architecture, history and travel of Sri Lanka
The 14th Century Temple that once was Four storied, built on an uneven Rock Bed
Travelling to Lankatilaka Temple
Located at Udunuwara Hiyarapitiya village of Kandy is the famous temple of Lankatilaka. The huge rock where the temple was built is called as Panhangala Rock. Being one of the three famous ancient temples near Peradeniya, one can reach the Lankatilaka Viharaya along Kandy -Colombo Main road and turning to left from Pilimatalawa [near 104 km post] along the Daulagala road leading to Hiyarapitiya village. It is about four kilometers from this turn off.
Lankatilaka Temple History
The Lankatilaka temple history runs back to the Gampola Kingdom era. King Buwanekabahu IV has built this temple in 1344 AD. The King's Chief Ministers Senalankadhikara was entrusted to carryout the construction work of this temple. The South Indian architect Sthapati Rayar has designed this with a blend of Sinhalese architecture of Polonnaruwa period and of Dravidian and Indo Chinese style is the opinion of late Professor Paranavitana. Considered to be a Gedige type of Polonnaruwa architecture, this temple which was of four stories earlier is constructed on the uneven surface of the rock with a granite based foundation. The plan of the temple protrudes to the four sides like of a cross. What is seen today is the Ground Floor and part of the First Floor of the earlier temple though the temple seems to have three stories. This temple is an example for the Buddha and God worship prevailed during Gampola era. Gods Vishnu, Saman , Vibhishana, Ganapathi , Skandhakumara and Kumara Bandara had been worshipped here.
Sanghavasa at the Rock bottom
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The Lankatilaka temple can be approached from two directions. Here it is through the Sanghawasa which is situated at the bottom of the rock. There are Rice storage bins called 'Atuwa' at the Vihara premises. The Steps leading up to the temple starts from here.
Ascend along the rock cut steps
There is an approach from the Western direction of the temple which also is frequented by the visitors to the Lankatilaka temple.
There are two separate flights of steps cut into the living rock of Panhangala. One runs back to the time of the Gampola Kingdom of the 14th century and the other was constructed in around AD 1913. A beautiful view of the surrounding landscape could be seen from the stone stairway.
Stone Doorway and temple premises
Coming to the Temple premises through the remaining Stone Doorway arch, brings one to a rectangular building through which the approach to the temple premises can be approached.
Bo Tree, Vihara Ge and Buddha Siripatula
On the vihara premises is the Temple Building, the Dagoba or the Chetiya and the Bo tree. A Buddha Siripatula or the large stone image of the Lord Buddha's footprint can be seen near the Bodhigharaya.
Temples for Gods
Lankatilaka Temple also has dedicated sections for Gods Vishnu, Saman , Vibhishana, Ganapathi , Skandhakumara and Kumara Bandara. God Kumara Bandara considers to be the god whom the temple was entrusted to.The Western side approach to the temple leads in to the Vishnu temple of the main viharaya. The influence of the God worship along with the Buddha had been prevailed during the era of the Gampola and Kandyan kingdom.
Stupa at Lankatilaka Temple
.............. ........... ............. ...........The Stupa of the temple is built near to the main temple structure on the rock surface.
Lankatilaka Rock Inscription
The rock inscriptions found in the temple is cut into the solid rock covering a large area. Both Sinhala and Tamil inscriptioned sections could be found here describing the facilities provided to the Temple and land gifted by the kings.
Lankatilaka temple Architecture
The vihara is entirely located on the rock surface and according to the Lankatilaka Copper plaque, the temple was built as a four storied building reaching a height of eighty feet. The stone foundation was built on to the uneven rock surface and brick was made used to build the structure on that. The thick outer walls are well designed with arches and sculptures which makes the Lankatilaka temple a unique architectural features of the fourteenth century design concepts which includes Gandharva and Gaja Lakshmi arts also.
Entering the Buddha Image House
Approach to the Buddha Image house is from the vihara facing the Eastern side which is the approach from the flight of stone steps. There is a Moonstone or a Sandakadapahana at the steps leading into the temple. Two Balustrades or Korawakgalas of Gajasinha design is flanked by the sides of the steps leading to arched doorway. The outer Dragon arch or the Makara Torana has unique features making it very special. Inside the arched doorway, paintings of two Lion figures can be seen.The Guardian figures found here has the Tivanka characteristics.
Inside of the Buddha Image House
Inside the image house is a Seated Buddha statue with a Makara Torana above the image. The concept of Bodhi is depicted here by the arrangement of tree and flower design. The paintings from Suvisi Vivarana or the lives of the twenty four previous Buddha's are painted in the surrounding walls of the image house.
The Western Entrance to the Temple
Anuradha Seneviratna - " Kandy"
Lankatilaka Temple Brochure- " Sri Lankatilaka Raja Maha Vihara Itihasaya" - Sinhala edition