Padeniya Raja Maha Viharaya
- Unique Parade of Lions -
The Kurunegala Puttalam road via Wariyapola is excellent driving or should I say flying for that is what it feels like on the fine metal surface of the road strewn on either side with paddy fields, lily-filled lakes and huge ancient trees .
Half way through right opposite the turn off to Anuradhapura you will come across a somewhat loud newly built temple wall which is deceptive for within its precincts hides a quaint archeological treasure ever enhanced by its delightful settings. This is the Padeniya Raja Maha Viharaya.
So make your way - away and apart from the jarring modern building with their progressive extravagances to the ancient temple situated on a low rock overlooking a small lake. The surface of the rock is uneven, slanting and is the kind of foundation upon which is raised the temple. A few steps with a roughly hewn moon stone (without any carving or other decorations) at the bottom of it, makes up the three entrances fitted with waist high half doors of timber. . The building comprises a central shrine room surrounded by an open gallery . The doorway to the shrine room is elaborately decorated. The gallery also includes some heavily carved wooden pillars.
The unique feature in this temple is its brilliant colored frieze of lions that goes almost all around the four sides of the outer wall. forming a kind of screen between the half wall and the roof . The seated lions with wide opened mouths baring fierce teeth and tails curled up on their backs are definitely not fierce to behold but are quite cheerful and entertaining in character.
Running around the edge of the eaves is a edging of terracotta pendant tiles in the shape of bo leaves. On one side alone are found a few rectangular tiles with designs of elephants, bulls, and flowers. The wooden pillars at the edge of the eaves supporting the roof are additions to the original building.
The unique character of this building has made one school of thought suggest a Chinese influence from the 15th century, a time when China had a brief presence in southern Lanka.
But another school of thought considers this akin to many other similarities found in buildings which purports it to be a development of the Kandyan style of the Sinhalese middle ages.
The Bo tree with its own little square around it stands on a higher elevation on an artificial mound of stones shaped into a stepped pyramid, and spreads its shade over the traditional double pitched design of the temple roof beneath it. Outside the temple an ancient stone altar stands alone and away from the more modern tiled altars. Upon its ancient stone tray was placed a bowl of joss sticks which was perfuming the holy precincts.
by Kishanie S. Fernando
April 7, 2007