Buddhist Railing Site of Jethawanarama Monastery of Anuradhapura Kingdom – ජේතවන විහාරයේ ගල් ගරාදි වැට සහිත ස්ථානය

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Buddhist Railing Site of Jethawanarama Monastery of Anuradhapura Kingdom
Buddhist Railing Site of Jethawanarama Monastery of Anuradhapura Kingdom

Just 120 meters south of the Salapathala Maluwa of Jethawnaramaya, lies a structure known as Buddhist Railing which has been discussed and analysed by great many travellers and authors since the British discovered it in the 1800’s. This is a site enclosed by a large railing made completely of stone slabs and pillars.

Prof. Anuradha Seneviratna, renowned Sri Lankan scholar calls this the “Maha Pirivena” or the Great Residence of the Jethawanarama Monastey. Tghe ancient name of this was “Tana-ma-porivena” and was probably bult by king Mahasena (276-303 AC) of Anuradhapura kingdom. King Aggabodhi VI (667-683) had added a Prasada to it and king Sena I (833-853) had rebuilt the Prasada after it was destroyed by fire. The stone fence around the Pirivena (called Buddhist Railing) is a Buddhist motif found in ancient Buddhist architecture including Sanchi in India. In fact this this is almost a replica of the railing found around the Sanchi Stupa in India. There had been a Bodhi tree temple inside this containment and king Dappula II (797-801) had donated golden Buddha image to this temple (Senviratna, 1994).


However the plaque at the site identifies this as image house or an Bodhigara due to the square pit inside the enclosure and the water course leading to it.

The Archeological Commissioners Report of 1890 reports the discovery and the restoration of this unique site by HCP Bell ;

Close to the Outer Circular road south of Abhayagiri Dagaba were found an octagonal shaft and puhul capital (a type not hitherto noticed at Anuradhapura) and some narrow moulded slabs deeply morticed. When the raised site, some 140 ft in length by 110 ft. broad, had been cleared of scrub search was rewarded by a valuable discovery – a stone post with three rails attached, in two pieces a genuine fragment of a structural “Buddhist Railing”. Continued search revealed a portion of the coping, and close to it two slabs of a rounded basement as originally built at right angles to each other. This fixed the south -east corner and determined the plan of the railing which followed the lines of the oblong site. Trial excavation brought up more pieces of rails and coping, and two additional members — a stepped sub-plinth and a low socle on which the quarter round plinth rested. There are other promising ruins adjoining the Native Rest house and others south of the high road (Puttalam to Trincomalee)

Trenching was commenced round the ‘Buddhist Railing’ discovered in September near Abhayagiri Dagaba. “At the south corner of the east front a length of twenty feet of basement and plinth were unearthed in situ. Along the rest of this face the line of stone had been removed, except at the north-east corner ; the south face showed hardly more stone in position, and, on carrying the excavation across the Outer Circular road* round the north and west faces, the same disappearance, except at the corners, was confirmed of all but short lengths of the lower members.

Nearly all the pieces of the rail were unearthed inside the enclosed site, some at a depth of 8 feet below the surface.” The excavation has been so far successful that the following data may even now be postulated :

(I.) The railing was rectangular, 140 ft. on its north and south sides and 110 ft. east and west approximately.

(II.) It consisted of seven members, together rising to a height of 7 ft. Gin. above ground.f with a backing of brickwork up to the bottom of the rail plinth, i e., to the level of the ground inside.

(III.) It was quite unornamented except at the four entrances.

(IV.) The entrances partook of much of the plainness of the rails. In lieu of the lofty toran (arches) of India with their richly carved cross rails, at the gateways stood guard-stones morticed to the rail at back. These elongated terminals rise above the coping. In width 1 ft. \ in., their tops are rounded off at a height of 5 ft. In design they display a chaste simplicity. The surface ornament is a tall lotus plant planted in a bowl-shaped vase (differing in each pair), the stalk throwing off leaves on either side and issuing in a full-blown flower or bud.

(V.) The railing was probably surrounded by a colonnade, some 10 ft. in width, of slight squared pillars.

(VI.) Inside the railing was an inner enclosure, within which stood further columns, tall, with octagonal shafts and ornamental capitals.

(VII.) Portions of a second moulded stone basement, with slabs ” set” to carry brickwork, belong either to this inner enclosure or to vestibules to the railed structure.”- (1890). “The excavation of this site, within and without the railing basement, was completely finished early in the year.

H.E Weerasooriya reports in 1939 that a sign of a small stupa with a broken relic chamber was discovered within this enclosure. Several Sri Pathul Gal (stone slabs with Buddha’s foot print) and pieces of a Granite Buddha statue too have been discovered.

This oblong structure is 138 feet (42 meters) long and 112 feet (34.1 meters) wide. The railing itself is 3 feet 10 inches (1.17 meters) high. The railing consists of plinths, standards with horizontal rails and coping. The railing stands on a handsomely designed 3 feet high 5 layers of molded rock. There are entrances with flights of steps from all 4 sides. The eastern and western entrances are placed at the center. Those on the north and south are equi-distant with the western entrance from the north-west and south-west corners of the railing, and therefore not in the middle of the north and south faces. This was due to the elongation of the building towards the front or east.

Other Names  : Jethawanaramaya, Jetawanaramaya, Jethawanaya, Jetawanaya, Jethawana Viharaya, Jetawana Viharaya, Jethavanaramaya, Jetavanaramaya, Jethavanaya, Jetavanaya, Jethavana Viharaya, Jetavana Viharaya


  • B.W. Harischandra, 1908. The Sacred City of Anuradhapura. With Forty-six Illustrations. 1st ed. Colombo: Brahmachari Walisingha Harischandra.
  • Seneviratna, A., 1994. Ancient Anuradhapura. 1st ed. Colombo: Archaeological Survey Department, Sri Lanka.
  • Bell, H., 1904. Archaeological survey of Ceylon – North-Central Province – Anual Report 1890. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Gerorge J. A. Skeen.
  • H.E. Weerasooriya, 1939. Historical guide to Anuradhapura’s ruins. Colombo: W.E. Bastian.
  • Devendra, D.T., 1952. Guide to Anuradhapura. 2nd ed. Colombo: [Govt. Press], p.25.

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Buddhist Railing Site of Jethawanarama Monastery Map

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Driving Directions to Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura can be reached through many routes from Colombo. The two main routes are through Puttlam (Puttalama) and though Kurunegala. Traveling from Puttlam you will pass scenic Wilpattu area. the From Kurunegala there are two main routes to Anuradhapura. The most common route is through Dambulla. The other route is though Galgamuwa. Out of all the routes, the commonly used is the Kurunegala – Dambulla route (Route 2).

Route 01 from Colombo to Anuradhapura

Route 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura

Through : Negombo - Chillaw - Puthlam
distance from colombo :213 km
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Dambulla
distance from Colombo : 221 km
Travel time : 3.15 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps

Route 03 from Colombo to Anuradhapura

Route from Kandy to Anuradhapura

Through : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Padeniya - Thambuthegama
distance from colombo :213 km
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Katugastota - Matale - Dambulla
distance from Colombo :139 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
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