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Ridi Viharaya

- Lanterns and Bhakthi Geetha to light up Ridhi Viharaya celebrations -

With this being the 2550th Buddha Jayanthi year, signifying 2550 years since the passing away of Lord Buddha, many special religious programmes are being organised around the island to celebrate Vesak poya. The historic Ridhi Viharaya in the Kurunegala district will also be the focus with several programmes being conducted there.

The Buddha statue with the unique
depiction of the Makara Thorana.
Pix by Dinuka Liyanawattte

Situated in Ridhigama, a village about 10 kilometres from Mallawapitiya, a town on the Kurunegala-Kandy road, the Rajamaha Viharaya dates back over 2000 years. Built by King Dutugemunu, the temple spreads over about 30 acres, making it one of the most picturesque religious sites in the area.

So how did it originally get its name? “During King Dutugemunu’s era, while he was building the sacred Ruvanweliseya, people were discovering precious metals in different areas of the island and silver or ridhi was found in this particular area. This is how both the temple and the village got its name,” says Ven. Buddha Rakkhitha, the chief guardian priest of Ridhi Viharaya. The temple falls under the purview of the Mahanayake of the Malwathu Chapter.

The site where ridhi was
believed to have been found

Having numerous special features, the temple is most famous for its paintings belonging to the Kandyan era, a unique Makara Thorana and ivory carvings. “The Makara Thorana at this temple is different to others. Normally the heads of the two Makarayas turn towards the Buddha statue. But in this particular one, the heads are turning outward and away from the statue. Also, normally there are only about four gods depicted on either side of the statue, but this Makara Thorana has many gods depicted,” said the Ven. Thera. Going on to describe the ivory carvings, he said this is probably the only instance where such carvings have been inserted into a part of the roof of a temple.

Some of the ivory carvings

Yet another interesting artefact at Ridhi Viharaya is a line of tiles portraying the life of Christ. Fixed along the stand built for offering flowers to Lord Buddha, the presence of these tiles in the temple is remarkably interesting. Possibly being presented to the temple by a Dutch governor, the temple officials may have incorporated it in the viharaya.

Paintings belonging to the Kandyan era

Consisting of many rock caves, the viharaya has been built in the cave where the silver was originally found. Called Maha Viharaya, it has a large reclining Buddha statue and statues of God Vishnu and King Dutugemunu, along with paintings belonging to the Kandyan era and a few other rare statues made of ceramic.

“The Ridhi Viharaya was reconstructed during the Anuradhapura era by King Amandha Gamini and once again by King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe during the Kandyan era. During these reconstructions, little changes have been added to the temple over the years,” said the Thera.

tatues of God Vishnu (left)
and King Dutugemunu

Among the other artefacts in the temple, is also a unique carriage that was used to transport monks of the ancient times, as well as two seats used by monks to preach bana.

The programme planned for Vesak Poya at Ridhi Viharaya begins on May 12 and goes on till May 16. Consisting of an Aloka pooja, a lantern competition and Bhakthi Geetha, the programme will involve residents of Ridhigama.

“Children and young people of the area will sing Bhakthi Geetha and make lanterns to commemorate Vesak,” said the Thera.

Apart from these, there will also be a number of pandals around the town as well.

by By Vidushi Seneviratne
Sunday Times, May 07, 2006

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Updated February 4, 2007
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