Veheragalla Samudragiri Purana Viharaya (වෙගෙරගල්ල සමුද්‍රගිරි රජමහා විහාරය)

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Veragalla Samudragiri Viharaya lies on a coconut grove close to the beaches of Mirissa thus it’s also called Mirissa Viharaya. The origins of this temple are not well documented but there is proof that this temple existed in the 18th century. According to the Folklore, there were small temples which were used by the priests who came to Mirissa to carry out their daily rituals.

This site has been declared as a national heritage site due to the murals on the image house belonging to the Kandyan Era. This is one of the few sites where murals representing the Matara traditional temple artistic style is well preserved.  During the Kandyan Era, the low country which was under the control of European countries developed its unique artistic styles by adding variations to the Kandyan artistic style influenced by Europeans.

All the temples which were under the Kandyan Kingdom during this era followed a defined style of art in all temple paintings with almost no variation but the low country artists freely introduced style changes to these murals.

The best murals in the temple are located in the image house on the walls outside the inner chamber. The wall is divided into several strips. Various life events of Prince Siddhartha are drawn on the topmost strip. Various Jathaka Stories have been drawn on the lower strips.

Kanthiwadi Jathakaya, Sasa Jathakaya, Sama Jathakaya, Kurudamma Jathakaya and Devadamma Jathakaya are found depicted on the walls. Kurudamma Jathakaya has been given more prominence compared to others. The murals are drawn on a dark red background.

According to the well-known archaeologist professor Senaka Bandara, the murals of the Veheragalla Samudragiri Viharaya image house are unique. The murals of the temple clearly show the low country Matara style of art. Most temples built on the coastal lines in the 18th and 19th centuries were influenced by the Rococo artistic style but this is one of the few temples where you would find a significant number of well-preserved murals which use the low country Matara artistic style.

The traditional Kandyan style murals utilize a limited range of well-defined colours and use red for the background. The Matara style murals use a wider range of colours and utility other darker colours such as black for the background.  These murals also use leaves and branches in addition to flowers to fill the backgrounds instead of only flowers which is used by the Kandyan style murals. The clothes and headdresses of the figures also is different showing some European influence.

There are three entrances to the inner chamber of the image house. Each entrance is decorated with a relief of a dragon’s arch. One dragon arch is sculptured around a picture of a Maitree Bodhisattva. The walls of the inner chamber are decorated with pictures of arhats, deities, heavens and hell.

It being reported that most of these murals are now under threat of destruction due lack of interest by the authorities.

Also See

Map of Veheragalla Samudragiri Purana Viharaya

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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 Veheragalla Samudragiri Purana Viharaya

Route from Colombo to Veheragalla Samudragiri Purana Viharaya
Distance : 150 km
Travel time :3-3.5 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map

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