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Lankathilaka Viharaya

- splendour of the Gampola era :
 

I turned off the main Kandy road, right at the Pilimatalawa junction and travelled another four kilometres along the Daulagala road via Gadaladeniya, before reaching the temple I caught glimpse of, atop a huge rock surrounded by lush greenery.

The majestic Lankathilake Vihare, believed to be one of the most magnificent architectural edifice in the Gampola kingdom, was built at the crest of a large rock named Panhalgala overlooking the Hantane mountain range in the Hiripitiya hamlet in Udunuwara.

The history of the temple dates back to the 14th century, and a pre-colonial Lanka where several strong kingdoms ruled the land. At a time when the capital of the Sinhalese kingdom was Kurunegala, that era drew to a close when the Sinhalese kings decided on setting up the new kingdom at Gampola, a safe stronghold on the bank of the Mahaweli river.

King Buwanekabahu IV who reigned from 1341 to 1351 A. D. chose Gampola as his kingdom and constructed this Viharaya with the help of a South Indian architect Sthapati Rayar. Following Buwanekabahu IV, five consecutive kings chose Gampola as their kingdom. Though the kings of Gampola were not powerful warriors, they had a high calibre for art and culture and have made significant contributions to art.

Among the monuments seen as notable exceptions in existence today are the Gadaladeniya temple, the Embekke devale and especially the Lankathilaka Vihare which distinguish themselves. Of these, the Lankathilaka Vihare stands supreme in its majesty of structure and design.

In front of the main entrance of the temple stands the preaching hall thatched with flat roof tiles, as opposed to the ordinary half round tiles, used to cover the central part of the roof and to create beautiful patterns.

The main Vihare has been built using granite with a plaster covering, has three storeys built on natural rock. Elegant architectural design and wall paintings rich in colours of the Kandyan period, adorn the inside walls and the ceiling of the main image house.

The two large lion paintings and two figures of guards facing each other decorate the two walls of the short corridor to the image house. Inside the image house is a magnificent glory - a twelve-foot high Buddha image under a beautiful Makara Thorana.

The image house is enriched with five devales devoted to four deities with separate entrances.

mahil@sundayobserver.lk

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Produced by Lake House Copyright 2007 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

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