Burunnawa Tampita Rajamaha Viharaya - Masterpiece of Kandyan architecture | Daily News


Burunnawa Tampita Rajamaha Viharaya - Masterpiece of Kandyan architecture

The temple borders a large extent of paddy fields.
The temple borders a large extent of paddy fields.

Built on a wooden base that rests on 16 stone columns 1.3 metres above ground, the restored shrine room of the ancient Burunnawa Tampita Raja Maha Viharaya, also known as the Sri Nagarukkaramaya Viharaya, highlights exquisite ancient Kandyan architecture and our heritage.

This protected archaeological monument is situated in the remote Burunnawa village in the Keeriweli Pattuwa of the Beligal Koralaya of the Kegalle District in the Sabaragamuwa Province. To reach the historic Burunnawa Temple, one has to turn off at the Udukumbura junction between Warakapola and Nelumdeniya on the Colombo – Kandy Road and travel about three kilometres along the Oththapitiya Road.

The temple borders a large extent of paddy fields and is believed to have been built by a Kandyan chieftain. The exact year of construction is not known, but the Chief Incumbent of the temple Ven. Elagamuwe Rathanajothi Thera said the first mention of the temple was in 1884.

The shrine room has been built on a wooden pedestal that rests on four wooden beams - 6.35 metres in length, 25 centimetres in height and 23 centimetres in width - placed on stone columns and on top of this are five wooden beams - 4.35 metres in length and of the same height and width.

The stairway leading to the platform seen today was built by the Archaeology Department when restoration work was carried out in 1993 because the original staircase, said to have been steeper, was broken.

The shrine room is rectangular and is 3.35 metres in length and 2.4 metres in breadth and the walls are of wattle held together by a frame of bamboo and arecanut. The walls are plastered and the interior walls covered with paintings of the Kandyan era need to be restored. There is a narrow verandah in the main enclosed space.

The exquisitely carved 15-centimetre thick door frame at the entrance to the shrine room is 1.4 meters in height and 47 centimetres in width, flanked by two sword-bearing guardian deities. The tiled roof rests on the wooden wall plates and carved square pillars each of which are 1.9 metres in height and 15 centimetres in width. The joints depict the intricacies of Kandyan architecture. The ceiling is also made of wood.

There are three Buddha statues in the shrine room. The main Buddha statue is in the posture of meditation and is 1.25 metres in height. The radius of the halo is 1.45 metres. On either side of this statue are two identical statues of the Buddha in standing posture which are 1.55 metres in height.

In Sinhala, ‘Tampita’ means upon ‘stone columns’. Tampita Viharas were a popular aspect of many Buddhist temples during the period between the 17th and 19th centuries and there are no records of Tampita Viharas being constructed in or after the 20th century.

More than 200 Tampita Viharas have been identified in Sri Lanka and most of these temples are found in the North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Central and Western provinces.

The Medawala Tampita Vihara in Kandy is considered the first accounted Tampita Vihara in Sri Lanka. As stated in the Medawala copper plaque, it was a two-storied shrine during the 14th century and was renovated as a Tampita Vihara by King Keerthi Sri Rajasinha (1747 – 1781) in 1755. The Minuwangamuwa Tampita Vihara in Kegalle built on May 2, 1886, is believed to be the last Tampita Vihara in the island.

In addition to Buddhist Viharayas, a few ambalamas and devalayas in Sri Lanka are also known as Tampita buildings as they rest on stone columns or rock boulders with minor differences in architectural design. The Awariyawala Ambalama in Gampaha, Panawitiya Ambalama in Kurunegala and Halpe Pattini Devalaya in Ella are three examples. Most probably, these wooden structures may have been built on granite columns to prevent termites from destroying them.

The other known Tampita Viharayas in the Sabaragamuwa Province are Asmadala Vihara in Aranayaka, Atthanagoda Viharaya in Mawanella, Bodhirukkarama Purana Viharaya in Kempitikanda, Deniyatenna Vihara in Talgaspitiya, Eraminiya Gammana Tampita Purana Viharaya in Mawanella, Gondiwela Tampita Viharaya in Mawanella, Hingula Raja Maha Viharaya in Hingula, Jeewana Raja Maha Viharaya in Galigamuwa, Keppatipola Tampita Viharaya in Mawanella, Kariyagama Raja Maha Viharaya in Aranayaka, Keerthi Sri Rajasingha Raja Maha Viharaya in Rambukkana, Levangama Tampita Viharaya in Talawatta, Mahawatta Purana Viharaya in Warakapola, Mannagoda Tampita Viharaya in Mawanella, Mayurapada Viharaya in Moragammana, Mediliyagama Raja Maha Viharaya in Mediliyagama, Nawagamuwa Raja Maha Viharaya in Rambukkana, Podape Purana Viharaya in Aranayaka, Sri Danthapaya Raja Maha Viharaya in Ambulugala, Sri Sudharmarama Tampita Viharaya in Muwapitiya, Sri Sudassanarama Viharaya in Arambegama, Udanwita Raja Maha Viharaya in Rambukkana, Udugama Purana Raja Maha Viharaya in Rambukkana, Dapane Sri Jayasundararama Raja Maha Viharaya in Kolonna, Elugala Purana Tampita Viharaya in Imbulpe and Walalgoda Purana Tampita Viharaya in Embilipitiya.

The shrine room was built on 16 stone pillars.

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