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Kelaniya. Sacred Places Of Buddhism

Raja Maha Vihara Kelaniya is one of the most sacred places of worship for Sri Lankan Buddhists, as this site is sanctified by a visit to the Buddha. In the distant past, Kelaniya was a great city, and Raja Maha Viharaya Kelaniya was one of the largest and one of the most beautiful temples of Sri Lanka.

Located about 10 km. from Colombo within the sacred area of 10 acres, Kelani Vihara stands near the Kelani Ganga River, as evidence of the Buddhist tradition in the country. Vihara received its sacred status over 2500 years ago after the third visit to Lanka by Buddha. He consecrated the foundation of the temple with his own visit, accompanied by 500 monks.The fact that the Buddha visited Kelaniya on theMay Full Moon Day (in Sinhalese: vesak) at the invitation of the King of Maniakhika, recorded in the historical chronicles of Sri Lanka.

King Naga — according to these chronicles — invited Buddha to a meal at this place, which after explaining the essence of the Dharma (in Sinhalese: dhamma) was consecrated, and in this place the King built a Stupa (Vehera), into which a lock of Buddha's hair was placed and the dishes used by the Great Teacher. Put the stupa inside and the rug on which Buddha sat. However, with the passage of time and the destruction of the Vihara by foreign invaders, the original Stupa (Sinhalese: dagoba) was lost.

Raja Maha Vihara Kelaniya, however, received the consecrated status and became the seat of the Buddhist faith after the venerable Mahinda preached Buddhism in Sri Lanka. According to the ancient chronicle of Mahavamsa, the brother of King Dewanampiyatissa was repairing Vihara. He, as also says in Mahavamsa, built the first residential complex for Monks (Sanghavasa).

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Historical evidence shows that the Raja Maha Vihara in Kelaniya was the most revered temple during the era of the kingdom of Kotte. By the time the Portuguese conquered the country, much of the land had been donated to the colonialists by the king of the province of Vihara Kelaniya, and then in 1510 the Portuguese troops entered destroyed the secret temple. The Portuguese confiscated this land, creating an obstacle for Buddhists on the path of worship in the temple.

The restrictions on the development of the Raja Maha Vihara Kelaniya region were slightly weakened with the arrival of the Dutch. In 1767, the Dutch, in order to receive the favor of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha, were allowed to develop Raja Maha Vihara in Kelaniya. Thus, the reconstruction of the Raja Maha Vihara was undertaken by the then Chief Venerable Monk, Mapitigama Buddharakkhita. He was provided with capital from the treasury. The king was so overjoyed in the way the work was organized that the grants, thanks to the reciprocal flexibility of the king, continued to simply pour into Raja Maha Vihara.

Frescoes of Kelaniya
The Portuguese destroyed the ancient temple in 1510, and all the sculptures and paintings of the past perished. Therefore, what is very sad, in our days in the temple there is no evidence of any ancient paintings or sculptures belonging to the period of Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa period. Existing paintings and sculptures have a relatively recent origin. They can be divided into two periods — performed in the 18th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

Old frescoes
The House of the Image (Viharage) has a width of 45 m and a length of 28 m. It is erected on a stone pedestal 1 meter high. The sacred room has a thatched octagonal roof in the Kandian style.

The paintings belong to the Kandy period. The main story tells stories about the Buddha. Each picture has its own story, and each picture is clearly grouped according to the meaning of the events. The wall also shows Mara Yuddha (Temptation by Mara) — the battle of the Buddha with the Mara forces (Polluting Factors) and also Solosmashkhana (16 revered shrines).

On the ceiling that looks like a sky, the planetary Gods or Navagraha are depicted, as well as the 12 zodiacal signs — Rashi.

New frescoes
Since ancient times, Sri Lanka has a tradition of depicting on the walls of temples stories from the History of Jataka. But the temple of Kelani Vihara departed from this tradition in new paintings. Instead, it is here a variety of frescoes depicting a variety of historical scenes related to the rise, significance and promotion of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

In the paintings depicting King Dewanampiyatissa, representing Maha Megha, there is also the image of the Monastic Mahinda. Here the king is marked in performing rites on elephants. The plot dates back to the time of the Tripitaka. Tripitaka is the first time in history when the Buddha's teaching was recorded in writing.

Other significant scenes are the presentation of Baddhagosa Vishuddhimagga to Sangharaja Mahavihara in Anuradhapura. King Sri Kirti holds a meeting with the Saranankara Maha Thera, presenting him with an order to ensure the preservation of the Sacred Tree of the Nun Sangamitta and the Tooth of Buddha, which was brought to Sri Lanka by Prince Dantha and Princess Hemamala. The Princess secretly carried the Tooth in a shock of hair to her magnificent hairdo.
 
Carved garlands of flowers on the stone pillars of the temple are precisely executed in the most perfect style of sculpture. The paintings in the outer part of the chamber enchant and inspire. Just imagine! It captures the most important events in the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and in the history of Kelaniya.

Pictures on the band of the upper group depict 3 visits to the Buddha of Sri Lanka. On the lower strip are murals depicting the events that led to the murder of Maha Thera, as well as the floods and sacrifice of Princess Devi during the reign of Kelanitissa.

Other famous frescoes are those that show the establishment of the Theravada tradition. They also narrate about Burmese monks, about robbery and destruction in the early 13th century and about the disgrace of the Portuguese here in the late 16th century.

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Duruthu Perahera
In this historic temple, a procession known as Duruthu Perahera (Procession of Kelaniya) takes place annually in January on the full moon day. On this occasion, hundreds and thousands of people from all parts of the country and hundreds of foreign tourists are leading the way to the temple's premise to witness with their own eyes an exciting theatrical performance.

The procession shows the ancient traditions and cultural heritage of the country. This procession demonstrates to the world the age of Buddhism with the help of ancient traditional folklore, folk music and rhythmic forms of dance under the impact of the drum. The sounds of joy announce joy everywhere and pay homage to Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The first such a great theatrical performance, commonly known as Kelani Perahera, was first held in 1927.

The procession in Kelaniya consists of three separate processions — from the Relics of the Buddha and from the three images of the deities — Vishnu, Kataragama and Vibhishana.
The festival of Duruthu is celebrated in three beautiful stages.

<b First Festival — Udamaluwa Perahera
The action begins on the upper terrace of the temple. Favorable moment. A secret casket with sacred relics is given to the head of the procession. And soon begins Peraheera. Only a few elephants participate in this procession. In the column — dancers, dancers and drummers. The head of the ceremony and members of Dayaka Sabha (Organizing Committee) go in procession, dressed in symbolic white robes. The sacred casket, placed on a colorful pillow, is carried by hand, in full reverence.

Second Festival — Pahatamulawa Perahera
This is a more colorful act than the first. An elephant carrying a sacred casket on the back is an obligatory part of Duthura Perahera. Behind the elephant are people carrying divine insignia in the form of the Polar Star. The ceremony master and his retinue, when in office, follow slowly behind.

Third Final Procession — Randoli Perahera
This is the culmination moment of the whole festival. The procession is usually conducted on the full moon day of the January new moon. This is the most colorful and magnificent procession. On the back of the elephant is placed the national flag of the country, symbolizing the nation. Then comes a group of bearers of the regions of Sri Lanka, uniformly dressed. They carry in their hands colorful banners and flags of various regions and regions of the country. Then follows a group of drummers, performing various works on drums and dancing to these melodies. The drummers are accompanied by an elephant carrying the Buddhist flag. Next comes the elephant, which carries Naga Kodiya, the flag of Kelaniya.
Then follow Pemaru Rala, residents of the border area. It is accompanied by a group of dancers and drummers.

The next elephant is Gajanayake Nilame, the head in charge of the stability of the column. In the interval there are troupes of dancers from different schools. After them arrives Kariyakaranawa Rala, the master of ceremonies, surrounded by retinue, drummers and dancers. They are accompanied by two Buddhist monks dressed in saffron colors and representing the Brotherhood of Sangha, who here acts as guardians of Buddha's relics.
They are followed by a troupe of Candian dancers dancing in drums to drums. They sing the verses of the mantras of high praise to the Buddha.

Then comes the majestic elephant with large tusks and noble birth, continuing the path of the sacred casket, richly decorated with bedspreads and harness. He goes in all his majesty and dignity, walking proudly on a white carpet of cloth (in Sinhala: pawada).
Then comes the guardian of the sacred casket, dressed in a royal Indian costume. He is the caretaker for the safety of the sacred relic on the way to the procession. Thus, Dathu Perahera and Randoli Perahera are completed.

The troupes of drummers and dancers of the hungivis, demonstrating various forms of dance, go in between the elephants to support the choreographic balance of Perehera. Participants represent all 3 main dance schools in Sri Lanka (Udarata, Sabaragamuwa and Pahatarata). Each of the columns of Devala Perahera ends with the passage of the elephant Devala, bearing on the back deistic insignia (Devadharana) and accompanied by Basnayak Nilame, the keeper of each Perahera column.
The final part of Perahera is characterized by the passage of three palanquins (Randoli) from the shrines. They are carried by the attendants of the corresponding sanctuary. A woman in the line of duty, dressed in the respectful clothes of a guard walks beside each palanquin, fanning the air around the palanquin and fanning him with a peacock feather fan. In these palanquins they carry ornaments of the corresponding gods, as well as pitchers filled with gifts from food for the gods.

So, you can visit the holy places of Kelaniya almost at any time of the year, and only the lucky ones who come to Sri Lanka in January, and stop specifically for the sake of Perahera in hotels of Colombo.
On your desire to visit the shrines of Kelaniya, inform your Lankarus manager for optimal solution of all questions related to your accommodation, meals and sightseeing tour.

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