Balapitiya Purana Viharaya – බලපිටිය පුරාණ විහාරය

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Balapitiya Purana Viharaya - The Preaching hall resembling a church building
Balapitiya Purana Viharaya – The Preaching hall resembling a church building
Photos are copyrighted by their owners

From the road the building looks like a church. The high arched doors and windows decorated in very European style floral motifs make it look quite out of place in a temple compound. More so because the temple is the Balapitiya Purana Vihare, the headquarters of the Amarapura Nikaya and the main temple in a staunchly Buddhist coastal area.

The ‘church’ is actually the bana shalawa or prayer hall of the temple. No one is quite sure of how the temple came to have this type of curious architecture.

“There are two theories about this strange building,” said Walagedera Amarawansa, the chief prelate of the temple. “One is that it was built as a Christian church and abandoned and later donated to the temple. The other is that it was built as a Muslim mosque and abandoned.”

To add to its strange architecture, the facade of the building sports a large moulded British insignia on top and a date reading 2414 in Buddhist years.

Sri Pushparama Viharaya - Balapitiya
Sri Pushparama Viharaya – Balapitiya
licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 by Aleksandrs

Inside, the bana shalawa looks very much like a disused church but for the beautiful large Buddha statue that casts benevolent eyes upon you from above. Two old ebony wood staircases lead up to the statue of Lord Buddha. The wall and ceiling paintings that decorate the statue area came with the original building, Ven. Amarawansa Thera said.

The wooden balcony that supports the statue runs thinly along the inside walls of the hall. Young monks had left their saffron robes to dry on the balcony railings. Above it, house pigeons flew in through church-like arched windows and roosted on the heavy roof beams. Flanking the hall on either side are two narrow verandahs with half walls- another church-like feature. Three arched doors lead off each verandah into the hall.

Balapitiya Purana Viharaya
Balapitiya Purana Viharaya
Photos are copyrighted by their owners

“We believe that this building dates back some 130 years. But unfortunately absolutely no one seems to have information on how this strange combination came to be,” Ven. Amarawansa Thera said.

The Thera who had served at the temple for 30 years, said that they even went through the National Archives records to put a date and history on the building but found no mention of it at all.

“It may have been originally built as a church by missionaries. But Balapitiya is a town that despite its coastal location, remained staunchly Buddhist. Even today there are so few Christians around this area,” Amarawansa Thera said. “What’s more, Balapitiya people are well known for their short temper and boisterous manner.

“So it is quite likely that although the building was constructed, the church was never allowed to function here. And later the land and building would have been donated to the temple,” he said.

Today the hall of the building is also used as an indoor badminton court for the the children of the area.

By Tharuka Dissanaike
The Sunday Times

Also See

Map of Sri Pushparama Viharaya – Balapitiya

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Travel Directions to Sri Pushparama Viharaya – Balapitiya

This temple is also known as Sri Pushparama Maha Viharaya, Sri Pushparamaya or Nayake Viharaya.

Route from Colombo to Balapitiya Purana Viharaya

Route II from Colombo to Balapitiya Purana Viharaya

Though : Galle Road
Distance : 78 km
Travel time : 1.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Southern Highway
Distance : 100 km
Travel time : 1.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map


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