Lankatilaka Vihara - History and Facts | History Hit

Lankatilaka Vihara

26th Mile Post, North Central Province, Sri Lanka

The Lankatilaka Vihara is a twelfth century sacred shrine in Polonnaruwa which houses a giant medieval Buddha statue.

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About Lankatilaka Vihara

Lankatilaka Vihara is an ancient and sacred Buddhist temple known as a ‘gedige’ in the medieval city of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. One impressive sculpture of Buddha remains in the ruins of Lankatilaka, albeit without its head.

The Lankatilaka Vihara is believed to have been built during the reign of Parakramabahu (1153-1186) and to have been restored by Vijayabahu IV (1513-21).

History of Lankatilaka Vihara

The temple is in the Hiyarapitiya village, from the Udu Nuwara area of Kandy district in Sri Lanka. It It is wisely considered to be the most magnificent architectural building created during the Gampola era.

The history of the temple dates back to the 14th century. Historical reports state that the Gampola King Bhuvanekabahu IV, who reigned from 1341 to 1351 AD, built the temple.

The architect, Sathapati Rayar, designed the temple using Sinhalese architecture of the Polonnaruwa era and also with other Dravidian (Indian) and Indo-Chinese architectural patterns.

The temple is located on a natural rock on a granite-based foundation. It possesses outstanding architectural features, and is embellished with traditional Sinhalese sculptures. Originally, the temple would have been four stories and 80ft high, but today only three stories remain.

Beautiful arches and sculptures enhance the thick outer walls, with many inscriptions in both Sinhala and Tamil cut into the solid rock describing the facilities provided to the temple and the land gifted by kings who ruled then.

Lankatilaka Vihara Today

Today, visitors to Lankatilaka Vihara enjoy the stunning architecture and craftmanship that have shaped the famous rich colours and artworks that make up the site. A Moonstone or ‘Sandakadapahana’ lies at the entrance flanked by two Korawakgalas (balustrades) bearing the Gajasinha design.

Through the arched doorway are two paintings of lions which have become some of the most recognisable and unique features of Lankatilaka Vihara.

The most striking artwork is the statue of the Seated Buddha, which is sheltered by a Dragon Arch and takes pride of place within the temple interior. Surrounding the statue are designs of trees and flowers, and the walls are adorned with paintings that depict the lives of the twenty-four previous Buddhas.

Getting to Lankatilaka Vihara

From Colombo, the temple is reachable in around 3 hours 20 minutes by car, along the Colombo-Kandy road. From there, you turn off at Pilimatalawa. A short distance of around 4km is all it takes to reach Lankatilaka, which stands tall at the crest of the Panhalgala Rock.

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