Lankathilake Rajamaha Viharaya

One of the three main buildings of the Gampola Kingdom, the Lankathilake Temple is about as beautifully preserved as its neighbors at Embekke and Gadaladeniya. However its beauty is on a completely different level, whitewashed with numerous sweeping roofs and incredible in its solidity and powerful structure. The temple itself is set built on the great rock of Panhagala and overlooks Hiripitiya, a small mountain village. It was constructed by the first king of Gampola, Buvanekhabahu IV after shifting away from his ancestral seat of Kurunegala. These Late Medieval monarchs did not always exert power over the whole island though. The Aryachakravarti dynasty held sway in Jaffna and there was a noble chiefdom at Raigama, built by the powerful Alagakkonara family, patrons of the Kelaniya Temple and future rulers of Kotte and finally, the whole island for one last time in Sri Lankan history.

It was an uneasy peace, with the country in pieces but the Gampola kings still managed to keep on good terms with their neighbors. Buvanekhabahu’s architect was the South Indian Stapathi Rayar. These kings had a great appreciation of the arts even though they found it hard to exert their military strength all over the country and it shows in the intricacy and beauty of the carvings here. At Lankathilake, there are impressive makara thoranas, having large chimeras with gaping mouths guarding the primary gateway. Of course at present the gate itself is metal, a modern addition to the ancient temple. There are also a pair of lion statues, cut directly into the plaster and on either side of the arched entrance. By looking at the tiled roofs and whitewashed main body of the temple, one can accurately judge how other buildings of its kind might have looked, both religious and secular. Many historical sites are in pieces and thus it is vital to properly preserve this one in order to reconstruct the others, at least in the arts and in our minds.

Written by Vasika Udurawane for

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