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 Post subject: Medirigiriya Temple
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 13, 2005 12:08 am 

Medirigiriya Temple

Medirigiriya is famous for its 7th century Vatadage Temple atop a low rocky point. There are 3 concentric rows of pillars, making a total of 68, surrounding 4 large seated Buddha’s facing the four directions.

Photo ©Juergen Schreiber

An ancient name Mandala Mountain Monastery (Mandalagiri Vihara) 14 miles from Minneria. It is not known who first established it but earilest reference is in the Mahavamsa where it says Kanittha Tissa (166-184) built an uposatha house there. The Malayaraja built the dome over the stupa there during the reign of Aggabodhi that is the shrine we see today. In the 9th century a hospital was built there. The place was restored by Vijayabahu I. In the dispute between Parakramabahu and Gajabahu II it is said that Gajabahu came to Medirigiriya and carved the agreement on a rock. The inscription has not been found but a copy is known.

Nissankamalla came to Medrigiriya on one of his pilgrimages or tours of inspection through his realm. The stupa is built on a huge exposed rock. And was built some 800 years before the thing that later enclosed it. Facing the four cardinal directions are four beautiflul Buddhas on pedestals. Only the one on the east is intact.


The stupa is surrounded by three concentric circles of pillars. Between the second and third row of pillars was the outer wall of which little remains. The pillars supported a domed roof above the stupa. The circular terrace on which the stupa sits is 91feet in diameter and is held up by a huge retaining wall. Entrance to the stupa is from the northern side where a terrace and flight of stairs leads from a gate house. When one of these pillars was removed so it could be straightened a sheet of beatened gold was found under it which had the famous 'iti pi so' eulogy on it and dating from about the 8th century. A Medirigiriya inscription says that patients from the hospital were not allowd to wander about in the village and that a certain number of goats and chickens should be allotted to the hospital.


It seems that during the 12th century the monks of Medirigiriya together with some others played an important role in solving a major political crisis then afflicting Sri Lanka. Gajabahu II and the headstrong rebel Parakramabahu were locked in a bitter struggle for the throne. Both sides were equally matched and the conflict dragged on causing great loss of life on both sides and weakening the whole country. Finally the monks decided that something had to be done. They used their moral authority to get both sides to cease hostilities and then worked out a delicate and fruitful conpromise between them. Gajabahu who was old and had no heir agreed to designate Pabakramabahu who was still young as his suscessor if he ceased his rebellion. This meant that the former could live out the rest of his days as king while the latter would not have to wait too long before becoming king himself. The agreement held and peace was restored. To make sure both sides would not go back on their promise the agreement was inscribed on two stone pillars, one copy being kept at Medirigiriya and the other at Samgamuva. It is the finest ampitheatre in Sri Lanka. The dwarfs and lions on the capitals are particularly finely carved. There are four sitting images with their backs to the stupa. Little of the stupa itself remains it having been destroyed by treasure hunters.

The small temples
There are four image houses around the main temple. The first has three fine standing Buddha images in it. The middle one being slightly higher than the others.

How To Get There
The ruins of Medirigiriya are located north of Polonnaruwa.

© 2005 Copyright Ven. S. Dhammika & BuddhaNet/Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.

 Post subject: Medirigiriya Vatadage
 Post Posted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 6:41 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2005 12:54 pm
Posts: 192
Medirigiriya Vatadage:
Unique structure surrounding impressive stupa

Sunday, 26 February 2012 / SO

The journey to Vatadage of Medirigiriya is itself a fascinating cruise along picturesque waterways and a forest of lanky trees. This perfect shrine which is presumably the most singular archaeological monument of this nature so far discovered in Sri Lanka is located some fifteen kilometres north from Hingurakgoda in the locality of Thamankaduwa (twenty kilometres north of Polonnaruwa).

The Vatadage of Medirigiya is an ancient shrine surrounded by lush paddy fields, fascinatingly natural waterways and shrub land speckled with lanky trees. Apart from that, multiple rock outcroppings lie in the wood and a little further down from the ruins, one can get a glimpse of a lotus pond frequented by aquatic birds, peacocks and monkeys which may be seen cavorting in the water.

On general view, Vatadage is a unique structure with three concentric circles of rock pillars surrounding the central dagoba (stupa) inside the Vatadage.

The graceful entrance to the Vatadage includes some 27 granite steps and four stone images of the Buddha are located at four cardinal directions within the Vatadage. However, all marks of the ruins of this Vatadage leave no doubt that Medirigiriya was once a developed 'aramaya' and it was a reputed centre of learning for bhikkus monks.

Thus the Vatadage remains the central attraction in the spot scattered with other important ruins. The Vatadage has been constructed where the sprawling rock rises above the ground level. The northern entrance with a simple, non embellished moonstone is at this lowest area of the rock. It is surprising that the designer has planned a simple moonstone while the stone pillars have been marked with exquisitely sculptured designs.

The granite stairway which consists of 27 steps (rock slabs) provides a spacious landing which commands some splendid views of the green forest all-round.

After passing four more steps and a lofty archway, the visitor finds himself before the Vatadage which contains the major stupa in the centre.

Its dome has been preserved only up to a height of five feet and the terrace on which the dagoba stands has a moulded profile faced with finely cut limestone slabs. Four Buddha images cut out of limestone are placed at the four cardinal points and only one Buddha image has been sufficiently well-preserved.

Monolithic pillars
However, the height of the granite pillars and the space between the concentric circles of pillars shows that the roof of Vatadage has been a pure dome.

The round roof must have been a highly artistic wooden structure connecting the pillars. Historians and archaeological researchers rightly guess that the wooden roof must have been easily destroyed by natural decaying process over centuries and granite structures alone have survived the forces of nature.

The premise of 'a round, wooden roof' housing the central stupa within the Vatadage has been a point of considerable discussion and fierce argument. Nothing regarding the shape and look of the roof of Vatadage has been atleast implied in ancient records.

For an enthusiastic visitor, the central attraction in the Vatadage in its current ruined state, lies in the beautifully sculptured pillars forming the support for the imaginary roof. Currently we see that the concentric circles of pillars encompass the stupa in the middle of the Vatadage.

According to the precise archaeological calculations, the inner most circle of pillars consists of sixteen pillars and each pillar is seventeen feet in height. The second circle has twenty pillars, each with the height of 16 feet and the third (last) circle includes thirty two pillars, each nine feet in height.

The base is formed of a double lotus petal moulding which trails round the pillars.

Past story of Vatadage
The round terrace which is the base for the entire Vatadage has been paved with granite slabs. Every pillar is masterfully sculptured and has a decorated heads (architecturally - (capitol's).

According to historical records, the origin of Medirigiriya Shrine is datable to the pre-Christian era. Mahavamsa, the great chronicle associates the Vatadage of Medirigiriya with the reign of King Kanittatissa.

It is referred to as "Mandalagiri Vihara" in historical records. Mahavamsa says that King Kanittatissa established a 'Seemamalaka' to the Aramaya which was a building where intellectual and disciplinary discussions were carried out by monks. The Medirigiriya Aramaya received the royal patronage since second century AD and a large number of Bhikkhus resided in the premises at the time. King Sena II made an official donation of several villages for the maintenance and welfare of Medirigiriya Shrine in the 9th century and history records that he made restorations in the 'Chetiyaghara' built earlier by King 'Malayaraja'.

When King Wijayabahu I regained political power from the reign of South Indian Cholas, Medirigiriya Vihara remained a major significant shrine to be restored and developed. This corroborates the story that Medirigiriya Shrine had been a significant seat of learning by the 10th century AD. During the 12 century AD, Gajabahu II and Parakramabahu I specially selected Medirigiriya Aramaya to sign the royal official agreement between them. An exclusive inscription was displayed in "Mandalagiri" (Medirigiriya) in order to keep the public informed of the convention.

Reclining Buddha
The excavations around Medirigiriya Vatadage have uncovered an image house with an image of reclining Buddha around forty three feet in length.

Another image house contains five rock hewn images of Buddha. On the northern side is a dagoba and two foot prints guessed to be the sacred foot prints of the Buddha have been carved in front of it.

Beyond the rock, one can see the ruins of a square building presumed to have been a hospital. Not far from this hospital, are inscriptions which, according to Senarath Paranavithana, proclaim rules for the proper administration of the hospital.

The inscriptions mention the hospital and stone medicinal bath and various duties of the hospital staff.

The Vatadage began to fall into a bad state of disrepair during the 19th century.

A fearless bhikkhu lived among the ruins and offered his help for the villagers who came to the shrine for religious purposes.

Villagers who lived in Divulankadawala still remember the bhikkhu who, they said, showed no fear for the wild animals living in the surrounding forest.

Though the ruins of this perfect shrine have been subject to the nature's gradual process of destruction, the natural surroundings with trees and bushes envelop us in a mysterious world of the past.

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