Medirigiriya Vatadage (මැදිරිගිරිය වටදාගේ)

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Medirigiriya Vatadage is situated in the middle of a dry zone forest area adding to its mystic view and has a history going back to pre-Christian times. The Brahmi characters found on the bricks and some of the stone carvings are an indication of the long history of this site. The first reference to this site in the chronicles is during the King Kanittha Tissa (192-194) of the Anuradhapura Era.  Later many kings contributed to this complex and finally after the invasion of Maga this site too was abandoned when the Sinhalese migrated to the southern parts unable to withstand the torture. According to the Culawansa, the lesser chronicle of Sri Lanka, the Vatadage was built in the 7th century by King Aggabodhi VI (733-772).

This site was later discovered in 1897 in the middle of a thick jungle by Mr H.C.P Bell and he immediately realised the importance of the site calling it an architectural jewel. Initially the restoration work was done by mainly Muslim labourers as the Buddhist labourers did not want to work at a Buddhist temple for money. This they felt was a sin. This restoration work was finally completed in 1945 and was open to the public giving a glimpse of what this temple would have looked over 1000 years ago.

In 1937, 600 acres were reserved for this archaeological site due to the large number of ruins found in this area. But when this area started to populate with people migrating from various parts of the country, they gradually started destroying and removing these invaluable ruins for sale and as well as to remove any signs of ruins and capture the land. Today only 250 acres remains of the original 600 acres and none of the ruins which filled the landscape around the Vatadage.

Vatadage is a unique architectural building which completely housed the Stupa. These building were constructed at the very early periods as the Stupas in this time were quite small. Remains of such Stupa houses can be found at the following places:

A detail description of the overall Stupaghara architecture including vatadages of Sri Lanka can be found here. This Vatadage at Medirigiriya is built on a small rock. The entrance to this is on the northern side. At the bottom of the staircase is a massive stone frame. This is 9’9” feet tall and 4’9” feet in breath. After climbing 27 stone steps you come to a resting area. Thereafter there are 4 more steps to reach the Stupa house. Around the Stupa house is a stone wall which is about one meter in height. On the four sides are four beautifully carved Buddha statues in the seating position. In the centre there has been the Stupa which is in ruins today.

The roof of the Stupa house has been built on three concentric circles of stone pillars most of which still can be seen in the original state. The inner most circle of 16 pillars are 17 feet in height and the other two circles are 16 and 9 feet in height and 20 and 32 in numbers respectively. There are many opinions of what the roof would have looked like by many archaeologists. Some even believe there never has been a roof considering the sizes and the number of pillars. Anyway this site remains a one of the best examples of local craftsmanship of the ancient Sri Lanka.

Other buildings around the main structure.

In addition to the main Stupa house there are remains of three image houses and a Stupa in this area.

The Stupa house with the Buddha in the resting position

This Stupa house is located is after 16 steps to the Vatadage. This Stupa house is 57 x 36 feet and the image is 33 feet long.

Pichcha-mal Viharaya

There are two other images houses further away from the Vatadage. These are built together and each is 20×20 feet in size. Inside there are five images of Buddha, three standing and two seated. This areas is locally known as the Pichcha-mal Viharaya

Small Stupa

Opposite side of the pathway to the Vatadage entrance is a small Stupa built on a rock. You can get a fantastic view of the Vatadage from this rock.


There are two ponds in the area. These probably have been used by the bikkhus who lived in these temples.


Near the entrance to the Vatadage area is a cave which is thought to be made during recent times or a natural cave.


There are remains of an advance hospital in the same area. This is built as two squares. The outer square has 33 stone pillars and the inner square has 20 pillars. There have been three entrances to the building. There are indications that the rooms have had doors. A well preserved medicine boat too can bee seen here.

The Medicine boat

This is a common feature you find in all the hospital of the ancient time. This boat is made out of hard rock so that the medicine would not absorb on the rock. The cavity is built to fit any human.

Stone inscriptions

There have been a large number of stone inscriptions in the area but many have been destroyed by treasure hunters and the villagers around the temple. Only three remains today. Two if them relate to the management of the hospital and the provision of food to the hospital. The third one is in Tamil language.


A stone used as a top of a toilet pit can be found on the right side near the main entrance.



Also See

Map of Medirigiriya Vatadage

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Travel Directions to Medirigiriya Vatadage

Medirigiriya can be reached from Minneriya town on the Colombo – Pollonnaruwa road or from Pollonnaruwa

Route from Colombo to Medirigiriya Vatadage Route from Polonnaruwa to Medirigiriya Vatadage
Through : Ambepussa – Kurunegala – Dambulla – Habarana – Minneriya – Hingurakgoda
Distance : 225
Travel time : 5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Hingurakgoda
Distance : 32 km
Travel time : 1 hour
Driving directions : see on google map


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