The architecture of Sri Lanka has been developed in to a remarkable stage after the arrival of Buddhism during the period of king Devanampiyatissa. In addition to the simple monastery, it has been an added and developed in architecture style in stupa, bodhigara, uposathagara, watadageya, chapter house, alms halls, refectory, sanitary utilities, hospitals and other several buildings.
The stupa is very much important to Buddhist out of the above. The stupas are constructing encircling the sacred relic and other items of worshipping which have become highly worship by the Buddhist.
When we examine the structure and the features of all the stupas we observe that technique and architectural pattern constructed by them are being more developed even than the present day technique in this type of constructions. The architect has been very thoughtful and careful about the situation of the land and the elevation before the planning and construction of the building which has to be taken to the consideration the tension and the pressure which will have to bear by the foundation.
The main features of stupa
The shapes of stupa
Dageba can be categorized to the following shapes.
“Bubbulakara” – The shape of water bubble e.g. (Ruwanweli stupa )
“Gantakara” – The shape of a bell which has been turned upside down e.g. (Thuparama stupa)
“Dhannyakara”- The shape of a heap of paddy e.g. (Kelani stupa)
“Ghatakara”- The shape of a pot which has been turned upside down (cannot be seen in Sri Lanka)
“Amlakara” – The shape of the fruit called “nelli” (cannot be seen in Sri Lanka)
“Padmakara” – The shape of a lotus bloomed e.g. (Dedigama stupa)
“Thupaghara” or (“Watadageya”)
The circular building constructed for the stuapa is known as thupaghara, dhatugara or watadageya.
According to the archaeologists the ruins of one of the oldest thupaghara can be found in Hachchikuchchi temple in Rajangana in the Anuradhapura District. The square shape boundaries around the stupa can still be seen together with the granite pillars around. Those pillars can be considered as ruins of the structure that covered the stupa. There were entrances from all four sides of the building to the dagaba. No any other religious constructions or items can be found closer to the stupa at the inception. Eventually it became a practise to place statues of Lord Buddha around the stupa and do the paintings and carvings inside the thupaghara.
This is the first stupa constructed by the king Devanampitatissa in Anuradhapura after the arrival of Mahinda thera and introducing Buddhism to Sri Lanka. There is an opinion that this stupa was previously constructed to the shape of a heap of paddy, however it is believed that around the period of 1862 it has been renovated and changed the style of dageba in to a bell shape. This is a dageba of 63 feet in height and 59 feet in diameter, which is consider being smaller than the stupas of Jethawana, Ruwanweli and Abhayagiri. This is a dageba of 63 feet in height and 59 feet in diameter, which is considered to be smaller than the stupas of Jethawana, Ruwanweli and Abhayagiri.
There was no thupaghara at the inception of Thuparama stupa, but lateron it was constructed during the period of the king Wasabha. There are four lines of stone pillars with head carved with decorations which are the signs of ruined remains of a watadageya at present. These stone columns are in the shape of square about 1/3 of the height and thereafter the shape of the columns have been made into octagonal. There is evidence to confirm that there were walls of bricks constructed in between the 3rd and 4th line of coloumns.
According to Mahawansa, King Agbodhi ii renovated Thuparama stupa and made arts and carvings inside the thupaghara and also placed Buddha statues around the stupa during his regime .
This is the first degaba, situated closer to the Tisa tank of Anuradhapura, which has been constructed by the king Dutugemunu. When the king found that the spear of victory belongs to him could not be lifted, which has been planted in a certain place before entering to water of Tisa tank for bathing, he was constructed the stupa encircling the spear. What we observe today is the renovated and reconstructed stupa which had been ruined.
This is called as the great stupa of Anuradhapura constructed by the king Dutugemunu. In terms of the history of the chronology, construction of this Stupa had been completed by the king Saddathissa, the brother of king Dutugemunu who is said to be passed away before the completion of construction of this stupa. This is in bubble shape with the boundary wall embossed figures of elephants. There are four “wahalkada” (entrances of engraved pillars) with the designs of liyawel, the life tree, images of dwarfs, heads of dragons and elephants, swans, images of dwarf and several other carvings.
This had been constructed by the King Walagambha in Anuradhapura. The excavations done by the archaeologists have been revealed the signs of monastery complexes spreadeed in a vast area of the outside of the stupa. There are remains of huge wells, ponds, foundations, assembly hall, refectory, alms hall, chapter house, sanitary utilities; several inscriptions are the evidence of monasteries.
The ruins found from the Abhayagiri site at the excavations
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Few of Archeological items found at the excavations of Abhayagiriya and presently exhibited at the Abhyagiriya Mesuem
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The Lowamahapaya Chapter House
There are the remaining of building constructed in between the Ruwanweli stupa and Shri Maha Bodhi. It consists of large amount of granite pillars. The roof tiles of metal have been used in this building and therefore it has been named as “loha prasada or lowamahapaya” (the great copper mansion).
This is a chapter house which said to be used by the Buddhist monks of Mahavihara for their disciplinary rituals and as a monastery. It is said to be that this building had about 9 floors and consist of around 900 chambers. It is also said to be that this building reconstructed and altered in to a seven story building, during the period of king Saddatissa after the former building has caught fire and destroyed. The remainings of the present day are the evidence of granite pillars as remaining, which has been reconstructed by the king Parakramabahu the great after the destruction of Chola. There are about 1600 granite pillars.
The Ratnaprasada Chapter House
It reveals in terms of the remains of foundation that this is the largest assembly hall constructed in the monastery of Abhayagiriya. This has been used as a place for carry out the disciplinary activities of Buddhist monks of Abayagiriya. The most valuable part available in this building is the skillfully engraved guard stone at the front of Rathnaprasada. This guard stone is an excellent piece of art.
Mahapali Alms Hall
It is considered as the hall used for arms giving by the king. It is said to be constructed by King Dewanampiyatissa at the inception. The very special item find at this site is the tank in a shape of a granite canoe which is in 27 ½ x 5 x 3 feet. The inscription on a granite slab reveals that this had been done in 10th centuary A.D. This can be considered as a container used to keep rice or water.
It is said to be that a person who brings one bag of paddy to the town should pay one patha as a tax to the mahapali and no other payment be charged for that. There is a huge well constructed with steps decending down which has been used for the requirements of mahapali.
“Gedige” of Anuradhapura
This is a building of square shape which is situated in the North side of the Mahapali alms hall. This building has been constructed with bricks and plaster and the frames of windows have been constructed with granite bars. The walls are thick and the roof of the building has been constructed with bricks.
The roof of the building has been dilapidated; however the remains of the walls, frame of the entrance and the windows are still remaining.
The Twin Ponds
This is constructed closer to the Abhayagiri stupa in Mahamewna Park in Anuradhapura. This pond is consisted with adjoining ponds as a twin which has a unique features of sculpture treated as one of the most skillfully constructed.
These ponds have been constructed with descending steps where a person can bath standing on one of the steps. The outer walls are constructed with polished granite cubes. The entrances of the pond have granite pedestals elegantly carved with pots of plenty (pun kalasa), the guard stones with five hooded of corbra (naga carving) and the lager pond has three entrances while the small one has only two. This snake guard stone is one of the most skillfully carved one.
The water supply drains down to the stage of the pond at first and thereafter it flows down through the mouth of makara (mythical dragon) carving to the pond of north. Both ponds are connected with each other with tube concealed under the floor level. There are underground conduits for brining the water in to the pond as well as to empty them.
Monastic Hospital of Anuradhapura
The remains of hospitals of Anuradhapura period can be observed in Mihinthale area. The skills of the granite carving reflect by the canoe shaped medicine tanks. There are several medicine tanks found which have been carved from a single granite, where the patient can rest his head peacefully in a place where carved separately. Inside of the tanks have been polished properly where the patient can be comfortable and the outer side of them have been decorated with beautiful carvings. The remains found in this area are the evidence for their use of different types of chemicals as medicine and tools used for dissections and operations.
The Sacred Bo Tree of Anuradhapura
Bridge of Stone in Anuradhapura
There are many more evidences to prove that the Anuradhapura city is spreaded in a vast area and connected with the other areas of the island and there are evidences that these civilians had well developed techniques to build roads and bridges. The bridge of stone can be found when one turn from the twin pond junction of Anuradhapura to the Galpalama village about 2 ½ kms. There is also of the opinion of that in ancient period the main road has been constructed from Dambakola patuna of north to Anuradhapura city through the Malwathu Oya.
A cross bar of granite has been placed on three stone pillars planted in one row and there are several other cross bars have been constructed simillarly. Thereafter long and thick granite slabs have been placed on them to forming a bridge. Some parts of the bridge have been collapsed and the pillars have been fallen. However there are evidences to prove that this bridge remains strong as it was in that period.
In addition to the above remain other remains of buildings like gardens, Royal Park, fortress and other several secular buildings.
The very first palace constructed in the island is said to be the building constructed on the order of King Pandukabhaya. The kings after Pandukabhaya also selected the same venue for the erection of their palaces. However so far archaeologists are unable to discover the remains of palaces constructed on the order of other kings.
Sigiriya fortress is the most remarkable fortress remain up to now which had been constructed by the ancient kings. Sigiriya is known as a fortress as well as a palace and it has been built on top of the rock.
The special feature of Sigiriya is that this rock is naturally situated on an isolated hilly area. The path way constructed up to the top, has been constructed carefully to maintain the safety. There are long two moats constructed around the Sigiriya site. The archaeologists are on the opinion that there would have been three parapet walls guarding the fortress. The outer wall is shorter to the middle wall and the wall behind that is very much taller than the middle one. The outer water moat is about in three times in size and depth. There were three entrances to the fortress and one situated on the west was with a bridge which could be folded when wanted.
The fortress on the rock is said to be unique as it has the beautiful frescoes. Parapet wall around the rock and the beautiful garden and the landscape which had been used large number of boulders and the ponds with amazing irrigation systems with a number of fountains.
The main building of the palace had been constructed on the top of the rock in to a square shape and walls of the building were in rows where they had plaster medium in between them. This palace was not consisted with different types of chambers, lobbies or other connected additional constructions as in other palaces of other kings.
There are several ponds constructed around the Sigiriya rock in the landscape for various reasons of usage of water. Out of the constructions of Sigiriya, only the parts of the remains in west side of the rock can be seen today. Site of the Sigiriya can be divided in to the water garden, rock garden and the garden of boulders. The western entrance open to the water garden where it divides in to two geometrical symmetrical where the both sides of path way is equally planned in to a geometrical pattern. There is an unconnected sallow pond. The other ponds are separately situated and connected by concealed tubes in underground to flow down the water are still remaining.
This is the only garden which can be found the remains of secular buildings of Anuradhapura period. There is no palace to be seen over there, however there are a set of ponds constructed to the pleasure of the members of royal family. It can be considered that the situation of this garden is said to be a safe site as it is bounded by the Tisa tank dam in one side and in eastern side from other three ponds which are less in width but more in length. One end of the garden is spreaded up to the north-eastern corner of the Tisa tank and another side has been speeded up to Isurumuni temple.
Each of the ponds is connected with the help of tubes concealed underground and water has been brought for these ponds from the Tisa tank. There are simple guards stone at flights of the steps and the bottom of the ponds have been carved with polished granite slabs. There is a special feature in this garden that there is a chamber carved in to a rock to the west side of the pond. The walls of the chamber have been polished. A granite podium which can be seated comfortably is also found therein. There are engravings of elephants enjoining the bathing at the end of the western side of the pond. Water from the ponds has been drained down to a pond situated nearby through the concealed underground tubes. There are several stages constructed around the ponds considered to be unique.
The circle of universe
There is an engraving in to a circular pattern on a large rock. There are various signs including fish, conch shells, and flags with several other types of water creatures. So far archaeologists have not come to a conclusion of this engraving. However it is said to be that this is the circle of universe.