Katuwannawa Asanagharaya

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Before the rise of Buddha Statues in the 2nd century, Buddhists used several forms to represent the Buddha.  First was the Bodhi tree,  and later the Dharma Chakra, Sri Pathul Gal and Asana were used to represent the Buddha himself. Sri Pathul Gala is usually a square slab of rock on which the footprint of Buddha is carved out.

The Bodhighara, Chethiyaghara and Asanaghara are considered by scholars to be the three oldest Buddhist architectural elements in Sri Lanka. Of these, the Chethyaighara also called Vatadage and the Bodhighara are mentioned in most ancient Buddhist literature but the sources do not mention the Asanagara in detail. But there are some references to this in the ancient Attakathas and in the ancient chronicles such as the Mahavamsa and the Deepavamsa.

The Asana are large slabs of rectangular stones which represented the seat of Buddha at the time of enlightenment. Like the Sri Pathul Gala, they were seated on a brick platform and worshipped by the Buddhists. These asanas had been protected by a building which is called Asanaghara.

The Discovery of a Sri Pathul Gala or an Asana in an archaeology site or temple is a clear indication of its antiquity.

Katuwannawa Asanagharaya is one of the few surviving Asanaghara structures in Sri Lanka.

“Ancient Ceylon” by Henry Parker published in 1909 spends considerable space for Katuwannawa as he believes that the Parakramabahu II was born in is area. He has also placed the ancient stupa in the 3rd century BC.

“…… According to the Mahavansa, he (Parakramabahu II) himself was born at Siriwaddhana ; thus the third piece of evidence merely .shows that he married a lady whose native place was the same as-his own. The second statement would be of value only if the traces of some early city, and of the temple to which the Tooth-relic was taken, had been discovered at Nanbambaraya; but regarding this point the Sinhalese scholars furnish no information, although it is one that they could easily investigate. Without this support the whole argument hangs in the air, awaiting the construction of some solid foundation on which it may rest. All is paper evidence of an unconvincing type. Although much has been written to show that in the opinion of the writers Siriwaddhana-nuwara ought to be at Nanbambaraya, there is not a line to prove that it really was there.

The evidence seemed to me so unsatisfactory that I made careful inquiry into the matter from the Korala, or chief of that district, who knew the country well, and lived in the neighborhood. He informed me that there is no local tradition that Siriwaddhana-nuwara was in that part of the country,, or that the Tooth-relic was ever deposited at any place in the district excepting Dambadeniya. He knew of no traces of any ancient city anywhere round that town. As a matter of fact, he and all others whom I interrogated on the -subject stated that the people of the district had always understood that Siriwaddhana-nuwara was not there, but in the Wanni Hat Pattu, which extends between the Dadura-oya and the Kala-oya. This might merely point to the ancient town at Yapahu, which was also sometimes termed Siriwaddhana-nuwara, and was the capital for a short period in the thirteenth century A.D.

As a result of other inquiries, I learnt that there is a place at Katuwannawa, a village two miles north of the junction of the Kimbulwana-oya with the Daduru-oya, which still bears the name of Siriwaddhana-nuwara; and I took advantage of the first opportunity to visit it.

There is an early wihara at the spot, with a small brick dagaba, called the Sigiriya Waehaera, a raised platform round a Bo-tree, and two small rock-caves prepared for the monks. The only inscription known consists of four letters, of the second or third century A.D., on a flat rock near the dagaba, reading mi simita, with a probable meaning, ‘this (is) for the boundary’.  The bricks of the dagaba are of two sizes, of which those of the earliest type average 2.93 inches in thickness, 9.07 inches in breadth, and are nearly 18 inches in length, a fragment being broken off the most perfect one I could find. Bt. is 26.5, and as the length is evidently, as usual, six times the thickness, or 17.58 inches, the contents becomes 466 cubic inches. These dimensions indicate the third century B.C. as the probable time when the bricks were burnt.

Water was supplied to the place by a cut channel with a bed from 15 to 18 feet wide, which branched off from a main channel that was opened from a stone dam, now breached, built across the Kimbulwana-oya. This main channel was carried on to Talagalla tank, a large reservoir about four miles away, The restoration of these works by Parakrama-Bahu I is mentioned in the Mahavansa (ii, pp. 148 and 265), the site of the dam being there termed Sukara Nijjhara. In the ground all around, the villagers informed me that when digging for cultivation purposes they met with large-sized ancient bricks, the presence of which proves the existence of numerous monastic buildings there at an early date.

There is, however, a general absence of ruins above the surface of the ground, with one notable exception. This is a ruin known as the Dalada Maligawa, the Palace of the Tooth-relic. It was a circular building of a special type, perhaps unique in Ceylon, 40 feet in diameter to the outer sides of the 20 octagonal pillars that supported the roof, each being about 14¾  inches thick, and standing now 7½ feet out of the ground. Four larger square pillars, with sides of 18 inches, are arranged in a square 10 feet 6 inches across, in the centre of the circle. Inside this central chamber there is a stone flower-altar formed of a single well-cut slab 8 feet 7 inches long and 3 feet 7½ inches wide, close to which, on the west side, in the middle of the room, is the spot now pointed out as the site occupied by the case or ‘karanduwa’ of the Tooth-relic. A second stone flower-altar 4 feet 10½ inches wide, is fixed to the eastward of the inner room, in the outer circular chamber which surrounds it.

According to the local tradition, the building had three stories; all the upper part must have been built of wood, as in practically all other instances in Ceylon, and it has of course disappeared. The whole place was overgrown with jungle, which was partly cleared away to enable me to examine it.

At the time when the great Festival of the Tooth-relic took place the king is said to have restored the present wihara and the dagaba. The villagers expressed surprise that doubts had been cast upon the identity of the town. …… “

Kuda Katuwannawa Asanaghara was recorded by the then Superintendent of Archeology, Charles Godakumbure and the excavations were done in 1963. During excavations, a second Asana slab was discovered. This was 12 feet 5 inches long and 5 feet wide. ruins of a small stupa too have been discovered close to this Asanaghara.

Katuwannawa Asanagharaya lies about 300 meters away from the new Deduru Oya Reservoir .


  • Parker, H., 1909. Ancient Ceylon. 1st ed. London: Luzac, pp.257-260.
  • ඇම්. ජී. රත්නපාල, 1997. වජ්‍රාසනය. සංකෘතික පුරාණය, 2(8), pp.31-38.

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Travel Directions to Katuwannawa Asanagharaya

Route from Colombo to  Katuwannawa Asanagharaya
Through : Katunayake – Minuwangoda – Divulapitiya – Giriulla – Narammala – Wariyapola
Distance : 135 km
Travel time : 3  hours
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