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 Post subject: Alahena Pirivena - Historical monastic complex - Polonnaruwa
 Post Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 8:18 pm 
The Alahena Pirivena - Historical monastic complex at Polonnaruwa

@ SO

The Alahena Pirivena is a monastic complex at Polonnaruwa, believed to have been built by Parakramabahu the Great. The sacred buildings belonging to this pirivena were built on top of a series of landscaped terraces. The natural hill that had then existed had been levelled by him into two platforms according to a gentle terraced design.

The Kiri Vehera was built atop this hill while the Lankatilleke image house and the chapter house of the monastery, the Baddhasima Pasada were built around it.

The Baddhasima Pasada, also known as the Buddha Seema Pasada, was built on the highest platform at the Alahena Pirivena. The chapter house was the building from which the rules of the Sangha or the Order of the Buddhist monks was enforced. After King Parakramabahu united all Buddhist monks under one sect, the Baddhasima Pasada was built to ensure that these regulations were maintained.

The monks met once a fortnight, on the full moon and new moon days, at the chapter house. They all sat together on the ground with the chief monk seated on a raised platform or mandapaya and recited the rules of the Order.

On the top of the terrace, pillars are set around the building. They served the purpose of 'sima' or boundary stones which indicated the limits of the sacred area; their exact positions have been noted down in the Chronicles.

The building has vaulted, triangular windows, typical of the architecture of the Polonnaruwa era. The painted plaster could still be seen on some inside walls.

According to the Chronicles, the building was originally 12 storeys high and the top floors were used by monks as living quarters. A cave on the eastern side of the chapter house contains small seated Buddha images carved from solid rock.

Bubble-shaped dagoba

The Kiri Vehera, which is part of the Alahena Pirivena complex, is a large bubble-shaped dagoba.


It is believed to have been built by King Parakramabahu to commemorate one of his queens, Subhadda. Some believe the dagoba was actually built by this queen. It was originally known as Rupavati Cetiya, which has led some to believe that it was built by a queen of Parakramabahu called Rupavati.

This is the best preserved dagoba in Polonnaruwa. The original lime plaster of the dagoba was found to be in perfect condition when the overgrown jungle around it was cleared away after 700 years of neglect.

The image house of the dagoba is clustered around the base.

Pabalu Vihara

The Pabalu Vihara is a large dagoba made of bricks, and is said to be the third largest dagoba in Polonnaruwa. It is also known as the Parakramabahu Vihara and has the typical features of a dagoba belonging to the era of King Parakramabahu I.

This dagoba is also believed to have been constructed by the queen of Parakramabahu known as Rupavati.


It is surrounded by image houses (pilima ge), which was an innovation of the Polonnaruwa era. The flower altars built for devotees to offer flowers still remain, and Buddhists continue to use these when worshipping the sacred images of the Buddha in these image houses. A large number of Buddha images, dating from the late Polonnaruwa era, can be seen around the Pabalu Vihara.

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