Lovamahapaya – The Great Copper Roofed Mansion (ලෝවාමහාපාය)

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King Devamnampiyatissa, the first Buddhist king of the country built a chapter house in this location on the instructions of Mahinda Thero who brought Buddhism to the country. A century later King Dutugamunu (161-131 BCE) built a massive structure of which the remains you see today.

King Dutugemunu was told of a record that was said to have been made by King Devanampiyatissa, based on a prophecy of the Great Mahinda Thero. He located a vase deposited in the royal treasury with an inscribed golden plate inside. It spoke of the prophecy that after after one hundred and forty years, a king named Dutta Gamini, son of King Kavan Tissa would contract such and such edifices in such and such manner.

The king found that Lova Prasada and Swarnamali Chethiya (Ruwanweli Seya) had been specially mentioned in the inscription. He informed the monks that he would erect an excellent storied monastery and requested them to procure for him the plan of a palace of the devas. The plan was supplied immediately and begun under the supervision of eminent architects. It was a quadrilateral palace, being two hundred feet long on each of its sides and the same in height.

There were nine stories. In each of them were one hundred windows and a total of 1,000 rooms. A special hall was built in the center of the palace, and it was said to have been supported on golden pillars. In the center of this hall, there was a beautiful ivory throne, on one side of which there was the emblem of the sun in gold; on another, the moon in silver and stars in pearls. Above the throne, the imperial canopy glittered. The roof of this magnificent palace was covered with brazen tiles thus it was called the Loha Maha Prasadaya, “great brazen palace”. It is said that the value attached to the building was three hundred million gold pieces.

All the stories were furnished with couches, chairs, and other necessities of great value. Even the basins kept at the entrance, for washing the hands and feet of monks, were made of gold. The first floor was occupied by the monks who had not achieved any state of sanctification or the highest attainments; the second by those who had mastered the Tripitaka, the third by those who had attained Sotapatti, the first stage of sanctification; the fourth by those who had attained Sakadagami, the second stage of sanctification; the fifth by those monks who had attained Anagami, the third state of sanctification; and the remaining four stories were occupied by the Arahats, in other words, those who had attained the highest state of sanctification. Although this description may be a little exaggerated, this would have been a very impressive building at that time looking at what remains today.

During the reign of King Saddhatissa (137-119 BC), brother of King Dutugemunu, this monastery caught fire from a lamp and was burnt down. The king built it up again and formed a seven-storied building. Its value was then estimated at nine million gold pieces. A century later, King Bhatika Abhaya (20BC – 9AC) is reported to repaired this edifice, and King Amanda-Gamini Abhaya (22-31AC) added an inner courtyard and a pavilion studded with precious stones. King Sirinaga I (195-214 AC) rebuilt the Prasadaya and reduced it to five stories. king Gothabhaya (253-266 AC) repaired the pillars and his son King Jettatissa I (266-276 AC) raised the height of Lovamahapaya to seven stories.

During the reign of King Gothabhaya (253-266 AC), a disagreement took place between the monks of Maha Vihara Monastery and the Abhayagiri Monastery regarding a Vetulya doctrine. King Gothabhaya took the side of the Maha Vihara and banished 60 monks who had turned in the Vetulya doctrine from the Abhayagiri Monastery. One of the disciples of the banished monks, Sangamitta Thero decided to avenge the bikkus of Maha Viharaya. He came back to Sri Lanka and gained the favor of King Gothabhaya (253-266 AC) and was entrusted to teach his two sons Prince Mahasena and Prince Jettatissa. After their father’s death, the elder son Prince Jettatissa who was a supporter of the Mahavihara monks became the king and reigned for 10 years (266-276 AC). He rebuilt the Lohamahapaya to a height of 7 stories which was unfinished by his father. In 276 Mahasena (276-303) succeeded to the throne and the monk Sangamitta immediately came back to the island. He persuaded the king that the Mahaviharians laxed discipline and the monks of Abhayagiri vihara preached the true doctrine of the Buddha. He also persuaded the king to order a prohibition of giving arms to the Mahaviharians and they were forced to retreat to the hills and Rohana.

Then Sangamittha thero persuaded the king to razor the Maha Vihara buildings including the magnificent Lovamahapradaya and use the materials to build up Jethawanaramaya, a new rival institute within the boundaries of Maha Viharaya itself. His son Sirimeghavanna (Kithsiri Mevan) (303-311) rebuilt the palace. This mansion was again destroyed by the Pandayns from South India who invaded the city in the 9th century and was rebuilt again in the same century by King Sena II (853-887). It was for the last time restored by King Prakramabahu I (1153-1186) during the Polonnaruwa kingdom era.

This unique edifice having undergone destruction and reconstruction several times is now reduced to the stone columns that barely give an idea of its former magnificence. The collection of monolithic columns of granite 1,600, 40 rows of 40 pillars marks the site of the most remarkable palatial monastery in history. These columns are square and the largest measures 8 feet 3 inches and its height is 10 feet. The ground covered with these columns measures 200 square feet. All these rough columns had been enclosed in the huge walls that were built for the basement of the palace when it consisted of five stories.

Colas from India invaded the city in the 10th century and plundered the city of its all valuables which finally saw the fall of the Anuradhapura as the capital of Sri Lanka after over 1400 years. The great king Parakramabhu I who reigned from Polonnaruwa (1153-1186 AC) raised again the 1600 pillars and partly restored it. This is what you see today.

Alternate Names :great cooper roofed mansion, lova maha prasadaya, lovamahapaya, lowamahapaya

Old photos of Lovamahapaya from www.imagesofceylon.com

References

  • Mah|can|cama and Geiger, W., 1912. The Mahavamsa or the great chronicle of Ceylon. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press.
  • 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.

Also See

Lovamahapaya Map

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Traveling Directions to Lovamahapaya  (Anuradhapura)

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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