Sandagirigodella of Tissamaharama – සඳගිරිගොඩැල්ල

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The image house at Sandagirigodella

Sandagirigodella is an recently conserved site belonging to the the Sandagiri Monastic Complex. This area consist of 2 ancient buildings. The conservation of the image house building has been completed. A beatifully carved Buddha statue about 6 feet in height carved out of rock what looks like marble can be seen at the center building. The statue is remarkably well preserved other than for a broken hand. The statue has been dated to 3rd century BC.

Entrance to the building is through a porch on the north. A plain moonstone, a finely cared guard stone and a balustrade can be seen at the foot of the entrance. On the outside of the recovered balustrade an elephant in the standing posture has been carved. This is an unusual and a unique feature of the building. The image house itself has been dated to about 8th century AD.

To the right of the image house is the Uposthaghara building of the Sandagiriya Monastery. The building has been built upon massive stone pillars, about 15 feet tall. Some of the pillars have been raised and restored. Work is been still carried out to restore the balance fallen pillars.

Before both these buildings, at the entrance to this area lies an large pillar inscription. The 6 feet high octagonal  pillar appears to be broken at the top and the inscriptions are largely faded.  The inscriptions belongs to the sons of king Bhatikabhaya  and King Vasabha as per the site of Department of Archaeology. The inscriptions say that the taxes derived from Duratisa tank, the Abagamaka tank and the paddy fields at Patigama had been donated for the performance of the religious ceremonies of the temple.

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Map of Sandagirigodella of Tissamaharama

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites.

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Travel Directions to Sandagirigodella of Tissamaharama

Route from Colombo to Sandagirigodella

Route from Weerawila Junction to Sandagirigodella

Through : Avissawella – Ratnapura – Pelmadulla – Udawalawe – Tanamalwila – Tissamaharama
Distance : 225 km
Travel time : 5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Demarawewa – Tissamaharama
Distance : 10 km
Travel time : 10 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map

Sandagirigodella

by Gamini G. Punchihewa
Sunday Observer
Sandagirigodella at Tissamaharama

The pilimage (Image House) relics, like standing stone pillars, guard stones, stepping stones, balustrade

The Central Cultural Triangle Fund had its earliest beginnings in 1991 in collaboration with the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Its activities were then confined to Rajarata and later to Kandy.

This Central Cultural Triangle Fund extended its tentacles of explorations and excavations around Ruhunu Rata in the southern province in May 2000. Its first project was launched in an ancient monastery complex called Ramba Vihara nestling in the Walawe region on 30.5.2000 – about 15 miles away from Embilipitiya along the Colombo – Ratnapura – Pelmadulla – Embilipitiya – Nonagama Highway. It’s about another six miles away from the Nonagama junction. Explorations and excavations are in rapid progress at this Ramba Raja Maha Vihara where a mass of valuable archaeological artefacts, stone inscriptions have been opened up.

The next venue of the Central Cultural Triangle Fund in Ruhunu Rata is at a place called Sandagirigodella lying about 1 km away from the Tissamaharama Vihara which also lies close to the ancient Sandagiri Vehera overlooking Tissamaharama Vihara.

Recently as a prelude for my feature writings in visiting such historic-ancient sites for the New Year of 2002 as an auspicious occasion I did so on 1.1.2002, to Sandagirigodella in Tissamaharama. It’s about 40 miles away from Embilipitiya where I am staying.

Pilimage – Image House

Sandagirigodella at Tissamaharama

standing stone pillars, guardstones, stone steps lying at the entrance to the Sandagirigodella project.

At the entrance to this Sandagirigodella site stands a mass of ruins in stone. Some standing monolithic pillars. Next to it lies the Pilimage (Image House). There is a well preserved Koraowakkagala, (balustrade) having a plain moonstone . The unique carving on one side of the balustrade is that of a figure of an elephant (in standing pose), well conspicuous to the naked eye flanked by two guard stones. The following artefacts have been unearthed:

Timber roof – Embekke Model

Basal stones, Malasana / Asanagharas, a part of a stone pillar capital, mounds of bricks and tiles. Just opposite this site stands an octagonal building, roof paved with flat tiles. Its roof canopy, the art of carpentry of the rafters are typical of the classic carpentry masterpiece, lies in its intricate Madol Kurupuwa. This type of intricate workmanship done in carpentry works consists of a simple wooden pin (holding the rafters), which is constructed at the hipped end of the timber roof – quite reminiscent and very typical of the same masterly carpentry elegantly executed in the timber roof (of the rafters) of the famed Embekke Devale, off Kandy.

This canopy like structure harbours a six foot tall circular stone pillar (broad) on which are carved some inscriptions (not Brahmi scripts) on which lines are drawn across. Such inscriptions may appear to date back to 3rd-6th century A.D. This building has been constructed under the Central Cultural Triangle Fund Project.

Sandagirigodella at Tissamaharama

On either side of the stepping stones, lie two balustrades, note the standing elephant carved in relief on the other side of it.

At the time of my recent visit on 1.1.2002, I came across a latest find of a standing Buddha statue about six feet high. It appears to be moulded out of some crystalline rock where some plastering too had been done. At that time the research officials attached to this Cultural Triangle Project in Sandagiri, steps were taken to get it lifted up. There I met a team of research officials attached to the Central Cultural Triangle Project Fund led by its officer in charge, Mr. Ranjith Kumara assisted by his colleagues.

Mr. Ranjith Kumara, told me that the excavations done in this site lie on a private land. This project was launched in April, 2001. This standing Buddha statue, is said to belong to the 3rd century BC. Earlier there were two other standing statues in stone of Bodhisatva each about five feet tall which were unearthed from the same site.

These two Bodhisatva statues have been kept in a separate apartment in the Tissamaharama Vihara building complex as a security measure, while this standing Buddha statue that had been unerthered would also be removed shortly and find a place in the same chamber where the two Bodhisatva statues are kept – which are under the care of the Ven. Pathberiye Gnanaloka Thera who I was told by these research officials to be the custodian of the Ruhunu Central Cultural Project, in Tissamaharama.

I am grateful to the research officers attached to this Central Cultural Triangle Project, Sandagirigodella, for providing me with the details of the ongoing excavations.

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