKRAMA SAMUDRA - THE SEA OF PARAKRAMA
One of the most striking features in Polonnaruwa is the vast Parakrama Samudra (Sea of Parakramabahu), an irrigation tank built, as the name indicates by King Parakramabahu the Great. This was his largest irrigation project and covers an area of more than 15 Km2.The dam (or bund, as it is known in Sri Lanka, is almost 14 Km long and 12 metres high. Parakrama Samudra (or Parakrama's sea or the Sea of King Parakrama) is a shallow reservoir, consisting of three separate reservoirs connected by narrow channels in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.
The northernmost reservoir is the oldest and referred to as Topa wewa (Sinhalese wewa = lake or reservoir) built around 386. The middle section Eramudu wewa and the southernmost portion, at the highest elevation, is Dumbutula wewa, both sections were added and the reservoir expanded during the reign of King Parakramabahu.
The Dipuyyana (Island Garden) is on the promontory by the rest house. When King Parakramabahu had built his vast lake, he selected this lovely spot for a royal garden. Later King Nissankamalla liked it so much that he built his palace and council chambers there.
PILIMAGE - IMAGE HOUSES
LANKATHILAKA IMAGE HOUSE
The walls of the majestic Lankathilake even now stand 55 ft. high. In the 12th century, it was one of the most splendid of Buddhist Shrines in Asia. Lankathilake (the ornament of Lanka), was built by Parakramabahu I. The vast standing Buddha inside the shrine was originally about 41 feet (13 metres) with it's base, but sadly only its torso now stands.
The brickwork of the building is of extraordinary variety, from the massive bricks which support the weight of the building, to the tiny, delicately molded bricks of the architectural details. The building must have been immense, and even today it is the most impressive ruin of the ancient city.
TIWANKA IMAGE HOUSE
Largest among the brick - built shrines of Polonnaruwa. In the narrow antechamber, beautiful Devas (demigods), and the Bodhisattvas above, beckon the worshipper into the inner sanctum. Here stands the mighty Tivanka image of the Buddha, depicted in the 'thrice curved pose.
THE ROYAL PALACE & THE COUNCIL CHAMBERS
Parakramabahu's Palace must have been an imposing edifice, and the chronicles describe it as "seven stories high, furnished with a thousand chambers". Entering the palace from the south, you come to great hall (31 Metres long and 13 metres wide), which was probably an audience hall.
Across the way is the council chamber of Parakramabahu - embellished with lion portals, graceful pillars and a moonstone (a delicately carved stepping stone). The building is supported by powerful bas-relief elephants around the base. Each one is different from the next.
The structural techniques of this period were the same as those of the Anuradhapura period, but there was a greater use of lime mortar, which enabled the building of brick structures of dimensions never before attempted.
A little further on is the handsome royal bath, the Kumara Pokuna. This area was probably a part of the Royal Pleasure Garden of Parakramabahu. Water, which may have been perfumed, flowed into the bath from the sides, and the solid masses of stone ensured that even on the hottest day, the water was cool. Another feature of this garden was a shower bath, which was "like a cloud pouring forth rain by (reason of) the showers of water which flowed constantly from the pipes of the apparatus.
SIGIRI ROCK FORTRESS
Rising up from the jungle below stands Sigiriya or “Lions Rock”, as it is commonly unknown. The story of its history is that King Dhatusene had two sons, one the rightful heir to the throne and a second who was the an illegitimate son. The two sons despised each other, Kasyapa the illegitimate son and Moggallana the rightful heir. Kasyapa believed he should receive his father’s wealth and title, this was denied to him and so Kasyapa had it arranges for his father’s imprisonment, Moggallana felt to India threatening revenge.
Kasyapa was so worried of an attack by Moggallana, he chose to build a magnificent fortified palace a Sigiriya. His penthouse was fit for a king and included an art gallery of over 500 frescoes depicting voluptuous topless women said to be his handmaidens, the reflections of which shimmered on the mirror wall.
The royal throne commanded a spectacular view of the surrounding jungle and any advancing enemies. Apart from having an extensive Harem, Kasyapa also passed away the hours in the wonderful water and boulder gardens that flank the palace. Eighteen years late Moggallan returned to Sri Lanka with army. Kasyapa on elephant back rode out to the jungle to attack… what happened next depends on which story you believe. Some say the elephant walked into the marshy ground and was stuck, other say that the elephant turned to avoid March and the fled. The outcome was the Kasyapa ended his own life with the aid of his dagger.
Sigiriya later became a monastic refuge with Buddhist monks living in caves at the base of the rock. Between the 13th and 16th centuries the site fell into disrepair and although today only the foundations remain, the massive lions pay that form part of the entrance hint at how impressive the fortress must have been.
The British rediscovered Sigiriya in the 19th century.
THE SAMADHI BUDDHA
The Samadhi Statue is a statue situated at Mahamevuna Park in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The Buddha is depicted in the position of the Dhyana Mudra, the posture of meditation associated with his first Enlightenment, also called Nirvana. Whether the Buddha's Enlightenment was the experience technically called Samadhi, or some other phenomenon, may depend upon the philosophical allegiance of the believer. In the Dhyana Mudra the Buddha sits cross - legged with his upturned palms placed one over the other on his lap.
This position is universally known throughout the Buddhist world, and this statue is therefore one of the most typical pieces of Buddhist sculpture. It is not to be confused with the very similar "Earth-Touching Mudra," which depicts the simple action the Buddha took to fend off the illusions projected by Mara, who was desperate to prevent the Buddha from realizing that his, Mara's, projections, and with them the entire world, are an illusion. This statue is 8 feet in height and carved from granite.
THE TWIN PONDS
One of the best specimen of bathing tanks or pools in ancient Sri Lanka is the pair of pools known as Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds/Pools). The said pair of pools were built by the Sinhalese in the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura. These are considered one of the significant achievements in the field of hydrological engineering and outstanding architectural and artistic creations of the ancient Sinhalese.
A garden was landscaped which separates the two ponds which long is 18½ ft. The larger pool of the two is 132 ft by 51 ft, while the smaller pool is 91 ft by 51 ft. The depths of the two pools is 14 ft and 18 ft for the smaller pool and the larger pool respectively.
The faces of the pools were cut granite slabs which includes the bottom and the sides of the pool. A wall was also built around the pool which encloses the compound. Flights of steps are seen on both ends of the pool decorated with punkalas, or pots of abundance and scroll design. Embankments were constructed to enable monks to bathe using pots or other utensils. Water to the pools were transferred through underground ducts and filtered before flowing to the pool and in a similar fashion the water was emptied. Dr. Senerath Paranavithana was actively involved in the restoration of the ponds, in which small figures of fish, a conch, a crab and a dancing woman were found in the bottom.
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