Dambadeniya kingdom came in to existence with the fall of Polonnaruwa kingdom to Kalinga Maga in the 13th century and a new king Vijayabahu III (also known as Vathhimi Vijayabahu) established his kindom under the protection of the Dambadeniya Rock in 1232. Along with this shift the Tooth Relic was too moved to Dambadeniya.
It is believed that 2 relic houses were built at this kingdom, one at the top of the Dambadeniya rock where the palace was built and the other in the inner city which is now the Sri Wijayasundararamaya Rajamaha Viharaya.
The Tampita Viharaya at the Sri Wijayasundararamaya is believed to be the ancient relic house of the Dambadeniya kingdom.
All the religious buildings of the temple is built on a higher ground and a flight of granite steps are built towards this terrace. The steps ends at a Vahalkada . This is built on four rock pillars with a square roof. The entrance is a large door frame made of granite. It is believed that this was the Eastern Entrance to the inner city of the Dambadeniya Kingdom.
The Tampita Viharaya found on this terrace has been identified as the Relic House, 3 storied high built by king Parakramabahu II (1244 -1279), son of Vijayabahu III. This has been converted to a 2 storied Tampita Viharaya by Meegasthanne Adhikaram also known as the Dumbara Maha Nilame during the reign of king Sri Wikrama Rajasinhe (1798 – 1815).
The Tampita Viharaya is built on a raised platform made of stone. This platform is 18 feet 6 inches long and 11 feet 11 inches wide. A 3 feet wide circumambulating path is build around the ground floor image house. Entrance to this image house is through a large wooden door frame built in the Chandrawanka form. Statues of two guardian deities carrying a flower pot stand beside the entrance. A Hansa Pututuwa painting can be seen at the top of the door frame. The paintings around the door frame has lost its archaeological significance due to recent renovations. A seated Buddha statue is found inside the image house. This statue is flanked by 2 standing Buddha statues.
A wooden flight of steps leads to the image house on the second floor. The second floor is built on 14 granite pillars and 12 wooden pillars. The image house is 29 feet long and 19 feet wide. A 2 feet 2 inch wide circumambulating path goes all around the relic house. A wooden balustrade is built around the path. Similar to the ground floor two Nagaraja guardian deities carrying a flower pot stand beside the entrance to the relic house.
A painting of the Meegasthanne Adhikaram and Parakramabahu II can be seen among the murals inside the image house. The subject of the murals in this chamber lean towards the Tooth Relic of Buddha. A exquisite mural of the Dalada Perahera can be also found in this chamber. An elephant leads the prossesion and and the tooth relic is carried on a Palanquin and the king can be seen worshiping it.
In front of the Tampita Viharaya lies an Hevisi Manadapaya built using 10 granite pillars to hold the weight of the roof. This builings is 20 feet long and 17 feet 6 inches wide. A short wall has been built around the mandapaya at the later time. A plain Balustrade (Korawakgal) and a moonstone lie at the entrance to the Hevisi Manadaya. Two granite stumps with carvings of pots of plenty lie beside the steps.
Two interesting carved granite slabs belonging to the Dambadeniya era can be seen mounted on the walls beside the entrance. Each slab consist of 3 carvings on top of each other. On the first slab you will see 2 people attacking a solder at the bottom. A seated Buddha in Darmachakra posture is caved on top of it. The top most slot is carved with 2 people worshiping a linga in the center. The bottom of the second slab is carved with an Elephant and a man. The elephant is probably attacking the man. The center carving shows a man being carried by two other people. This could be probably the corpse of the man attacked by the elephant. The top most carving again a linga on a pedestal with a man worshiping next to it.
In front of the Hevisi Mandapaya lies a small granite platform with carvings of lions on the stumps. It is believed that the Tooth Relic was kept on this platform during its display events.
Another archaeologically valuable structure in this terrace is the Kuludage, form of a Chethiyagaraya (aka Stupa House, Stupaghara). According to Dr Roland Silva, a specialist in Asian architecture and archeology, Chethiyagara or the stupa with roofs can distinctively classified in to 3 groups. The best known type is the Vatadage or the round relic house. A second group consist of stupas with roofs which are not circular which Dr Roland calls Kuludage. The third includes stupas constructed wotjin matural rock shelters, which are called chaitya cave or chetiya lenas. The vatadage can be regarded as the fore-runner of the Kuludage, but the latter growth represents a declining phase after the former ceased to be in vogue after the 12th century. It is also possible that the Kuludage evolved as an inexpensive alternate shelter to the small painted stupa, which was normally built under cover.
By time of Kandyan kingdom, the the country did not have the resources and the expertise of the ancient forefathers thus a more simple form the valadage called Kuludage was used to cover smaller stupas. These were easier to build and required much less resources.
Since these stuctures lack a center column of cross beams to carry the weight of the roof, all the wooden beams of the roof are fixed on to a wooden fixture called Kanimadala at the center which keeps the beams interlocked in place.
The Stupa and the structure is built on a 4 feet high platform similar to the Tampita Viharaya. The roof over the stupa house is built on six 6 feet 6 inch high granite pillars. Carved wooden beams laid across these pillars hold the roof laid with flat clay tiles. A simple moonstone and a Balustrade carved with elephants lie at the entrance to the stupa house.
A detail description of the overall “Stupaghara” or “Chethiyaghara” architecture including Kuludage of Sri Lanka can be found here.
- SILVA, ROLAND, 2020, MEMOIRS OF THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF CEYLON – VOLUME X – PART II : THUPA, THUPAGHARA AND THUPA PRASADA. 1. Colombo : The Department of Archaeology.
- WIJEWARDHANA, KUSUMSIRI, 2009, ශ්රී ලංකාවේ ටැම්පිට විහාර. 1. Colombo : Dayawansa Jayakodi.
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Map of Dambadeniya Sri Wijayasundararamaya
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Driving Directions to Dambadeniya Sri Wijayasundararamaya
|Route from Colombo to Dambadeniya Sri Wijayasundararamaya
|Route from Kurunegala to Dambadeniya Sri Wijayasundararamaya
|Though : Ja-Ela – Diwulapitiya
distance : 74 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
|Though : Rarammala
distance : 31 km
Travel time : 45 mins
Driving directions : see on google map
Vijayasundararama Raja Maha Vihara: ancient Dambadeniya Splendour
It is not often that we hear of the 13th. century kingdom of Dambadeniya. Recently traveling the excellent road that links Negombo to Kurunegala we decided to drop in at the Dambadeniya Wijayasundararamaya.
As we walked into its modern precincts, a board indicated that here was included the ancient Dalada maligawa . The two storied quaint Vihara mandiraya set in the middle of a cluster of modern buildings is believed to have been the old Dalada maligawa. The wooden up stair part of the building can be ascended by a steep precariously slanting stairway and you will be treated to a modest shrine room.
An ancient stairway, the eastern boundary wall, some caves, several ponds, clay ringed wells have been found at the summit of the hill adjacent to the temple. But access to these are difficult.
Sadly little remains of the ancient buildings of the Dambadeniya period. This is said to be because most of the work during this period was of brick. But a few stone images, carvings have been found and are exhibited in the temple precincts.
It was Vijeya Bahu III who first made Dambadeniya his capital. The Kalinga king Magha was ruling at Polonnaruwa then. However Dambadeniya’s golden age dawned with the accession to the throne of Parakramabahu II the eldest son of Vijeya Bahu III. The learned Parakrama buhu II titled Panditha Parakramabahu is said to have been one of the greatest scholars to have ruled ancient Sri Lanka. The great epic Kavisilumina was his main work.
His rule witnessed a renaissance in art, literature, education and extended even to religious, political and economic regeneration.
King Parakramabahu II also regained Polonnaruwa and successfully defeated the challenge of a fresh invader Chandrabahu son of the first ruler in Jaffna.. And thus except for the extreme north Sri Lanka was once again unified under one king.
Parakramabahu II ruled in Dambadeniya although he was crowned in Polonnaruwa.
Temples which were ravaged in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa by the invaders were restored. The tooth relic which was hidden in Kotmalai was brought to Dambadeniya and housed in a specially constructed three storied temple.
As such even though few monuments remain to testify to Dambadeniya’s past it is said that there are enough literary works like the Pujavaliya, the Dambadeniya Sirita that tell of the grandeur of the Dambadeniya period.