Lankaramaya in Anuradhapura Kingdom (අනුරාධපුර රාජධානියේ ලංකාරාමය)

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Lankaramaya is an ancient monastery belonging to Abhayagiriya Monastery in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital. Nearly nothing seems to be known about the monastery’s past, and what is known is very vague. Captain Chapman, in a paper published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1851-2, states that “it was erected by king Abha Sen, or Tissa, whose reign commenced A.D. 231”; and Major Forbes, in his work entitled Eleven years in Ceylon, says it “was erected in the reign of Mahasen, between A.D. 276 and 303”. No reliance can, however, be placed on either of these statements, as, besides being at variance, they are unsupported by evidence of their accuracy (Smither and Wikramagamage, 1993).

According to Anuradha Seneviratna, this stupa was built in the 1st century BC by King Vattagamini Abaya (Walagamba). The ancient name of this temple is “Silasobbha Khandaka Cetiya”. After the defeat by the Tamil invaders in the same year he came to the throne, King Walagamba (103 BC) had hidden in a place called “Silasobbha Khandaka” and after defeating the Tamils and regaining the throne he built this stupa by the same name (Seneviratna,1994).

Lankaramaya seems to have had another name in the past. It is possible this was the Manisomaramaya named in honour of Queen Somadevi of Vattagamini Abaya. History records King Kanitta Tissa (164-192) added to it a great Parivena as well as a cetiyaghara (vatadage) and later King Gotabhaya (253-266) restored the Vatadage and uposthaghara. Manisomaramaya is considered the Bhikkuni Aramaya of Abhayagri Viharaya like Thuparamaya was the Bhikkuni Aramaya of Maha Viahraya (Seneviratna,1994).

Although not mentioned in the list of these restored buildings given in the Mahavamsa, there is good reason for the conclusion that an ancient and very sacred stupa previously existed on the spot, according to an old tradition to which expression has been given a comparatively modern work called Heladiv Rajaniya (published 1853 by John Perera), the Lankaramaya is the shrine of some corporeal relics of Buddha himself, consisting of three small pieces of his bones. “These relics” (it says) “are known by the following sacred names; “mumpiyali”, “kada hal”, and “aba”. The first is about the size of a half green gram, and shines like gold; the second is white and shines like a pearl; and the third, which is also white, is shaped like a jessamine, and has the perfume of that flower: these were enclosed in a golden case. The original stupa enshrining these relics was, most probably, of very small dimensions; its present size having been attained by successive encasements, according to the common practice in early times (Smither and Wikramagamage, 1993).

From the close resemblance that the Lankarama bears to the Thuparama which is the first stupa built after Buddhism was brought to the country in the 250 BCE, there can be little doubt, if any, that it was built at the same early period. Moreover, from its position amongst the most sacred of all the stupas, it may reasonably be inferred that it equalled them in religious importance (Smither and Wikramagamage, 1993).

The circumference of the stupa as of today is 36.5 meters. The stupa lies on a 10-foot-high circular platform having a circumference of 126 meters. There are stairways from all four sides to reach the terrace of the stupa. There have been 4 vahalkadas at these entrances which are now lost. There is a stone tub by the eastern stairway which has been used to wash the feet before entering the terrace of the stupa. Among the old ruins, there are a few damaged Buddha statues as well (Seneviratna,1994).

This stupa has a magnificent vatadage surrounding the stupa. Today only a few of the slender and elegant monoliths remain upright today. However, the photos from the early nineteenth century (see below) show a forest of pillars standing upright surrounding the dilapidated stupa.

There are indications of 88 stone pillars in 3 concentric circles with 20, 28, and 30 pillars respectively supporting the roof of the vatadage. The pillar capitals are carved with exquisite lion and goose designs. There is a fine stone waterpipe, cut in the shape of a mythical beast, near the south-east. side of the dagoba (Burrows. 1894).

The best of this vatadage architecture can be seen in Madirigiriya.

Photos before restoration from www.imagesofceylon.com

References

  1. H.E. Weerasooriya, 1939. Historical guide to Anuradhapura’s ruins. Colombo: W.E. Bastian.
  2. Seneviratna, A., 1994. Ancient Anuradhapura. 1st ed. Colombo: Archaeological Survey Department, Sri Lanka, pp 178-180.
  3. Burrows, S., 1894. The Buried Cities of Ceylon : A Guidebook for Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa with Chapters on Dambulla, Kalawewa, Mihintale, and Sigiri. 2nd ed. Colombo: J. Ferguson, pp.65-67.
  4. Smither, J. and Wikramagamage, C., 1993. Architectural Remains, Anurádhapura, Ceylon; comprising the dágabas and certain other ancient ruined structures. Measured, drawn and described by J.G. Smither. 2nd ed. (revised) Colombo: Academy of Sri Lankan Culture, pp.19-24.
  5. Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.106.
  6. Fergusson, J., Burgess, J. and Spiers, P., 1910. History of Indian and Eastern Architecture Vol 1. 2nd ed. London: John Murray, pp.235-237.

Also See

Map of Lankaramaya at Anuradhapura Kingdom

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Driving Directions to Anuradhapura Kingdom

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Bus

Anuradhapura is easily reached by bus, train or private transport. Air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses start at the Colombo Fort Main Bus Station. There are luxury busses which start from various places in Colomb travelling past Anuradhapura, to Vavuniya and Jaffna. However, you need to search the web and book a seat. These luxury buses mostly travel at night reaching their final destination early in the morning.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Train

5 daily trains are starting from Fort Railway Station to Anuradhapura. Generally, the first train leaves at 9.40 am and the last train at 8.30 pm. Travel time is 4-5 hours depending on the number of stops of the particular train.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Car or Van

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

Route 01 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura
Through : Negombo – Chilaw – Puttalam
Distance from Colombo : 210 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo : 223 km
Travel Time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Route 03 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute from Kandy to Anuradhapura
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Narammala – Wariyapola – Padeniya – Thambuthegama
Distance from Colombo :203 km
Travel Time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katugastota – Matale – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo :136 km
Travel Time : 3.5 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map

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