Kiri Vihara - History and Facts | History Hit

Kiri Vihara

26th Mile Post, North Central Province, Sri Lanka

The Kiri Vihara is a twelfth century dagoba in Polonnaruwa.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Kiri Vihara

Kiri Vihara is a dagoba in the medieval UNESCO-listed city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka. A dagoba is a mound that holds in the relics of a sacred person and it is believed that the Kiri Vihara was dedicated to Subhadra, the queen of King Parakramabahu (1153-1186).

Like other dagobas, Kiri Vihara is a domed structure, which would have been a stark white colour (in fact, its current name means “milk white shrine”).

Kiri Vihara history

The ancient city of Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993.

It was constructed during the 11th Century AD and as per the name of the stupa, the whitewashed plaster still remains in a few places although much of it is still composed of bare stone. In its design, Kiri Vihara is quite simple, with no incredibly exuberant details in any of the background features.

During this era most of the vatadage and other protective buildings were built around the very smallest stupas, with more emphasis going towards the protective structure rather than towards the brick centrepiece, much less grand than the colossi of Anuradhapura or even the other great stupas of their own time.

In the shadow of the large stupa is a selection of small vahalkada, an architectural feature peculiar to Sri Lanka.Vahalkadas are small decorative platforms of varying shape and size that were probably altars for offerings of flowers and incense.

Construction of the dagoba Kiri Vihara is credited to Subhadra, King Parakramabahu I’s queen. The Kiri Vihara was originally known as the Rupavati Chetiya.

The present name means ‘milk white’ due to the fact that when the overgrown jungle was cleared away after 700 years of neglect, the original lime plaster was in near perfect condition.  The stupa is also a part of the archaeological site called Alahana Pirivena.

Kiri Vihara today

It is still the best-preserved unrestored dagoba at Polonnaruwa. Considered to be the second biggest stupa in Polonnaruwa today, this stupa is the only stupa to survive 900 years of forces of nature and still remain in its original condition.

Getting to Kiri Vihara

Polonnaruwa lies north of the Lankathilake Pilima Gee. To get to Polonnaruwa from major cities such as Colombo, you can travel by bus, train or taxi or ride hailing services such as uber. Polonnaruwa is 216km away from Colombo, (a 6 hour bus) and 104km from Anuradhapura, (a 3 hour bus). It is simple to travel by tuk tuk within the city.