Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thrikodithanam Mahavishnu Temple, Pandava Temple at Kerala

Thrikodithanam Mahavishnu Temple, Pandava Temple at Kerala

 Kerala architecture(gift of viswabrahmin) is a kind of architectural style that is mostly found in Indian state of Kerala and all the architectural wonders of kerala stands out to be ultimate testmonials for the ancient vishwakarma(വിശ്വകർമ്മജർ) sthapathis of kerala. Kerala's style of architecture is unique in India, in its striking contrast to Dravidian architecture which is normally practiced in other parts of South India. The architecture of Kerala has been influenced by Dravidian and Indian Vedic architectural science (Vastu Shastra) over two millennium. The Tantrasamuchaya, Thachu-Shastra, Manushyalaya-Chandrika and Silparatna are important architectural sciences, which have had a strong impact in Kerala Architecture style. The Manushyalaya-Chandrika, a work devoted to domestic architecture is one such science which has its strong roots in Kerala.

Elements and features of Kerala Temple

The circular Sreekovil style of Kerala temples
The inner sanctum sanctorum where the idol of presiding deity is installed and worshiped. It shall be an independent structure, detached from other buildings with no connections and having its own roof shared with none. The Sri-kovil does not have any windows and have only one large door opening mostly towards east (sometimes it happens towards west, whereas a few temples have north facing door as its specialty, while no temples will have a south facing door).

The Srikovil may be built in different plan shapes – square, rectangular, circular or apsidal. Of these the square plan shows an even distribution throughout Kerala state. The square shape is basically the form of the vedic fire altar and strongly suggest the vedic mooring. It is categorized as the nagara style of temple in the architecutural texts. The rectangular plan is favoured for the Ananthasai Vishnu (Lord Vishnu in reclining posture) and the Sapta matrikas (Seven Mother Goddesses). The circular plan and the apsidal plan are rare in other parts of India and unknown even in the civil architecture of Kerala, but they constitute an important group of temples. The circular plan shows a greater preponderance in the southern part of Kerala, in regions once under the influence of Buddhism. The apsidal plan is a combination of the semi-circle and the square and it is seen distributed sporadically all over the coastal region. The circular temples belong to the vasara category. A variation of circle-elipse is also seen as an exception in the Siva shrine at Vaikkom. Polygonal shapes belonging to the Dravida category are also adopted rarely in temple plans but they find use as a feature of shikhara. As per the Thantrasamuchayam, every Sreekovil should be built either neutral or even sided.

For the unitary temples, the overall height is taken as 13/7/ to 2 1/8 of the width of the shrine, and categorised into 5 classes as i.e.; santhika, purshtika, yayada, achudha and savakamika – with increasing height of the temple form. The total height is basically divided into two halves. The lower half consists of the basement, the pillar or the wall (stambha or bhithi) and the entablature (prasthara) in the ratio 1:2:1, in height. Similarly the upper half is divided into the neck (griva), the roof tower (shikhara) and the fonial (Kalasham) in the same ratio. The adisthana or foundation is generally in granite but the super structure is built in laterite. The roofings will be of normally taller than other temple structures. The structural roof of the shrine is constructed as the corbelled dome of masonry; however in order to protect it from the vagaries of climate it was superposed by a functional roof, made of timber frame covered by planks and tiles. This sloping roof with its projecting caves gave the characteristic form to the Kerala temple. The fenial or Kalasham, made of copper, provided the crowning spire denoting the focus of the shrine wherein the idol was installed.

The flag post normally seen in all Kerala Temples
Normally the Srikovil is on a raised platform and has a flight or 3 or 5 steps to be. The steps are called Sopanapadi and on sides of the Sopanapadi, two large statues known as Dwarapalakas (Door Guards) are craved to guard the deity. As per Kerala rituals style, only main priest (Thantri) and second priest (Melshanti) only allowed to enter into Sri-kovil.

Namaskara Mandapam
The namaskara mandapa is a square shaped pavilion with a raised platform, a set of pillars and a pyramidal roof. The size of the mandapa is decided by the width of the shrine cell. The pavilion in its simplest form has four corner pillars; but larger pavilions are provided with two sets of pillars; four inside and twelve outside. Pavilions of circular, elliptical and polygonal shapes are mentioned in the texts, but they are not seen in Kerala temples. The Mandapams are used to conducting Vedic-Thantric rites.


The outer grounds of Temple, called Chuttuambalam
The shrine and the mandapa building are enclosed in a rectangular structure called the nalambalam. Functionally the rear and side halls of the nalambalam serves for various activities related to the ritualistic worship. The front hall is pierced with the entry, dividing it into two parts. These two halls; Agrasalas which used for feeding Brahmans, performing yagas and while Koothuambalam are used for staging temple arts such as koothu and temple murals. In few cases, Koothuambalams are separated as an individual structure outside Nalambalam.


The Dwajasthampam or flag post of temple, located in Chuttuambalam
At the entrance of Nalambalam, a square shaped raised stone altar called as Balithara can be seen. This altar is used to make ritualistic offerings to demi-gods and other spirits. Inside the Nalambalam, several small stones, called Balikallukal can be seen, meant for same purpose.


The Gppuram or Gate houses of temples
The outer structure within the temple walls, is known as Chuttuambalam. Normally Chuttuambalam has main pavilion known as Mukha-Mandapam or Thala-mandapam. The Mukha-Mandapam will have the Dwajastambam (Sacred Flag-post) in center of it and has several pillars supporting mandapam. The temple is now fully enclosed in a massive wall (Kshetra-Madillukal) pierced with gate houses or gopurams. The gopuram is usually two-storeyed, which served two purposes. The ground floor was an open space generally used as a platform for temple dances such as kurathy dance or ottan thullal during festivals. The upper floor with wooden trails covering the sides functioned as a kottupura _ (a hall for drums beating). The Chuttuambalam will normally has 4 gates from outside to entrance at all sides. A stone paved walk-way will be seen around the Chuttuambalam to allow devotees circulate around the temple, which for some large temples are covered with roof supported with massive pillars on both sides. The Chuttuambalam will have Dwajavillakku or giant lamp-posts in several places, mostly in Mukha-mandapams.


The temple pond or Ambala-Kulam at Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple
Every temple will have a sacred temple pond or water lake located within temple complex. As per Vastu-rules, water is considered as source of positive energy and synthesis balance of all energies. Hence a temple pond or Ambala Kulam will be made available within the temple complex. The temple pond is normally used only by priests as holy bath before start of rituals as well as for various sacred rituals within the temple. In few cases, a separate pond will be constructed to allow devotees to bath before entering in temple. Today several temples have Mani-Kenar or Holy Well within the Nalambalam complex to get sacred waters for purposes of Abisekham.


The Koothuambalams are prime venues for conduct of temple dances and other art forms. The height of Koothuambalam's roof are much similar to Pyramids, makes it more majestic and gives a distant feeling from temple
Normally within Nalambalam, a separate complex will be constructed for cooking foods meant to serve for the deity and distribution among devotees as holy prasadam. Such complexes are called Thevarapura, where the holy fire or Agni is invoked.

Vizhinjam Rock Cut Cave Thiruvananthapuram Kerala.

Vizhinjam Rock Cut Cave Thiruvananthapuram Kerala.
Vizhinjam Rock Cut Caves is an ancient rock cut cave temple situated in Vizhinjam, around 17 km from Thiruvananthapuram city, Kerala. This historic monument features 8th century rock cut sculptures which was left unnoticed for a long time. Vizhinjam Rock Cut Cave Temple is a single-celled shrine with a sculpture of Vinandhara Dakshinamurthi – an aspect of Lord Dakshinamurthy. The outer wall of the cave temple features half completed carvings of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Yoga-Narasimha Swamy Temple, Melukote

Jatayu rock, Chadayamangalam, Kerala, India

Jatayu rock, Chadayamangalam (Jatayumangalam) area of Kollam district. Largest bird sculpture in the world. Where Jatayu fell, mortally wounded.
Ravana abducted Sita to Lanka. Jatayu had tried to rescue Sita from Ravana when Ravana is on his way to Lanka. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but as Jatayu was very old Ravana soon got the better of him. As Rama and Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and dying Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them of the fight between him and Ravana and tells them that he had gone south. It is believed that Jatayu fell on the rocks in Chadayamangalam after his wings were chopped off by Ravana.
Kerala park to welcome visitors in Jan
The Jatayu Nature Park in Chadayamangalam area of Kollam district in Kerala will open its adventure zone to the public in January next year.
Spanning an area of 65 acres, the park is the first tourism project to be built on a public-private partnership model in Kerala under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) mode.
It will house the world's largest bird sculpture (200 feet long, 150 feet broad and 70 feet in height). Spread across three storeys, the sculpture of the mythical bird will house a digital museum, a 6D theatre and offer a bird's eyeview from 1,000 feet above sea level.
The park will also feature an adventure zone spread across three kilometres, an ayurvedic and siddha resort and a cable car system. It is being developed at an investment of Rs1 billion on land leased from the Kerala government.

The Sacred City of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka (Greatest monastic city of the ancient world, 437 BC-845 AD, a World Heritage Site)

Jetavana Dagoba
Anuradhapura and the city of Polonnaruwa are the vitally important "must visit" twin tourist attractions of Sri Lanka Holidays Cultural Triangle. Anuradhapura, the greatest monastic city of the ancient world that date from the middle of the 5th century B.C. remained the proud seat of kingdom of Sri Lanka until the 11th century A.D. Today Anuradhapura, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is replete with renovated monuments, restored edifices, preserved ruins and historical sites where the archeological excavations are still being continued. Today, Sri Lanka Holidays foreign tourists and local tourists, who tour Anuradhapura, are simply unable to witness everything Anuradhapura has to offer, within the confines of a single day as Sri Lanka Tours have been cram-programmed. However the major attractions of Anuradhapura can be visited in a single day.

Anuradhapura was the cradle of glorious Sinhalese Buddhist civilization. The pride of place in Anuradhapura was taken by the ancient stupas and ancient reservoirs. Towering stupas (dagobas) of stupendous domes, the marvels of ancient civil engineering, were built having taken into the account the effects of lightening on high rise constructions, among numerous other engineering factors. The vast rainwater reservoirs built by crossing rivers with enormous dams and controlling the outlets with "Bisokotuwa" (Sinhala: Queens enclosure-no entry, of course) valve pits (sluice gate), extend lifeline to Anuradhapura district to date.

Among the other tourist attractions at Anuradhapura are magnificent rock carvings of monumental richness and remarkable grace; colossal stone pillars that stand proud amidst the ruins of royal palaces, Buddhist monasteries and temples; magnificent stone cut swimming pools of sophisticated hydrology.

Thuparama Dagoba

The splendors of ancient Anuradhapura was narrated in great length by Fa-Hien, the famous Chinese Buddhist scholar pilgrim, who spent two years in Anuradhapura copying the Vinaya Pitakaya (Sinhala: Book of Discipline) of Theravada Buddhism at the end of the 4th century. The Roman historian Gaius Plinius Secundus (23 AD - August 25, 79 AD) has recorded the descriptions of the city of Anuradhapura made by Annius Plocamus, who had visited Anuradhapura during the reign of Sinhalese King Sadamuhunu (Chanda-Mukha-Siva) (44 AD- 52 AD).

Sir William Colebrooke narrates of Anuradhapura "I saw here here ornamented capitals and balustrades, and bas reliefs of animals and foliage. I cannot better express my opinion of their elegance than by saying that, had I seen them in a museum, I should, without hesitation, have pronounced them to be Grecian or of Grecian descent. One semicircular slab, at the foot of a staircase, is carved in a pattern of foliage which I have repeatedly seen in works of Greek and Roman origin.

This flourishing state of art proves wealth and taste, and there are enormous conical buildings of brick, called Dagobas, whose Egyptian dimensions and durability show that they must have been built by a numerous and laborious race. The immense tanks, of which I saw the ruins, and by which the country was irrigated, were the cause of its permanent fertility so long as they were kept in repair." Colebrooke, Sir William Macbean George (17871870), 1832

Life-line: Great Ancient Man-made Lakes (Rainwater Reservoirs)
Renovated Stupas, Ruins of Stupas, Monasteries & Temples.
We mustn't fail to see: Glorious Ruwanweliseya Stupa, Serene Samadhi Buddha Statue, Enormous Jetavana Dagoba, Isurumuniya Rock Temple, Sacred Sri Maha bodhi tree.

Sri Lanka's northwest

Sri Lanka's northwest (of which Anuradhapura is a major city) also known as the dry zone is arid, rolling, open country coloured in shades of dusty brown earth and golden ripening rice fields. Farming here depends on artificial irrigation, and the countryside is dotted with great ancient artificial reservoirs to retain rainwater and allow crops to thrive through the dry season.
Ruwanweliseya Stupa

Three great rainwater reservoirs & River Malwatu

The ancient city of Anuradhapura is surrounded by three great man-made lakes, Nuwara Wewa reservoir to the east & Tissa Wewa reservoir together with Basawakkulama Wewa reservoir to the west with two directions of the city being defined by River Malwatu Oya that flows through it. We have Anuradhapura new town to the east of the river & sacred ancient city to the west of the river. It cannot get any better.

History of Anuradhapura (WHS)

From the origins as a settlement by Minister Anuradha in the 6th century BC, Anuradhapura was developed at a rapid pace & was made the capital of the island by King Pandukhabaya (437-366 BC), who took a leaf out of the book of King Abhaya (474 BC), the builder of the first rainwater reservoir of Lanka. King Pandukhabhaya commenced the irrigation schemes in a larger scale providing the lifeline to the fledging Aryan civilization of the Sinhalese. By the mid-3rd century BC Anuradhapura's fame for the excellence of its temple art and palace architecture, the ingenuity and skill of its irrigation engineers, noble elephants, precious gems, fine spices and its military prowess had spread as far as the Roman-Hellenistic world.

The greatest monastic city of the ancient world

It was not only one of the most stable & durable political power & urban life in South Asia, but also the greatest monastic city of the ancient world, the cradle of the island's temporal & spiritual power. The city attained its highest magnificence in the beginning of the Christian era. At the height of its glory, Anuradhapura ranked beside Nineveh & Babylon in its colossal proportions - its four walls, each 26 km long, enclosing an area of 663 sq. km - in the number of its inhabitants, & the splendour of its Buddhist shrines & public edifices.

The Stupas second only to great pyramids of Khufru & Khafra at Gizeh

The temples & monumental dagobas, amongst greatest architectural feats of its age, have been surpassed only in scale by the great pyramids of Khufru & Khafra at Gizeh. Jetavana Dagoba, Abayagiri Stupa & Ruwanweliseya Stupa.

Sri Maha Bodhi Temple

Crowning glory: Agricultural prosperity

Together with stupas, temples & monasteries of Buddhism, the crowning glory surfaced: irrigation. Colossal rainwater reservoirs were constructed by way of man power & at once the bulldozer & bulldog of the nation, elephant. With the concept of saving rainwater by means of reservoirs, the island became self-sufficient in rice, the staple diet of the Sinhalese. Almost all of these tanks have been restored & even to date provide the lifeline to farmers, the irrigation of the province.

Great man-made rainwater reservoirs

Sri Lanka Holidays Anuradhapura is of enormous irrigation and hydraulic achievements. Nuwara Wawe (7 km across) to the east, Tissa Wewa (spanning 65 hectares) & Baswakkulama Wewa to the west constructed to preserve the monsoon rains, supplemented with a system of sluices (valve-pit) (Bisokotuwa) were put in place to feed the thousands of smaller reservoirs that were built in the concept of "Ellangawa" (cascade of water) to keep the rice paddies productive. In the numerous minor irrigation networks, the systems provide water for irrigation, for domestic use & livestock, wildlife & recharge of groundwater while enhancing the village environment: multiple dimensions of the value of water.

Basawakkulama Wewa reservoir spreading an area of 205 acres today was built by King Pandukhabaya [437-367 BC]. In the ancient time this reservoir was called Abhayavava. Tissa weva reservoir built by King Devanpiya Tissa [307-267 BC] could had been a smaller tank in the beginning. However it is believed, in the fifth century Basawakkulama Wewa reservoir was enlarged to accommodate waters of vast Kalavava [Kala Weva] reservoir built by King Dathusena [461-479 AD], father of Sigiri Kassapa or Kashyapa [479-497 AD], the builder of Sri Lanka Holidays Sigiriya Lion Rock Citadel. Nuwara Wewe reservoir, which was called Nakaravavai in the ancient times, was built by King Gajabahu [113-135 AD].

The world's first hospitals for the animals as well as to the humans: the gentle sway of Buddhism

The gentle sway of Buddhism, the concept of tolerance & doctrine of compassion, led the Sinhalese to build the world's first hospitals. The respect of right to life of all living beings, inherent in Buddhism, was to become a cornerstone of the Aryan Sinhalese civilization.

The Roman connection

Agricultural prosperity brought in by ingenious irrigation engineering resulted in 1300 years of grandeur of the city of Anuradhapura, the mass of Roman coins found in excavations testifying to the city's fame that spread to Greece & Rome. The idea of Taprobane (Sri Lanka) as a utopia, which was to become commonplace among Roman writers, occurs first in Artemidorus of Ephesus (104-101 B.C) (as cited Pliny N. H. V11 2.30)

The Chinese Connection

By the 1st century AD, the island had established trade and diplomatic links with China. The Jetavana treasures, unearthed over the past 20 years (some are now displayed in the Jetavanarama Museum, on site) show evidence of these links to east and west.

The social fabric of the kingdom

Anuradhapura was home to thousands of Bhikkus (buddhist monks) served by a large peasant & merchant population. Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Fa-Hsien, who came in search of Buddhist text in Anurdhapura as Buddhism was already in decline in India, had recorded the splendor of the city. He narrated that there were two major segments, namely wealthy merchants of Indian, Mediterranean & Persian origin & Sinhalese nobles living in richly adorned houses & city dwellers who were engaged in agriculture. 

Marauding Dravidian invaders from South India

Yet the glory itself brought about the downfall of the great city. During more than a millennium of its history, countless South Indian invasions with a view to kill & plunder, laid waste to the land leading to its destruction. Marauding Dravidian forces of Rajaraja Chola of Southern India racked & ruined the great city in the 9th century AD. The Sinhalese capital then moved to Polonnaruwa. Although attempts were made to preserve its monuments following the overthrow and expulsion of the marauding Dravidians, Anuradhapura was never restored to its former glory since the kingdom was subsequently shifted to Polonnaruwa.

Survival of the fittest

As at Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura's secular buildings were built partly or entirely of wood, which has not survived the centuries, whereas the giant dagobas, made entirely of earth, brick and stone, still stand intact..

Sacred Sri Maha Bodhi tree

A sapling of the sacred Bo tree (Peepal) (Ficus religiosa) in the shelter of which Prince Siddhartha Gauthama attained supreme enlightenment & became Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka by Buddhist nun Sanagamitta, as a gift from her father, the Mauryan Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC. Today, the huge specimen of this Peepal has no rival to the claim of being the oldest recorded tree in the world. It has been guarded by an uninterrupted series of guardian monks since it was planted.

Southwest of the sacred bo-tree, on the shore of the Tissa Wewa tank, are several other interesting monuments.

Return to the sender (a sapling)

Though the original Bo tree at Bodh Gaya in India was destroyed, Sri Maha Bodhi in Lanka survived. Cuttings from Sri Maha Bodhi in Lanka have been grown all over the world. A cutting of the sacred tree was sent to India to transplant at Bodh Gaya, next to Mahabodhi Temple complex, which is now in fine fettle.

Loha Maha Prasada (Brazen Palace)

All we have today is ruins of a vast building, next to the sacred tree. Founded by the hero of the nation, King Dutugemunu (reigned 161-137BC), it was once home to a community of 1000 Buddhist monks, whose duties included, among numerous others, tending the sacred tree too.1600 pillars are all that remains of the nine story monastery, each floor with 100 rooms, surmounted by a bronze roof. The whole building was decorated with silver and gems.

Ruwanweliseya Stupa (Ruwan Weli Seya Dagoba)

Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum The first of five new museums planned for the Cultural Triangle, the Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum, between the Brazen Palace and the Ruwanweliseya Stupa (Ruwanweli Seya), contains a range of exhibits discovered on the site along with explanatory displays. Among these is a model of the Thuparama Vatadage and a relic chamber from Mihintale.

Thuparama Vatadage

This shrine, immediately to the north of the Ruwanweliseya Stupa (Ruwan Weli Seya), is the oldest in Sri Lanka and contains the collarbone relic of Buddha, a gift from the Indian Emperor Asoka of India to King Devanam Piya Tissa of Lanka, who converted his kingdom to Buddhism. Originally built in the 3rd century BC, it has been extensively rebuilt over the centuries & most recently in 1840. It is ringed by columns which originally supported a circular roof.

Royal Palace

200m north of the Thuparama Vatadage, on the opposite side of the road are the ruins of the Royal Palace date from the 12th century AD, when King Vijayabahu the first made a last attempt to restore Anuradhapura back to its former glory and prestige. South of it is the ruins of a temple which may have been the first to house the sacred Buddha's tooth relic which now resides at The Holy Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.

Jetavana Dagoba

Abayagiri Stupa

From China with love

South of the dagoba is the Abhayagiri Museum, a gift to Sri Lanka from China in honour of the 5th century Buddhist academic Fa Hien. The museum contains relics and archaeological finds illustrating the ancient connection between China and Sri Lanka. In AD 412 Fa Hien visited Anuradhapura and wrote an account of his travels.

Ratna Prasada (Gem Palace)

Northwest of the Abhayagiri Stupa are to be found the remnants of a 2nd century monastery palace of which only the mighty pillars, carved with naga (benevolent snake spirit) symbols remain.

Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds) located east of Abhayagiri Dagoba

Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds) at Anuradhapura built between the period of eight century and tenth century, among the surviving treasures of ancient landscape architecture of Sri Lanka, is the finest. It is believed that the twin ponds were built for the bathing purposes of Buddhist monks at Abhayagiri monastery at Anuradhapura. According to the published narration by the Chinese traveler Buddhist monk Fa Hien, there were 5000 monks in residence Abhayagiri monastery in the 5th century.

Conservation of these magnificent twin ponds, of which the ancient name hasn't been discovered, was carried out by Department of Archeology of Ceylon in the years 1949 & 1953. Dr. Senerath Paranavithana, the foremost archeologist of Sri Lanka, during the restoration of the Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds) had found small figures of fish, a conch, a crab and a dancing woman herein. Kuttam Pokuna or twin ponds have earned its recent name in view of its unique concept: the two ponds are constructed to form a single pond with two interconnected units aligned in north-south direction with a gap of 9 feet between them. The differences in architecture have revealed that the northern pond was constructed prior to construction of the pond to the south.

Both Ponds
Each unit are of same width in precise rectangles and they are built in perfect alignment within the rectangular boundary. The face, sides and bottom of both ponds were immaculately cut in granite slabs.

The northern pond [smaller pond: length-91 feet; width-51 feet]
Twenty stone cut steps embellished with a balustrade descends to the water level from the ground level.

Supply of water to both ponds are done at the northern pond from the same source and same channel: water from underground spring flows into an enclosure built above the water level of the ponds. Filtration of water from mud and dirt is done therein.

The enclosure controls and releases the water to the smaller pond through the mouth of makara (Sinhala: dragon) sculpted in stone which, has a five hooded cobra sculpture also cut in stone below it. The water to the southern pond [larger pond] is supplied by the small pond through a duct that runs below the ground level connecting the two ponds.

The southern pond [larger pond: length-132 feet; width-51 feet]
Eighteen stone cut steps in three stages, each stage embellished with a balustrade leads to the water level from the ground level.

The supply of water is made from the small pond through a duct that runs below the ground level connecting the two ponds.

The drain of water (of both ponds) is done at a small outlet at this pond

Samadhi Buddha Statue located southeast of the Abhayagiri Dagoba

Samadhi Buddha Statue, a serene image of a seated Buddha carved in granite that dates from the 4th century AD, is a masterpiece of ancient Sinhalese Buddhist sculpture found in Anuradhapura.

The rediscovery of Samadhi Buddha Statue
The Samadhi Buddha Statue was rediscovered, at the same location that it is now at Anuradhapura, in the year 1886: it was lying damaged on the ground with its nose sustaining a major damage. The hollow carved eye bore evidence those were formally inset with precious gems.

The restoration of Samadhi Buddha Statue
The statue was restored and re-erected. However the restoration of the damaged nose failed to do justice to its former beauty.

The artistic concept of Samadhi Buddha Statue
The statue in dhayana mudra [Sinhala: mode of trance] seated in virasna [Sanskrit: Hero Pose] is sculpted of dolomite marble. The archeological excavations done at the site revealed, the 7 feet 3 inches tall fourth century statue was the northern image of the four Buddha statues set in cardinal directions surrounding a Bodhi (peepal) tree that was once growing therein at Anuradhapura.

Loha Maha Prasada (Brazen Palace)

All we have today are ruins of a vast building, next to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi: 1600 stone cut pillars are all that remains of the nine story monastery. During the glorious days of Anuradhpura each floor of brazen palace consisted of 100 rooms and the building was surmounted by a bronze roof. The whole building was decorated with silver and gems. Founded by the hero of the nation, King Dutugemunu (reigned 161-137BC), it was once home to a community of 1000 Buddhist monks, whose duties included, among numerous others, tending the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi at Anuradhapura.

Loha Maha Parsada also called Lohamahapaya or Lohapasada or Brazen Palace was built on the same location where Uposathaghara (Sinhala: chapter house) called Mahamucla malake built by King Devanampiya Tissa [307-267 BC] and consecrated by Arhath Mahinda for the Buddhist monks at Mahavihara Monastery.

The great chronicle of Sri Lanka, Mahavamsa has left a vivid narration of the Lovamahapaya: "The four-faced mansion measured a hundred cubits on each side and in height too, it was as much. In this best of palaces, there were nine storeys and on each storey a hundred gables. All gables were inlaid with silver. Their coral railing was decked in different gems and surrounded by rows of little silver bells and their little lotuses were adorned with various gems"
Page 580, The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, Mahavamsa, Chapters one to thirty seven

An annotated new translation with prolegomena by Dr. Ananada W. P. Guruge [ISBN 955-20-8963-8]

Lankaramaya Stupa

Lankaramaya stupa located south-west of the Abhayagiriya Dagoba at Anuradhapura was built by King Valagambahu [Vattagamini Abhaya] [103 BC & 89-76 BC], the builder of Sri Lanka Holidays Golden Dambulla Rock Cave Temple at Dambulla. Though some historians claim the Lankaramaya stupa was named Manisosmarama as it was built in honor of the heroic consort Somadevi, who voluntarily dismounted from the chariot fleeing from the marauding Dravidian invaders to lighten the load: it was carrying the king, his two consorts [Somadevi and Anuladevi] and his son. Following fourteen years of refuge, recovery and reinforcement, the lion-heated king regained the kingdom of Lanka.

The diameter of the renovated dagoba measures 38 feet. The circular terrace on which the stupa was built measures 132 feet. Four flights of steps, each with a width of 12 feet, oriented in cardinal directions, lead to the terrace, which itself is 10 feet above the ground level. During the glorious era of Anuradhapua, Lankaramaya stupa had a roof supported by 88 stone cut columns in the cetiyaghara (vatadage) architectural design at Polonnaruwa vatadage at Sri Lanka Holidays Polonnaruwa and Medirigirya vatadage and Thuparama stupa. Today only a few of the columns remain surrounding the stupa.

Mirisavatiya Dagaba

Royal Pleasure Gardens Also known as the Park of the Goldfish, these gardens testify to the skill of the architects and landscape gardeners of King Dutugemunu's reign. Covering approximately 14 ha (35 acres), they are built around ponds and rocks, with views over the Tissa Wewa tank, and were intended as a tranquil retreat from affairs of state. Some of that tranquility survives.

Vijitapura Raja Maha Viharaya (Royal Temple at City of Victory)

Vijitapura Raja Maha Viharaya is located close to great Kalawewa reservoir in the field where the hero of the nation, King Dutugamunu (161-131 BC), following a series of battles in numerous Dravidian strongholds through long 30 years, finally defeated Elara of Marauding Dravidian invaders & rescued the nation & faith. The victorious king allowed the defeated Dravidians to live in northern peninsula to where they fled: live & let live ideology of the Aryan Sinhalese. The gentle sway of Buddhism with its concept of right to life of all beings saved the marauding southern Indian Dravidians from being pushed into the Indian Ocean.

Kadu Ge Gala

Kade Ge gala in the courtyard of Vijitapura Raja Maha Viharaya is the stone at which the thousands of swords of King Dutugamunu's army were sharpened during the great battle at Vijitapura.

Isurumuniya Rock Temple

This rock temple, nicely built into the crevices between great smooth basalt boulders, is one of Anuradhapura's hidden secrets. It is well known for its sensual sculptures of embracing couples, indicating a culture which, while devout, was clearly not prudish. Dating from the 3rd century BC, it stands beside ponds above which the rock face has been carved with cheerful looking elephants at play.

>Love conquers all, even the throne & kingdom

More stone carvings are on display at a small museum within the temple. Among the displays is a slab that shows two lovers seated side by side, Saliya (the only son of the hero of the nation, King Dutugemunu) and his wife Asokamala. Saliya met Asokamala walking in the Pleasure Gardens, fell in love head over heels and married her. As she was not of royal blood, he was obliged to forfeit his claim to the throne.

Golden Dambulla Rock Temple (Rangiri Dambulu Temple) Sri Lanka

King Valagambahu (104-76 BC)

Recent archeological discoveries have confirmed that Golden Dambulla Rock Temple caves had been a location of human habitation even during pre-historic period of Lanka. The legends would carry us back to the period of King Devanampiya Tissa (307- 267 BC). The history of the ancient island records that in 89 BC caves were converted to a Buddhist monasteries by King Valagambahu, nephew of the hero of the nation, King Duttha Gamini. King Valgambahu was driven from his throne by marauding Dravidian invaders from South India during the 1st century BC. The king found sanctuary therein for long 14 years & upon regaining his kingdom, following great battles against the marauding Dravidian Invaders from Southern India, had the famous rock temple built in gratitude along with great Abhayagiri dagoba at Anuradhapura. It was a common practice of the Buddhist monks to retire into solitary sanctuaries away from human habitation to immerse in study & meditation. The natural caves were used as the residence of the monks. Golden Dambulla Rock Temple is one of most famous & most adored ancient Buddhist sanctuaries of Sri Lanka.

Further embellishments

The cave temples were restored & re-decorated by later kings of the Polonnaruwa. King Nissankamalla (1198-1206AD) left his mark by having the statues restored & murals repainted. The gilding of interior of the caves & statues with gold paint earned the title "Rangiri" meaning Golden Rock in Sinhalese. Even to date the gold sheen all over the ceilings, walls & statues illuminate the interior of the rock temple. Once again during the era of the kingdom of Kandy, King Senarat (1604-1633 AD) & then again King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1746-1778 AD) restored & remodeled the Golden Dambulla Rock Temple.

150 serene statues of Buddhist Order

Within these caves, one of the best preserved ancient edifices in Sri Lanka, is housed a collection of 150 serene statues of Buddhist Order & the island's history.

The first cave named "Devaraja Viharaya" houses a 14m long Buddha statue depicting the final extinction. It was carved out of sold rock. By the head of Buddha are Ananda, Buddhas shadowlike disciple, God Vishnu & God Maha Sumana Saman. The cave was named Devaraja meaning the Lord of Gods in honor of god Vishnu.

The second & the largest cave, "Maharaja Vihara", meaning "The Temple of Great Kings" in Sinhalese was named after King Valagambahu & King Nissankamalla whose statues are contained there among 16 standing & 40 seated statues of Buddha. Also on display are the statues of Hindu god Vishnu &

God Maha Sumana Saman

. Throughout the entire span of rock ceiling & entire width of the rock walls are the finest Buddhist murals in Sri Lanka. Also painted are the epochal events of the glorious history of Sri Lanka. The duel between the hero of the nation, King Dutugamunu & marauding Dravidian invader Elara is graphically depicted herein with paramount importance. The Buddha statue hewn out of the rock on the left side of the room is flanked by wooden figures of the Bodhisattvas, Maitreya to the left & Avalokiteshvara or Natha to the right. There is also a mini dagoba & a spring which drips its water from a crack in the ceiling, into a huge metal pot which never overflows. Most possibly excess water is being controlled by an underground channel below the rock floor on which the pot is fixed. Or it could simply be, that the water evaporates at such a rapid rate in the dry zone, there is no chance of overflow at all. Perhaps it cannot be explained.

The third cave, the Maha Alut Vihara is of paintings on ceiling & walls in Kandyan tradition commissioned during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha, the famous Buddhist revivalist. In addition to 50 Buddha statues, there is also a statue of a king. The fourth & fifth caves are smaller & inferior to the other caves.

Dambulla district

Historically, Dambulla has been a refuge, a monastery and an agricultural district. Geographically Dambulla is the center of the island. Culturally, Dambulla while being the home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ran Giri Dambulu (Sinhala: golden rock cave Dambulla) Buddhist temple, is also located in the close proximity of Sri Lanka Holidays Sigriya Lion Rock Citadel, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today Dambulla is a Sri Lanka Holidays cultural attraction, an agricultural district and a transportation hub of the island.

Until the end of the Second World War, Dambulla district had been mostly overtaken by the Evergreen Monsoon Dry Forest which spread over the great north central plains of Sri Lanka. Following the independence of Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, from the British colonialist in the year 1948, the wooded jungle, which had been an undeclared sanctuary to herds of wild elephants was mostly cleared for the cultivation of rice. Since then, the paddy fields have been irrigated by the ancient irrigation reservoir called Kandalama wewa, one of the most scenic man-made lakes of Sri Lanka.

The most prominent man-made constructions on the banks of Kandalama lake are eco-oriented green hotel of Kandalama Heritance (rooms: 152; area: 230 acre Kandalama estate) designed by Geoffrey Bawa and Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium: (seating capacity: 30,000)

Dambulla Arboretum

Dambulla Arboretum (area: 7.5 acres; year 1963) located in Dambulla is a living museum of Sri Lanka trees. Dambulla Arboretum was developed by F. H. (Sam) Popham, a former tea planter of Ceylon, resident and self-styled Hermit of Dambulla, following his retirement from the Smithsonian Ceylon Flora project. Dambulla Arboretum had been Sri Lankas only dry-zone (rainfall: 1270-1900 mm) arboretum until the development of Mirijjawila Dry-zone botanical gardens (area:300 acres; year: 2010) in Hambantota district (arid: rainfall 890-1270 mm).

Three wet-zone (rainfall:1900-4000 mm) botanical gardens of Sri Lanka, namely Peradeniya Botanical Gardens at Kandy, Hakgala Botanical Gardens at Nuwara Eliya and Senarathgoda Botanical Gardens (area: ; year: 1876) at Gampaha are enriched with floras different from those of Dambulla and Mirijjawila.

F. Raymond Foseberg (Botanist Emeritus, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Insitution, Washington, U.S.A encapsulated the effort of Sam Popham: this has been a strictly one-man effort, motivated only by love of trees. It could serve as an example worthy of emulation practically everywhere except in the Arctic, Antarctic, and extreme deserts of our Earth.

With its sheer diversity of trees, Dambulla Arboretum is a valuable reserve of Sri Lanka and in a broader scale, the world at large. Dambulla Arboretum is based on the concept of preserving the details of the habitat in contrast to the regular biodiversity concept of grand strategies in ensuring of the diversity of such essential areas maintained in millenniums to come.

Quote F. H. (Sam) Popham "...But you can't eat trees," said the young Belgiun, so I walked him out of the woodland shade into the strong sunlight of the adjacent grassland, and went on talking until his companions pleaded to return to the shelter of trees. Unquote F. H. (Sam) Popham, Dambulla, July 1992.

Sigiriya (The Lion Rock Citadel), Sri Lanka The Royal Citadel of King Kasyapa (479-496 AD) (A world heritage Sit

Must Visit
Sigiriya Lion Rock citadel, also called Simha-giri (Sinhala: Lion Mountain) built by King Kasyapa (Kassapa) (479-497 A.D), grand nephew of Buddhist scholar monk illustrious Thera Mahanama, the first of the authors of Mahawamsa the great historical chronicle of Sri Lanka, is a fortified-walled and moated-royal city with living manifestations of glorious Sinhalese civilization: it's a unique combination of 5th century urban planning, architecture, engineering, hydraulic engineering, garden landscape designing, sculpture, art, painting and poetry. Sigiriya,a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is of immense archeological significance: it is one of the best preserved and most elaborate surviving urban sites in the South Asia from the first millennium A.D.
The grand monuments of Sri Lanka such as great Buddhist monasteries, temples, stupas and statues were intended to serve as religious edifices. During the annals of history of Sri Lanka, these great monuments helped survive and revive the Sinhalese Buddhist Civilization threatened by the marauding Dravidian invaders from Southern India since ancient to medieval era and then again by the maritime powers of Portuguese, Dutch and the British who bent on ripping the island nation of its treasures during the colonial era.
Sigiriya is of a sharply contrasting concept: it was a well planned royal city meant for a flamboyant king and his court with a palace complex centered around a solitary rock, an inselberg rising 200 m sheer out of the surrounding plains adorned with pleasant and vibrant green tropical vegetation. The great city of Sigiriya , though not of the glorious scale as the ancient capital of Anuardhapura or medieval capital of Polonnaruwa, still is a masterpiece of a citadel of a king with a heightened aesthetic disposition: it is treasure trove of art; a showcase of symbol of power; a shot at the symbolic reconstruction of Alakamanda, the mythical abode of God king Kuvera, the god of wealth.
The overall plan of Sigiriya reveals the master builder, King Kasyapa's love of nature. Such was his refined sensibilities, the king while designing the various components of the complex-parks, ponds, pavilions and pathways-let the natural profile of the land determine the positioning of the man-made structures. King Kassapa, in the fullest meanings of the words, was a nature lover-eco builder and art lover.
Today Sigiriya is recognized not only for the ruins of palace on the summit, a stepped plateau with a total extent of 1.5 hectares but also for the extensive assemblage of buildings, gardens, ponds, pathways, ramparts and moats set in a square module 2750 meters from east to west and 925 meters from north to south. Immediately to the east of the rock at Sigiriya is the Sigiriya man-made rainwater reservoir which not only irrigates the agricultural district but also feed the pools, ponds and fountains of Sigiriya by means of an underground network of conduits. King Kashyapa was the eldest son of righteous and heroic King Dathusena (461-479 A.D.) who reigned in Anuradhapura in great splendour and built Kalawewa, the 3rd largest man-made Rainwater reservoir of the island. The dam is 3 1/2 miles long, & 36 to 58 feet high with as spill of hammered granite, one of the canals, Jaya Ganga (also called Yoda Ela) feed out of the reservoir maintain a subtle gradient of 6 inches to the mile for first 17 miles of 90 miles.
The Lion Rock Citadel Sigiriya stands high above the surrounding plain, visible for miles in all directions. The rock rests on as steep mound that rises abruptly from the flat plain surrounding it. The rock itself rises 200m & is sheer on all sides, in many places overhanging the base. It is elliptical in horizontal plain with its flat summit spreading an area of 1.5 hectares taking a gradual slop along the long axis of the ellipse. The site is at once a palace & fortress. A vast spectrum of intact monuments remains to provide the visitor with a stunning insight into the ingenuity & creativity of its builders of ancient Sri Lanka.

"The rock, then, was the sign of a sacred mountain: it was Meru itself, the Cosmic Mountain at the center of the world, where the symbolic planes of heaven & earth intersect, & Appearance for the single endless moments disappears into Reality. Progress through the complex constituted a true initiatory passage extending from western end of the pleasure gardens up to the palace on the summit" John Lindsay Opie, Island Ceylon (1970)

Asia's oldest surviving landscape garden
We park the vehicles half a kilometer away from the Asia's oldest surviving landscape garden of a city fortress & walk in an arrow like straight wide path towards a monolithic crag over the ramparts of the lower citadel. The site compares with, albeit smaller in scale, no less in grandeur, to other Asian wonders, Angkor Wat of 12th century AD (the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture) (1 million visitors a year today) in Cambodia, ruins of the Gandharan city of Takshila (also Takkasila or Taxila, Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning (6th century BC - 5th century AD) in Pakistan & the forbidden city of Beijing (15th century AD). The Lion Rock Citadel Sigiriya is one of the best-preserved sites where the layout of the building & gardens is still clearly evident. Outer moat, inner moat, water garden, fountain garden, boulder gardens, terrace gardens & then to the foot of the slope. Stone stairways climb the steep slope at the base of the rock, winding through the remains of the lower parts of the palace, reaching a terrace that traverses along the lower edge of the vertical face of the rock.

Complex rampart system
Sigiriya has a very complex rampart system. The city was walled & moated. Besides the inner & outer cities within the ramparts, there is evidence of suburban dwellings immediately outside the walled area. The complex is three kilometers from East to West & one kilometer from North to South. The gardens of Sigiriya present a consummate combination of natural flora & imaginative landscaping.

Grand urban planning
With brilliant combination of geometric square module & natural topography, it speaks of grand urban planning. The architects & engineers at the time took care to assimilate nature into the constructions & never to deny it. Existing lakes, rocks & hills were cleverly woven into the general plan: a combination of human mind & natural world. The grand urban planning of the city, among other things, is a wonderful manifestation of ancient Sinhalese concepts of Ecology & United Biology as well.

On the terrace
On the terrace are Audience hall, Cobra Hood cave, caves & hollows, where early Buddhist monks lived, studied doctrine & meditated. Here we are at the Lion gate. We stroll into the mouth & through the lion's throat to the iron stairways, begin the main climb. Only the lion's massive paws remain today, but they indicate how gigantic the rest of the carving, the head with open mouth, which served as the one & only entrance to the royal palace, must have been. The massive structure gave the rock its name, Sigiriya , meaning Lion Rock. So we continue climbing an iron staircase built by the British colonialists of Ceylon, a modern replacement for the original brick stairway that had vanished along with the head of the lion.

Lissome women of matchless grace: celestial nymphs
More than 100 meters above the ground level in a natural pocket of the rock, which has been protected for 14 centuries from rain by an overhang, we enjoy the sight of bare breasted apsaras (celestial nymphs), or if you opt be rather irreverent, you may even call them topless babes, that sexcite the mind but alas, only 22 exist today since hundreds had been raped by ravages of time, weather & tragically by vandalism too. The Lion Rock Citadel Sigiriya frescoes are the only tapestry of secular art to have survived from the early Sinhalese kingdoms. Nobody knows who painted these amazing frescoes. But the artistic value & the beauty testify to a civilization of a nation of great sophistication & refinement. The Sigiriya frescoes are said be of same artistic tradition as of Ajanta frescoes at Ajanta caves in Aurangabad district, state of Maharashtra in India.

Oldest known graffiti in the planet
A rock wall, once had such a sheen to have it named "Mirror Wall". The Mirror Wall, close by on the opposite side of the frescoes, preserves hundreds of oldest known graffiti in the planet inspired by the great beauty of the celestial nymphs dating as early as 6th century & till 14th century providing linguists with vital insight into the evolution of the written & oral Sinhalese language. 700 poems therein are deciphered by illustrious Dr. Senarath Paranavitarana. The poems, which express the thoughts & emotions of ancient visitors to Sigiriya , provide not only revealing comments on the paintings themselves but also an insight into the in-born & cultivated sensibilities of the time & its appreciation of art & beauty.

To the summit
We climb around, across & up the cliff face, along the narrow steel staircase, which is simply bolted onto the sheer rock & supported by railings to the open. Oh! yes, ascent of the rock is a stiff climb with wind cutting in & making you bit vulnerable to a slip up of feet at the climb. Hold the rail tight; foothold is fine, easy now. My pre-teen & teenage nieces too climbed supported by us right behind them.

The summit of The Lion Rock Citadel Sigiriya , the stepped plateau with a total extent of no less than 1.5 hectares cradled the palace of King Kashyapa (479-496 AD). Today we have only the ruins of the summit palace. A rock-cut throne & a couple of swimming pool-like large stone tanks cut out of the rock, used for bathing still brim with clean water. Since you are now sweating all over, would you dare a dive & swim? How deep is water? Water had been pumped from the ground level to the top of the rock. How did they pump water up to such height? At a sharp bend, a stream of rushing water with its impact would find the way uphill around the corner. But the technology used by the ancient engineers to pump water to such a height is still unknown. Recent excavations found the ruins of a steel plant (built circa 300 BC) in the east of Sigirya at Aligala caves (evidence of one of the earliest days of iron production in the world, carbon dating has determined it as 9th century) manned solely by wind power. It is believed that water was channeled to the summit of Sigiriya by means of an ingenious hydraulic system powered by windmills. Oh! Wind, yes when I was six years old my father, who was carrying me up in his alms, since I was running fever, had a tough climb with the wind threatening to blow us off. That was during one of my maternal grand father's yearly pilgrimages. My flamboyant maternal grandfather, a philanthropist & an Ayurvedic physician Prangige Silmon Peter Peiris Gunaratne of Lakshapatiya, Moratuwa seemed to have a soft corner for the king who was flamboyant to the death. King Kashyapa descended from his impregnable stronghold to the level field to face his half brother in battle. When his army retreated in a bizarre confusion, the king drew his dagger, (No, No, brother cried Prince Mugalan) slashed his own throat, raised the blade high in the air & sheathed it again before falling down dead off the elephant. Sigirya's halcyon days ended with King Kasyapa's death. But the grandeur of the astonishing citadel enlivens us with knowledge of ancient city development, technology, art, irrigation & hydrology. Helicopters fly far away but the sound of rotor blades & engines seems so close. The effects of the height sweep you off the feet.

At this vantage point & height, you can see the beautiful milky white huge rising dome of Mihintale Chaitya, the Buddhist shrine built by King Devanam Piyatissa (contemporary of Emperor Asoka of India). That is at the summit of rock mountain, Mihintale, the sanctuary.  
Sigiriya wasn't a fortress of a fugitive, it was a palace of a god king
According to Senarat Paranavitana, King Kasyapa wasn't a fugitive. It was his rival, Prince Moggalana had fled to India for his own safety, having received no support from his countryman against King Kasyapa. King Kasyapa's reign lasted18 years, eleven of those years were at the sigiriya. This leads to the conclusion that it had taken seven years to build the Sigiriya Citadel. It wouldn't stand to logic that a fugitive would spent seven years building a fortress to defend himself from the enemies. In any event, when prince Moggalana returned, King Kasyapa descended from his fortress in the sky to the level ground to give and take battle.
Writes Senerat Paranavitana Moreover: ‘The Lion Staircase-House, which is the key to the palace on the summit of Sigiriya, is accessible over the natural, though fairly steep, ground immediately below it, and the long, narrow and tortuous gallery which led to its was a wholly unnecessary means of approach unless it possessed some symbolic significance; as a means of defence it was quite useless.'
Sigiriya Hinterland
The archeology of Sigiriya in not confined to the ruins of the palace on the rock, gardens and the city. Recent archeological explorations have revealed that the extent of sites of great archeological value spread over the Sigiriya hinterland that was known in ancient times as the ‘Sihagiri Bim", the territory of Sigiriya. The archeological finds unearth a plethora of rural settlements, village agricultural and bathing reservoirs, protohistoric cemeteries, major iron-producing centers and an array of Buddhist monasteries.
The immediate greater Sigiriya area assimilates suburban settlements outside the city walls and along the Sigiriya Oya seasonal river. A major irrigation network to the south of the Sigiriya Rock is formed by the Sigiriya Mahawewa, a great man-made irrigation reservoir more than eight kilometers in length, and the twelve-kilometer long Vavala irrigation canal network.
Immediately to the north and south of the city is the ancient fortress of Mapalagama, with its ‘Cycopean' walls, dating from the first to the third centuries A.D., and Buddhist monasteries of Pidurangala and Ramkale.
As in almost all the ancient cities of Sri Lanka Holidays, Sigiriya too had Buddhist monasteries forming an integral part of the urban site: Pidurangala to the north and Ramakale to the south. Pidurangala Buddhist monastery has revealed evidence of prehistoric occupation. Returning to the recorded history of Sri Lanka, it must be outlined that Pidurangala, like Sigiriya, dates back to the earliest phase of the Early Historical period when it was a rock cave monastery. The rock carved inscriptions upon the drip-ledges of 4 of the cave entrances of 14 shelters reveal that Pidurangala was a Buddhist rock cave monastery since 3rd century BC.