Ridi Raja Maha Viharaya

Ridi Vihara is a Buddhist cave temple, located near the village of Ridigama, which is 19 km away. to the north-east of Kurunegala — the administrative center of the North-Western Province.
The Ridi Vihara complex consists of two objects: located near the high rock of buildings and cave temples — actually Ridi Vihara, and located slightly in the side of the low rock hill Sarasum Gala with a stupa and ancient cave cells.
The history of the Ridi Vihara dates back to the 2nd century BC, as evidenced by the rock carvings found here, made with ancient Brahmi letters.
The name of the village verbatim from Sinhalese means «Silver Village» (Ridi — «silver» + Gama «village»), and the names of the temple complex, as «Silver Temple» (Ridi + Vihara), which is associated with the legend of the miraculous discovery of a deposit of silver. The description of this story is given in the Sinhala «Great Chronicle» — Mahavamsa.
Once a merchant traveling with a caravan of carts saw a jackfruit tree with a single but huge fruit near the high cliff. The merchant decided to eat them, stopped his caravan and cut the fruit. At that time, four wandering monks passed by him, who were particularly respected elders-thekers. Full of piety the merchant invited the elders to sit down and filled the jackfruit juice with their bowls for alms. The traitors accepted the gift of the merchant and went on. Then the merchant exclaimed that he wanted to sacrifice all food to the noble monks, and before him appeared four more wandering elder who received from him as a gift the flesh of the fruit. Three of them went further, and one, Indrahupta Thera, stayed with the merchant. At the end of their joint meal, he pointed to the pious merchant at the cave, in which there was a fabulous amount of native silver. The merchant loaded his wagons with huge silver pieces, chopped in a cave, and set out with a precious load to Anuradhapura to King Dutugamunu. Maharaja Dutugamunu ruled the island in 161-137 gg. BC. All the silver mined in the cave was sent by the ruler to a righteous cause — the construction of the famous stupa Mahathupa, now known as Ruwanveli Saya. And in the place where the silver was found, the king ordered to build a monastery of Ridi Vihara and gave this monastery a statue of Buddha covered with gold.

The parking of the temple complex is located near the entrance arch to the territory of Ridi Vihara, on which, in addition to historical objects, there is a functioning monastery and various auxiliary buildings and structures.
From the entrance arch with a slope a little upwards there is a wide path, fenced on both sides by a traditional undulating «trirate-fence», which in Sinhalese is called «Walkulu bemma».
Fencing «Welakulu bemma» is a series of repeating triangular elements, each of which in turn consists of three triangles with triangular holes in the center and symbolizes the Buddhist trirate («Three Jewels»: Buddha, Dharma, monastic Sangha).
The path ends with a T-shaped intersection — a cobbled platform in front of the gate of a small economic structure. From here, turning left, you can go to the rock and temples of Ridi Vihara, and turning to the right — to climb the stairs to the rocky hill with a stupa, observation deck and ancient cave cells.

Bodhi Trees and the Temple at the place of the Jackfruit treat

On the territory of Ridi Vihara there are two sacred Bo trees: one on the level below the fenced territory (in the same place where all the main buildings and rock). Another — a little short of the entrance portal, immediately after dharmasala — a squat, dark yellow pavilion under a tiled roof, designed for pilgrims.
The territory of the main temples Ridi Vihara is located on several levels and is fenced with a traditional «trirate-fence». To get inside, you need to pass a small portal with an archway and down the stairs to the first terrace.

From this level, the second Bod tree located to the left and below the level is clearly visible, and on the terrace to the right is the «Temple on the Place of Food by Jackfruit» («Waraka Velandu Viharaya»).
The temple of Baraka Welandu is built in South Indian style and has a typical layout of the Indian temple: a small square sanctuary (garbagriha), to which adjoins an open vestibule with a colonnade — mandapa. Most likely, the temple was built as Tamil Kovil (a Hindu temple), but nothing authentic about its origin and history is known. According to the architectural style, this temple dates back to the period Polonnaruwa, that is the 11th century AD.

As the rear wall of the temple stands a rock, and its front and side walls are made of different-sized stone blocks. The Mandapa temple is located on a low platform and is a small portico, the stone roof of which is laid on profiled runs, leaning on the capitals of eight curly columns. The lateral faces of rectangular sections of the columns are decorated with bas-reliefs: at the base — figures of spearmen, archers and dancing girls, and in the middle part — lotus medallions. The overlap of the mandapa is made of rectangular stone slabs laid on runs. In the middle of the ceiling is a lotus medallion, carved on the surface of one of the slabs. Overlaps overlapping rest on the capitals, which are made separately from the columns.

The room with the Buddha image is small in size, almost cubic in shape and has no windows. In Sri Lanka, such sanctuaries are called «pilimage», which literally means «house of the image». In the «house of the image» there are no sacred relics or anything like this — it's just a room with sculptural images of the Buddha, deities guarding Buddhist teachings and other traditional characters.
Inside the sanctuary at the back of the rock wall is a statue of Buddha, depicted sitting on a lotus throne in the dhyan asana pose (meditation posture). Like all such sculptures, the statue is framed behind it by a traditional arch — a Makara-thorana. The wall to the left of the Buddha statue is covered with bright paintings dating from the Kandy period, that is, 18-19 centuries.

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Main, Lower Temple — Maha Viharaya, Pahala Viharaya

Below the temple of Waraka Velandu is a large paved platform, near the left edge of which is close to the sloping cliff is a platform with the Bo tree. At the far end of the site is a squat structure — the Pavilion of Drummers, and behind it rises a huge rock, to the base of which the Main Temple is attached.
The pavilion of drummers (Sinhalese: Hewisi mandapaya) is always located in front of the entrance to the temple. It houses the drummers, who accompany the recitatives of the monks during the temple service. Usually a part of such a pavilion is made open, like verandas — either on both sides, or in one — facing the temple.

Inside, most of the Pavilion of Drummers is an open-to-the-temple lobby, which, among other things, houses a donation box. Under the ceiling of the pavilion, a palanquin of the Kandiyan era was suspended, in which high-ranking pilgrims and elderly monks visited Ridi Vihara.

Between the Main Temple and the Pavilion of Drummers there is a well-groomed inner courtyard. The temple itself is built in a deep stone niche at the base of the rock. According to tradition, silver was found in this cave. The place is almost entirely covered from the rain by a rocky peak. Above the roof of the temple on the sloping surface of the rock are clearly visible remains of plaster and rock paintings: at the top — a sitting Buddha, and around — the figures of students and admirers.

Between the outer wall of the temple and the wall that covers the cave's opening, a long narrow corridor stretches along the entire facade of the temple. The front door to the church is traditionally designed for the Sinhalese pilimage — «houses of the image.» On the right and left of the entrance, near the opening, there are relief images of lions — sinha, and on both sides of them — pairs guarding the entrance of Nagarajas (mythical Kings of Serpents).

Above the entrance opening there is a very popular arch in Sri Lanka called Makara Thorana (in Sinhala: Makara — mythical monster + Thorana — arch, gate).
The main elements of the Sri Lankan Makar are:
Kirtimukha — the person in the center of the arch with an open mouth and protruding eyes
— Two symmetrically located below Kirtimukha Makaras. These are mythical monsters with the mouth of a crocodile, an elephant's trunk, lion's paws, a fish's body and a peacock's tail, the gaping mouths of which are connected to the jaws of <Kirtimukha with a garland;
— A pair of guardian gods, sitting on the backs of Makar.
 The remaining characters of the composition are auxiliary and additional, and their number and composition vary depending on the historical period, terrain and style of Makara Thoran.

Inside the temple looks very spacious, despite the fact that it contains a large number of sculptures. The ceiling paintings did not survive, but the walls look very good. And opposite the entrance to the center of the temple in a glass box behind the fence is the main relic of Ridi Vihara — a gold-plated statue of standing Buddha. According to tradition, as we have already mentioned, it was she who was presented to the monastery by King Dutugamunu as a token of gratitude for the silver found here and presented to him as a gift, which the ruler used to complete the construction of the great stupa.
The antiquity of this statue raises some doubts, because in appearance it is a replica of the Buddha statue in Awukana, executed in a peculiar style and dating no earlier than the IX century BC.

Along the eastern wall, to the right of the entrance, is a row of Buddha statues: just at the entrance there is a Buddha sitting in dhyana asana (meditation posture), next to him is a statue of a standing Buddha with a hand in abhay mudra (gesture of fearlessness), then — donated by the Burmese a group of five statues of standing Buddhas (these are Buddhas of past eras), and this series is closed by a group of three small statues of a standing Buddha.

Just to the left of the entrance to the hall is a small bright statue depicting Buddha in dhyana asana. Nearby, along the entire western, that is, the left wall, is located with a 9-meter sculpture depicting the Mahaparinirvana Buddha, or the Buddha's departure into the «final» nirvana.
The heads of all the sculpted and painted Buddha images are crowned with a stylized image of the flames. This traditional element is present in all very many Buddha images in Sri Lanka and is called «siraspata». In other countries and in scientific literature, another name is commonly used: «kethumala» (pali, Sanskrit: kethumala — a garland of flame tongues).
It can be considered that the Siraspata has Lankan origin, as for the first time about the flaming crown on the head of the Buddha is mentioned in the dated V BC. in the Lankan «Great Chronicle» — Mahavamsa. In Chapter 5, there is a mention in the response of King of the Nagas Mahakala to King Ashoka. In the same text, among other things, «byamappabha» is also mentioned — a flaming halo around the body of the Buddha, which is also an almost indispensable element of the Lankan images of a standing and seated Buddha.

The pedestal on which the Buddha lies is one of the local attractions, because its horizontal surface is lined with two hundred blue and white tiled tiles with biblical subjects, which were donated by the Dutch to the Kandiyan king Kirti Sri Rajasinghe, who in turn presented them to the temple. At the feet of the Buddha are statues depicting his half-brother and disciple Ananda, the bodhisattva Maitreya (future Buddha), the guardian deity Natha (Awalokiteshvara), and, it is believed, the king Dutugamunu himself. The last statue is in poor preservation and very ancient — by scientists it dates from the period of Anuradhapura.

One of the most frequently mentioned attractions of the Ridi Vihara is the canvas and door frame of another door of the Main Temple, decorated with partially preserved ivory applications. Here the most notable is the carved plate located centrally on the center, which has a contour of the vase, but on closer examination it turns out to be five interwoven female bodies and therefore is called the «Knot of Five Ladies» (in Sinhala: Pancha Nari Gataya). To the right and left of this image are the figures of two lions. To protect against vandals carved plates are covered with thick glass.

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Upper Temple — Uda Vihara

To the right of the Main Temple there is a stone staircase that leads to a higher level platform on which there is an Upper temple and a small stupa.
This new structure: The upper church was built in the 18th century, during the reign of the Kandiyan king Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1747-1782). The upper temple, as well as the Main temple, is arranged in a rock niche at the base of a high rock, the inclined plane of which is processed to give it the shape of a visor protecting the structure from tropical showers.

In front of the central door of the Upper Temple there is a narrow porch with a staircase of three steps. At the bottom of the stairs, close to the bottom step, there is an architectural element for the Sinhalese religious buildings: «Moonstone» (in sinh.: Sandakadapahana) — a semicircular stone plate decorated with concentric rows of bas-relief images.
The balustrade on both sides of the staircase is made in the form of elephant heads with an insert of the plot bas-reliefs: on the right is the hermit-rishi under the tree surrounded by an elephant and a bull, and to the left is an elephant breaking off branches and a hunter with a bow.
On the carved posts, to which the elephant's heads adjoin, carved bas-reliefs with a floral motif are carved, and in their lower part there are images of Sinhalese double-headed eagles — «bhundunda pakasaya». In the 18th century, this two-headed eagle was the coat of arms of the province of Kandy, Tri Korala. Subsequently, bherunda pakashaya lost his heraldic meaning and turned into one of the typical images of decorative and applied art.
The inner structure of the Upper temple is rounded by a covered corridor of U-form, and it itself is divided into three rooms with separate entrances.
The first room is located at the end of the inner structure opposite the corridor door facing the staircase. It is a temple for Kumar Bandara, the local deity guardian.
The second and largest room is located approximately in the middle of the corridor. In it is the main sanctuary of the Upper Temple — pilimage («house of the image»). In the third room, the door to which is located at the far end of the corridor, is the small temple of Naga Vimana, that is the Naga Temple, which is also a pilimage.
To the right and left of the doorway to the main House of the image of the Upper Temple are the traditional bas-reliefs of guardian deities.

At the rear wall of the sanctuary in the center there is a sculptural image of the Buddha in the dhyan asana meditation posture, and behind him are two small lion syncha and Makara toran with many bright relief figures. Inside this house of the image looks very nice, and the coloring of the statues and wall paintings are made in a red-yellow palette, and all the colors are very soft, unsaturated. At the rear wall to the right and left of the rectangular pedestal on which there is a flat lotus throne of Buddha, there are two figures of standing Buddha. Both statues of a standing Buddha are made in the image and likeness of the famous giant rock statue of Buddha Awukane. At the side walls there are statues of the gods guarding the Buddhist teachings and the island of Sri Lanka itself: near the left wall — Upulvan (Vishnu), near the right one — Katragama (Skanda, Murugan).

The small sanctuary of Naga Vimana is known for its drawings, located around the arched entrance opening. By whom and when this wall painting was made — is unknown, as however the author's intention of this somewhat strange composition is also unknown. In total, there are eight figures and they are arranged in four rows. In the uppermost row under the roof is one picture depicting two stupas and worshiping people. In the lowest row (to the right and left of the entrance opening) are two people trumpeting into the shells. In the second lower row (as on both sides of the opening) there are two slightly different drawings on the same theme «A girl with an elephant's head and a lion's body holding a lotus in her trunk.»

Directly above the arch of the entrance aperture there are three figures in a row: the sun on the left, the «moon hare» on the right, and one of Ridi Vihara's often mentioned attractions right in the middle, just above the arch: «Nine woven maidens». In Sinhalese, this drawing is called Navanari Kunjanaya. It depicts nine girls, placed in such a way that the outline of the whole group forms an elephant figure.To the right of the Upper Temple there is a small stupa, the history of which available sources do not inform.

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Sarasum Gala

In order to get to the rock hill of Sarasum Gala, you first need to go back to the «crossroads». On the road often come across a small flock of macaques, which here are kept at a decent distance and do not show much interest to people.
From the «intersection» begins a wide stone staircase that rises to the crest of the dam, running along a small pond located in front of a rocky hill. The staircase ends with a platform in front of the bridge, directly behind which is another staircase that leads directly to the top of Sarasum Gala towards the stupa.

Left along the dam in the direction of the ancient Buddhist caves is a wide path. Following it first along the dam, and then along the caves and past the observation platform, you can climb the hill with a mortar from the side. The trail reaches the edge of the cliff and turns to rocks, in niches and crevices of which ancient temples and monastic cells were built (it is believed that here was the ancient monastery of Ridi Vihara).

Now for the inspection are available four rock visors, under which were located the ancient temple and dwellings of monks. The fate of the remaining buildings is unknown, because for two thousand years they could have been washed up and fell down by monsoon showers, and subsequently brought by the soil and covered with tropical forest.
In Sri Lanka, due to the geological features, there are almost no natural caves, but in its entirety there are heaps of huge stone blocks that appeared as a result of the destruction of magmatic heights-intrusions (usually composed of gneisses, more rarely granites). A typical example of this kind of formation is the famous rock Sigiriya — a giant gneiss remnant towering over a plain almost 200 m, the foot of which along the entire perimeter is cluttered with huge boulders and lumps falling from it.
Therefore, almost all the cave monastic cells and temples of Sri Lanka were arranged in deep rocky niches, most often under rounded boulders, and sometimes in between two neighboring stone blocks. The technology of preparing niches for such structures was quite standard: there was a stone block with a suitable niche; the niche was filled with firewood, which was set on fire in order to burn and drain all the space covered by it; The «ceiling» of the niche was cleaved to an acceptable slope, and the floor of the cave was tampered with the stone crushed stone as a result of processing the rocky surface.
The remains of such structures, which date back to the II-III centuries. BC, Sri Lanka a great many, and they are all arranged according to the same principle: a man-made rock peak with a rain-covered ledge and side or front walls built of bricks or wild stone. Often there are completely adobe walls, and in some cases, the configuration of the rock allowed to build only the front or front and one side wall.
In its own unique in the technology of construction of such structures was the carving along the curvilinear surface of the rock of shallow rain cornices — «kataramas». This type of protection against tropical rainstorms is the original Sri Lankan know-how, in which local craftsmen achieved the highest perfection. Some rock niches reach one and a half to two dozen meters in height (for example, in Ridi Vihara) and tens of meters in length (for example, in Dambulla).
The contour of the katarama was carved with such precision that for hundreds and thousands of years the sloping surface of the rock, and consequently the inner space of the caves, was always dry, so the «ceilings» of all such niches are even yellowish and lack lichens, etc. Vegetation, which contrasts sharply with the color and state of the surface of the rock itself.

Some of the caves have survived the remains of walls, composed of roughly processed stone and clay. As far as they are ancient — it is difficult to say, because such walls in the monsoon climate are not very durable and require constant care and repair.
From the last rock niche, a stone staircase goes up, the steps of which are laid out by flat pieces of roughly processed stone. Probably, it was the entrance to the ancient temple, whose walls completely collapsed over the millennia, but only single stone blocks with traces of manual processing survived.

At the end of the stairs there is an object on the left along the way, which is now called the «viewing platform». The viewing platform is a huge stone block with chipped lateral faces and aligned to a flat surface top surface. On its western side are three stone steps carved from rock monolith, and the east side faces a steep slope descending to the foot of the hill at an altitude of about 200 meters above the level of the surrounding plain.
Most probably in ancient times a wooden frame with a roof towered above this stone platform, its floor was covered with mats, and in the eastern part there was an elevation for senior monks. Given the location of the site and the amount of work associated with its construction, it is highly probable that during the existence of the ancient Buddhist monastery there was a monastery nospasthagara, in which obligatory monthly ceremonies were held, and general meetings and collective declamations of the Canon were held.

From the «observation platform» to the top there is a wide trampled path, which ends at the foot of the staircase leading to the upper platform platform with a mortar. At the top of the stone-covered platform there is a small snow-white stupa, almost identical to the one near the Upper Temple, but with a more rounded body of stupa.
From the platform of the stupa there is a beautiful view of the rock «back», going down to the bridge, from which you need to start your journey.
To the right of the trail going down the cliff there is a small pond cut down in a natural depression on the rock, and on the left under the spreading plumery, on the surface of the rock there is an ancient inscription of the 2nd century BC, narrating the end of the work on cutting the ladder on the rock. And the stone staircase itself begins almost in front of the inscription.

The smooth surface of the rock turns into the very staircase, carved into the rock, about which the ancient rock inscription says. It is located to the right of the lamp post. From the place where the rock «dives» into the ground begins a modern wide stone staircase that goes straight to the bridge. It offers stunning views of the ancient monument. It certainly makes sense to visit, while in the Kurunegala area.

Being in the Kandy area, or in Colombo, take an entire day to visit the unique Ridi Raja Maha Viharaya temple complex. You can get here if you stopped for accommodation in Kandy or Peradeniya, and intend to visit Kurunegala or Yapahuwa. Contact your Lankarus manager on how to make the best route for your excursion.
In some travel packages by Lankarus there is a planned visit to the area of Kurunegala.


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