Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

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Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya
Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

primary root main first article The Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya, which is a great place of pilgrimage ,is situated on the west bank o f the river Kelani (Kalyana) about 10 km north east of Colombo.The main approach to the Vihara is the road that leads to Biyagama from the 4th mile -post of the Colombo-Kandy road. Yet another approach road runs off from the Kandy road at Torana Junction, Not far from the 5th mile post .The temple is sited on a higher plain overlooking the river Kelani that flows in front.

The Vihara popularly known as ‘Egodakelaniya’ that constituted a section of the historic royal monastery is located right opposite the other bank , and on festive occasions, a bridge of pedda-boats used to be built till recent times to facilitate pilgrims worshipping both vihara sites.

The history of Kalaniya goes back to pre-Christian times. The city was connected with the history of Ramayana in that its Yakkha king Vibhisana was befriended by Rama in his battle against Ravana. Hence, the worship of Vibhisana as the tutelary deity of Kalaniya is continued to present times.

The chronicles, Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa, record in detail the story of the Buddha’s visit to Kalaniya on the eighth year after his Enlightenment, on the invitation of the naga King Maniakkhika. The jewelled throne, on which the Buddha sat while preaching, is said to have been enshrined in the stupa at the Kalaniya temple.

Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya
Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

The city of Kalyani, according to the chronicles, was the capital city of king Kalanitissa, a scion of the dynasty of king Devanampiyatissa (third century B.C.) of Anuradhapura. The royal family of Magama in the south was connected to the royalty of Kalyani by the marriage of king Kavantissa of Magama to Viharadevi, the daughter of Kalanitissa. It was this matrimony that resulted in the birth of Dutthagamani (second centuy B.C.), considered to be the greatest of Sinhala rulers, during whose period Sri Lanka enjoyed a golden era, both politically and culturally.

Kalaniya has remained important in all historical periods, especially in the fifteenth century under the reign of Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467 A.D.) and his successors. In the years 1424 and 1475, Kalaniya was visited by Buddhist theras of Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. After that it remained an important religious centre through the centuries and underwent successive developments. The present shrine dates from the first half of the nineteenth century. As recorded on the facade of the sanctum; the sittara-style paintings are dated B.E. 2394 (1851 A.D.). The shrine has undergone further development during the first half of the twentieth century by the addition of a new and large shrine to the old one. This shrine, together with an additional room of the old shrine, has been painted entirely with a completely new style of the old idiom that remains unrivalled. The stupa of Kalyani is architecturally important in that its dome retains to this day and apparently its original form was known as dhanyaka (heap of paddy) shape.

The great royal monastery of Kalaniya is approached from three roads, one from the Kandy – Colombo Road near 4th mile post, another also from the Kandy Raod closer to the 5th mile post and the third from Biyagama – Colombo Road, which runs along the river in front of the temple. The vihara is located on a large earth mound facing the river. The main terrace, containing the sacred edifices, the image shrine, the historic stupa and the Bodhi tree, is approached by a steep and wide stone flight of steps at the top of which are located two beautifully constructed toranas. Earlier, there existed only one archway, but this has been doubled in recent times. The wide lawn which leads to the main terrace contains the well-known devale dedicated to Vibhisana, the presiding deity of Kelaniya. The historic stupa which still retains its original dhanyakakara (heap of paddy) shape occupies a larger area of the terrace on the eastern sector.

Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya
Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

The image shrine is located on the north-south axis, and the stairway has been enlarged in recent times. Original shrine consisted of an oblong garbhagrha with two entrances facing west preceded by a vestibule, which is entered by a large doorway facing south. Few decades back, the image shrine was enlarged by adding a newly painted section to the west of the vestibule and a large image house to the north abutting the northern walls of the older shrine. The new shrine consists of a central square with projections on all sides. The northern projection constitutes the cella containing the Buddha image for worship. The new additions of the shrine contain some of the best paintings executed in a new style combining the ancient painting styles of India and Sri Lanka, which were executed by a village artist trained for the purpose.

The Bodhi-tree shrine is located on the terrace to the west of the image shrine and is provided with a shrine room facing south. The entire terrace has been newly constructed with a parapet wall decorated with cement replicas of ancient sculptures, and on the north side a new flight of steps, following the ancient design, provides a new approach to the sacred terrace. The entire area surrounding the terrace mound has been beautifully laid out and landscaped.

The large preaching hall on the west side abutts the approach road from the south and dwelling quarters of the monks are located on the western border of the mounds. To the east of the monk’s residence, a chapter-house with sima boundary stones is positioned. A novel and unique feature of the residence-quarters is the provision of a Buddha’s foot-print (Sripada) which has been installed more than a century ago. The devotees who visit the temple at Kalaniya invariably visit the Foot Print for ritual worship.

The vast flat area in front of the mound on its south side too is well laid out and landscaped and provides a parking area for traffic. The terrace mound in its entirety is provided with a circular processional path for the annual procession held in the month of January.

The paintings of Kalaniya Rajamaha Vihara constitute two categories, i.e., the nineteenth century low-country style of the Sittara tradition, and the twentieth century creations in the new shrine and the new section of the old shrine.

Old Shrine

The old shrine consists of two oblong rooms, the sanctum with the reclining Buddha and the long vestibule which is entered from the east. The paintings are depicted in the following manner:

Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya
Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

North Wall
The lower section of the wall is covered by the large reclining Buddha image at the foot of which lies the shrine room of Visnu. Above the Buddha statue, the wall displays several registers of paintings depicting the twenty-four Proclamations (vivarana) and worshipping arahants and those holding lotuses (as on the south wall).

South Wall
This wall provides two entrances to the sanctum from the vestibule. The space left in between depicts painted images of divinities: (from east to west) Ganesa, four-armed Mahesvara (Siva), the four Regents (Dhatarattha, Virulhaka, Virupakkha, Vessavana) with their respective acolytes, Saman with his elephant vahana, and Vibhisana, accompanied by two conch-blowers. Figures of worshipping arahants fill the upper part of the wall above the doorways.

East Wall
The wall contains a painted figure of Hanuman, the monkey king, who played a leading role in the Ramayana epic.

West Wall
The west wall facing the new shrine accommodates a single door, which is kept closed after the building of the new shrine. The wall is divided into horizontal registers as usual and is decorated with garlands on the topmost register, while the three below depict vivaranas, worshipping arahants with hands in anjali and arahants carrying flowers. The northern section of the door provides the background for a sculpted seated Buddha.

The vestibule of the old shrine contains the largest assemblage of paintings, covering the four walls and the ceiling.


The vestibule of the old shrine contains the largest assemblage of paintings, covering the four walls and the ceiling.

West Wall
The west wall of the vestibule provides the entrance to the new shrine and the wall space is divided into horizontal registers depicting various scenes as follows: The uppermost register constitutes the border pattern of garlands. The others depict the Seven Weeks after Enlightenment, Culladhammapala Jataka,. Devadhamma jataka, Sama jataka, the beginning of Vessantara Jataka, and punnaghata motif (to the south of the entrance). The northern section from the entrance contains depictions of two dignitaries.

South Wall
Quite a wide space is available for paintings on the south wall, even though this wall contains two doors leading to the section with new paintings. Altogether there are seven horizontal registers. The topmost one constitutes the border pattern of garlands which runs round all four walls. Below this, the following depictions are found:

Second from topThe Sixteen Sacred Sites
Third from topMahasilava jataka
Fourth from topTelapatta jataka
Fifth from topMahakanha Jataka, the Attack of Mara, the ending episodes of Sama Jataka that begins on the west wall
Sixth from topVessantara Jataka
Lower mostDecorative pattern of punnaghatas

North Wall
This wall, though is of the same dimensions as the south wall, serves as the facade of the sanctum, bereft of didactic stories. The two doors are decorated with makara-toranas of two different orders, being the usual makara and simha-makara types. The one towards the east contains figures of Siva, Brahma, Indra and Visnu and the Suddhavasa-Brahmas. The space within the torana over the door lintel contains a medallion, held by two kneeling male figures, which gives the date as B.E. 2394. A female camara-bearer is shown at the right hand corner above and a nagini holding auspicious jar appears near the right hand pillar of the same makara-torana.

The second makara-torana is devoid of divinities over its top. Instead, a beautiful nagini carrying a fan is depicted. The pediment of the torana portrays a god enthroned, possibly Metteyya Bodhisatta. The wide central space between the two doors is occupied by a colossal sculpted figure of king Maniakkhika bearing a sword. He stands within a niche formed by a torana and a floral arch that imitates the form of a makara arch. Two minor divinities, each holding a bunch of lotus in hand, flank the arch. Two prancing lions are sculpted on either side of the niche, while a naga and a nagini holding camaras are painted anthropomorphically behind the lion figures. Two large sculptures representing guardians stand at the either extremity of the wall, and similarly the sun and the moon symbols are shown in the two upper corners of the same space.

East Wall
The east wall contains the main entrance to the vestibule and displays several registers of paintings. The topmost register shows the continuation of the garland motifs and below it are three long registers depicting the visit of the Buddha to Kalaniya. Dhammasonda jataka and Saccankira jataka. From the level of the lintel of the door, short registers follow. The southern section contains three bands relating the end of the Mahakanha jataka, Vessantara jataka, and the punnaghata motifs in the bottommost level. The northern section depicts the end episodes of the Vessantara story, and the rest of the space is occupied by figures of three incumbent monks (Mapitigama Buddharakkhita, Dhammarakkhita and Sangharakkhita).

The ceiling of the vestibule contains rectangular panels positioned within beautiful decorative floral scroll borders. This set of painted panels consists of: Four panels with depiction of the Tree of Life, differing from each other in detail; One panel with the twelve signs of the Zodiac, with the sun and the moon in the centre, all personified; One panel with the planetary/guardian divinities; One panel with the ten incarnations (avatara) of Visnu.

New Room of the Old Shrine

The section of the old shrine to the south of the vestibule, which has the same dimensions as the sanctum and the vestibule, has been redecorated with the neo-classical style paintings. Among the major scenes depicted are those illustrating the Buddha’s visit to Mahiyangana, the Buddha imprinting the Sripada on Sumanakuta, and the incidents associated with the history of Kalaniya.

New Shrine

The paintings of the new shrine, which is built a few decades ago, are executed in the same style as the new section of the old shrine. These, too, are arranged in large and wide registers separated by narrow bands containing legends. There seems to be no particular sequence in depicting the subjects. The scenes pertaining to historical and religious incidents of ancient Lanka appear side by side with those showing the episodes from the life of the Buddha. The back walls of the northern and southern projections, however, seem to have been specially reserved for the depictions of the introduction of the sacred relics from India, i.e. the sapling of the Bodhi-tree by the bhikkhuni Sanghamitta, and the Tooth Relic by Danta and Hemamala. The vestibule contains, among other scenes, representations of the life incidents of the Buddha, ranging from his childhood to his demise, and also panels recording many important events in the history of Buddhism in Lanka from the Anuradhapura period down to the Kandyan and colonial times.

Kalaniya Rajamahavihara, in its old shrine, follows the usual themes that went to decorate the late medeival shrines, yet with certain differences in the arrangement. The sanctum is devoid of representations of the life of the Buddha and any other narrative scenes. The available wall space is devoted to impressive portrayals of divinities who play the role of protectors of Buddhism (Pls. 26, 27, 29), and rows of arahants in the attitude of worshipping and carrying flowers. The cella thus provides the impression of an assembly of the principal deities known in the Sri Lankan culture, such as the Lokapalas, Siva and Visnu, Saman and Vibhisana, and the arahant disciples of the Buddha, guarding and venerating the presiding recumbent image of the Master. The Visnu shrine at the feet of the Buddha represents the continuation of the tradition of accommodating Hindu godheads within the Buddha shrine, dating at least from the fourteenth century as evidenced from the situation of Gadaladeniya and Lankatilaka viharas.

Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya
Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

The portrayal of Hanuman among these deities is an unusual feature, apparently based on the association of Kalaniya with the story of Ramayana through Vibhisana, the tutelary deity of the city.

The vestibule displays a whole range of themes that are common at image shrines of the Kandyan period. A special feature here is the colossal statue of Maniakkhika, the naga king of Kalyani who invited the Buddha to visit the city. This occupied the centre of the facade of the sanctum, flanked by two entrances decorated with makara-toranas, the sun and moon emblems and worshipping nagas and naginis. The paintings on the other three walls illustrate a variety of subjects, most of which are jatakas, and these include Culladhammapala, Devadhamma, Sama, Vessantara, Mahasilava, Telapatta, Mahakanha, Dhammasonda and Saccankira stories. Many of the jatakas have been depicted in great details. For instance, the Vessantara story commences on the west wall and is continued through the entire length of the south wall and ends on the east wall. The Mahakanha, Mahasilava and Saccankira jatakas are subjects rarely encountered in the shrines of the same period.

The artists of the old series of paintings at Kalaniya paid less attention to the incidents of the last life of the Buddha than to the stories of his past lives. Only the most important episode in the life of the Master, i.e. the victory over Mara (Pl. 12) has been selected for portrayal, and that too, features quite insignificantly between the registers depicting Telapatta and Vessantara jatakas on the south wall. The other scenes associated with the life of the Master are those of the Seven Weeks after Enlightenment and the Sixteen Sacred Sites supposed to have been hallowed by the Buddha. Special attention has been paid to the visit of the Buddha to Kalyani.

The ceiling of the vestibule has been devoted to the sophisticated themes dealing with cosmology. It contains seven panels, bordered by scroll and garland motifs. Four of these depict the Tree of Life (Pl. 34), each differing from the other in the delineation of the tree and the environs, and yet each symbolizing the axis of the Universe where life of all kinds originated. The other three panels contain three schematic cosmological diagrams, consisting of (1) the twelve signs of the Zodiac that mark the twelve phases of the annual cyclic movement of the sun, (2) the nine divine guardians of the world directions, conceived of as identical with the nine planets that rule man’s life from day to day, and (3) the ten incarnations of Visnu which are associated with the cyclic evolution of the world, namely, its creation, destruction and re-creation. Similar cosmological diagrams appear in the ceiling painting of a number of nineteenth and twentieth century shrines. In these cases, the ceiling space was obviously conceived of as the vault of Heaven in which the sun, the moon, the constellations and the planets rotate. Nevertheless, there could have been another consideration behind the installation of such diagrams in religious edifices.

According to ancient practice, such an act would have transformed the structures into the axis of the Universe, the place of origin, and the consecrated abode for the Supreme Lord of the Faith. And, vice versa, by the very act of incorporating cosmological diagrams in the Buddha shrines, the entire cosmos and all the divine powers that rule the world and the destiny of mankind would come under the auspicious influences and the benevolent protection of the Buddha.

The new paintings, following the classical idiom, present magnificent protrayals of the life incidents of the Buddha and many significant historical events of ancient Lanka. One of the most spectacular panel depicts the Mahaparinibbana of the Buddha. This, together with many others dealing with the life of Siddhattha, appear to have been deliberately selected to fill the thematic lacunae created in the old shrine.

The historical scenes, except that recording the arrival of Vijaya, are closely tied up with the religious history of ancient Lanka. The themes have been judiciously selected to demonstrate the historic continuity of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, beginning from the time of the Buddha’s visit in the fifth century B.C. down to the present era. These include the visit of the Buddha to Mahiyangana, the imprinting of the Sripada on Sumanakuta, the bringing of the sacred Bodhi-tree by Sanghamitta and the Tooth Relic by Danta and Hemamala, the committing of the Canon to writing, Buddhagosa’s composing of the Visuddhimagga and its offering to the great theras of the Mahavihara, etc. The other incidents illustarated form part of the history of Kalaniya during king Kalanitissa’s reign, such as the burning of an arahant and the consequent doom that befell the island, more recent incidents of the destruction of the vihara by the heathen Portuguese, the re-establishment of the higher ordination at the Kalyanisima, and the founding of the new shrine in the twentieth century by the Wijewardhene family of Sedavatta Kalaniya.

Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya
Kalaniya Raja Maha Viharaya

The paintings of the old shrines are dated to the middle of the nineteenth century by the inscription in a medallion decorating the space within the makara-torana on the facade of the sanctum. It gives the date as B.E 2394 (1851 A.D.). The style of the paintings corroborates this date. The paintings of the new section of the old shrine and those of the new shrines were executed in the fourth and fifth decades of the twentieth century by the well-known neo-classical style painter, Solias Mendis.

Kalaniya paintings of the mid-nineteenth century follows to a certain extent, the colour scheme of the Sittara art tradition of the preceeding century. One notices a modification of the old scheme by the introduction of colours such as light blue, brown, grey and pink, which was a feature that came into prevalence from the nineteenth century onwards. a distinguishing feature in this series of paintings at Kalaniya is the preference for both red and black as background colours of the horizontal registers depicting arahants , divinities and didactic stories. Brownish red is frequently applied to the interior spaces of buildings. Yellow, extensively used for roof-tiles and columns, usually has a subdued and often brownish tint. Grey and brown form the prominent colours applied to subjects imbued with fierceness, such as the elephant of Mara (Pl.1), and the forester and the terrifying dog of the Mahakanha Jataka (Pls. 13 and 14), while green and blue also indicate ferocious nature (Pls. 1 and 27). The demons of the hell and hell fires of the Culladhammapala Jataka are most fittingly shown in dark grey and black details. Besides, as usual to the Sittara tradition, the social status of people is revealed by different complexions, golden yellow for noble figures and brown for those of lower strata such as attendants and conch-blower (Pls. 30 and 37). White remains the favourite colour used for apparel, against which background dainty designs are depicted in red, blue and pink. White and pink are dominant in depictions of flowers and floral motifs. The tree trunks are shown in white with a little shading in other colours, or in more realistic hues of ochre and brown. The foliage often displays a combination of green and white, while Idealistic multi-coloured schemes also appear. The Sumanakuta and the Divaguha of the Sacred Sites series are given a tonal effect in graded grey (Pl.5) which is a rather unusual feature in Sittara painting. Considered as a whole, the mid-nineteenth century paintings of Kalaniya Rajamaha Vihara use the entire range of colours known to this period in a pleasing manner, reducing the contrast of different hues by the frequent application of intermediate colours such as pink, grey and brown.

The dominant tone of the paintings of the new edifices, executed in neoclassical style, is represented by variant shades of brown mixed with yellow, ranging from dark brown mellowing down to creamy yellow. Realistic colours have been used in a most idealized and harmonious way. The artist clearly avoided the application of contrasting colour schemes, and a soft warm glow and graded tones given to each colour neutralize the contrast even more.
The old paintings of Kalaniya Rajamahavihara present a continuity of the eighteenth century Sittara art tradition with the new trends of the low-country zeal for realism. The depiction of the Sumanakuta mountain by the use of tonal shades of grey, and the trees with realistically drawn leaves is quite characteristic (P1. 5). The deer-hunt scene of the Mahakanha Jataka (P1. 15), though damages, represents one of the most animated portrayals among the paintings of Sri Lanka. The composition is successful, and the artist has been able to catch the mood of the frightened animals and presents it in a most convincing manner. The ground with wavy contours and flowering shrubs seems to vibrate and respond to the rhythmic movements of the running deer, and provides and idyllic setting comparable to similar scenes found in the Moghul paintings of India.

Attempts have also been made by the artists to bring out the figures from the flat background by providing a tonal effect to the body contour. For instance, the muscularity of Mara’s chest (P1. 1) and of the big black dog (P1. 13) are clearly indicated. Nevertheless, the conventional Sittara mode of depiction still predominates. In spite of the slight shading to create volume, personages are devoid of individualistic traits, and their facial features remain stereotypical. The idealized type is oval-faced, tall and slender, although the feminine forms often display a bulky stomach and hip and large drooping breasts. In general, the figures appear to look rather insipid, lacking the vitality and vivacity observed in some other styles of the same period. This, however, is recompensated by a simple grace and quiet dignity created by the usually elegant stances and smooth, easy movements. Figures are flexible and display many unusual but natural poses (P1 21). Agile and even extremely mobile forms are observed in many instances, such as in the scene of the deer-hunt (P1. 15), of the dog and the forester jumping over the city gate (P1. 15) and the final dramatic episode of the Culladhammapala jataka (P1. 19). The portrayal of the earth goddess (P1. 2) is one of the most graceful human forms found in this series. Composed of thin flowing lines that accentuate the delicateness and weightless quality of the entire form, the goddess eloquently expresses by her body stance and gesture, her joy and eagerness to testify for the best of Man.

Kings and courtiers wear European-style garments which apparently represent the court dresses of the period, while ladies are usually seen in traditional costumes. Personal ornaments are rich and heavy only in the cases of divinities (Pls. 26, 27 and 29). Figures in narrative scenes usually wear light and delicate pearl strings in combination with richly patterned garments. The artists took obvious delight in decorating the textiles with minute floral patterns, parallel pleat lines, and geometrically formed borders. Buildings in narrative scenes are simple structures with sloping roofs, supported by slender pillars which often show European inspiration, European-style doors, arches and furniture are occasionally seen. Decorative motifs frequently reveal European influence.

The twentieth century paintings by Solias Mendis in the new shrine and the new section of the old shrine are unique presentations. The paintings, no doubt, breathe the essence of the ancient art traditions of India and Sri Lanka. A clear harmonization of colour and linework pervades through all panels. The artist has successfully achieved a combination of multiple art forms into an integral frequency of musical harmony. The flying divinities attending on the Buddha and the worshipping royalty (P1. 4) are no doubt inspired by the styles of Ajanta and Amaravati. The Mahakarunika nature of the Buddha is characteristically shown in the creation of a form that pulsates with tenderness and compassion. The long and slender hands with nimble fingers depicting various posses attain the fluency of musical notes. The drapery is characterized by its diaphanous texture, making the body seen through with all its bends and protrusions (P1s. 3 and 4). The dhoti-like dress of male figures, shown either in plain white or in broad horizontal stripes, is tied up with ribbon-like sashes that fly about in all directions, accentuating the rhythmic movements and elegant bends of the figures (P1. 4). Only a minimum of jewelled ornaments are worn except in the crowns. Delicate pearl-strings adorn the neck, arms and wrists, while the several ribbon-like sash wrapped rough the hip cover the want of more ornamentation. the drapery frills and folds tend to be depicted in realistic form, yet seem infused with a classical tradition that submerges such natural and realistic tendencies. Similar features also characterize the depiction of vegetation (P1. 3).

The technique of painting adopted by the artist was that of building up of forms from the softmost colours like yellow or light brown in short strokes of lighter hues of the mixed pigments, Evidently, the artist had a strong inspiration of the wash painting technique developed by Bengali artists, particularly Abanindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan, where he underwent a training programme. In following This methodology, there was no deliberate attempt to add highlights on to the forms by the introduction of white strokes. Instead, the highlights were achieved by the slow and refined shades in gradual strides (P1s. 3 and 4).

The decorative motifs appear to be a harmonious combination of early classical and late medieval forms. The auspicious jar supported by a dwarf in the vahalkada sculptures of such sites as the Mirisavatiya and Jetavana dagaba are encountered again on the door frames at Kalaniya. The combination of this with the moving scroll motif may have been inspired by a favourite decorative theme at Ajanta, and yet the swirling curves of the vegetative form appear to have been built up by the late medieval vakadeka motif. The hamsaputtuva theme (P1. 36), together with the band of rosettes and the elongated triangles, form a familiar group of designs seen in Kandyan period textiles. The makara-torana with the kirtimukha and flanking makaras constitutes yet another popular Kandyan period motif, developed into a neo-classical formula by the use of the typical swirls found in the makara balustrades of the early Anuradhapura and Polonnaruva periods.

The older paintings of Kalaniya belong to the low-country idiom of the Sittara art tradition of the nineteenth century. The selection of the themes also conforms to the general pattern found at the shrines of the same period. The arrangement of the paintings in the sanctum, with its emphasis on the presence of important divinities attending on the Buddha, however, is known only at a very few other shrines, such as Valalgoda and Omalpe. Some of the jatakas, i.e. the Saccankira, Mahakanha and Mahasilava jatakas, too, are rarely represented in the paintings of the same period. The exaltation of the Naga king Maniakkhika, the special emphasis given to the Buddha’s visit to Kalyani, and the veneration of Hanuman, represent the unique features of Kalaniya, inspired by the history of the site.

The presence of the diagrams containing the signs of the Zodiac and the planetary/guardian divinities recalls the similar situation at Samudragiri and Hanguranketa. It seems to have been a feature developed in the nineteenth century possibly under the influence of the low-country bali rituals, which had also found its way into the highlands as evidenced at Hanguranketa. The diagram with Visnu’s incarnations, nevertheless, appears to have been the only case so far known from Sri Lankan temples. No parallels of such have been recorded elsewhere, and not even at the Mahavisnu Devale of Devinuvara where the signs of the Zodiac and the planetary divinities are also represented. This panel at Kalaniya could have been inspired by relief-carvings depicting Visnu’s avataras which frequently adorn the ceiling of South Indian temples of the classical and medieval periods. The panels depicting the Tree of Life, too, find no parallels in temple decorations of Sri Lanka. The tree forms, on the other hand, are characteristic of the South Indian palampores (printed cotton hangings), and may have been influenced by these.

The figure style and the degree of ornateness of the nineteenth century series, in general, recall the style of Kotte Rajamaha vihara, and the style 1 of Kataluva, both dating from the same century. The colour scheme appears closer to that used at Kotte, especially in the favour for multi-coloured background for indoor scenes, and the colouring of trees and foliage. The frequent use of pink together with white, however, finds a parallel at Lankatilaka in the hill-country. The textile ornamentations are typical of the low-country mode. The pair of prancing lion flanking the niche with the image of the naga king Maniakkhika, finds close parallels in those flanking the Natha sculpture at Telvatta, and those on either side of the doorways at Hanguranketa and a few other shrines in the south. Figures of male worshippers wearing striped loin cloth and fluttering long shawls, holding bunches of lotuses, and supporting the inscribed medallion on the facade of the sanctum at Kalaniya, also appear at Hanguranketa. Certain types of European-style flower vases found at Kalaniya are noticed at Hanguranketa. All these apparently suggest the influences of the low-country style of painting on that of the highlands in the nineteenth century and after.

The new paintings of the Kalaniya Rajamahavihara are without comparison, as these have been the creation of one single artist of the twentieth century. However, the inspiration gained by the artist through his studies of ancient Indian and Sri Lankan painting is quite apparent. The flying divinities in the Sumanakuta scene (P1. 4) remind one of the flying celestials of Ajanta. The graceful bust of Hemamala (P1. 22) with elegantly arranged coiffure draws its inspiration from the fastidious Sigiriya damsels. The thin diaphanous texture of the apparel and the smooth tonal built-up of colours, are obviously inspired by the Bengali school of painting mastered by Abanindranath Tagore. The scenes of the Buddha’s Descent from Heaven as well as the assembly of gods at the Tivanka pilimage at Polonnaruva seem to have much influenced the portrayal of the Buddha and the divinities. Above all, the divine and royal personages worshipping the Buddha, clasping their outstretched hands in various postures, are suggestive of the artist’s study of the second-century Andhra sculptures portraying vivacious ladies venerating the Buddha in various scenes.

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