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Architecture of Ancient Sri Lanka

Sunday, 26 October 2008 - 3:27 AM SL Time

The architecture of ancient Sri Lanka displays a rich variety of architectural forms and styles. Even in their ruined condition, the buildings of ancient Sri Lanka provides a cultural heritage and architectural significance which is important to the modern Sri Lankan culture. Buddhism had a major influence on architecture, as in many aspects of Sri Lankan life.

There were more than 25 styles of panchavasa monasteries that have the five main ritual buildings: the chapter house, image house, bodhighara or sacred fig enclosure, chaitya and the sangharamaya or sabha. There were several designs for the vatadage and bodhighara buildings. Architects and archaeologists found that the ancient buildings consisted of a timber frame made from massive pieces of wood, strongly bound with heavy iron nails and clamps, with plastered walls and tiled roofs. There were various types of roof and also many designs of door frame.

Cave temples
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Cave temples with rudimentary living facilities have been found all over the island. The earliest are at Mihintale. These caves had a drip ledge or katarama carved along the top edge of the rock ceiling to stop rain water running into the cave. This drip ledge is unique to Sri Lanka. Doors, windows and walls of brick or stone were added later. The roof and walls were plastered white and finished with decorative paintings. The chipped material of the rock was packed underneath the clay finished floor.

Dagobas or Stupas
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The dagobas or stupas are distinctive for many reasons. They are probably the largest brick structures known to the pre-modern world. Demala Maha Seya, which was never completed, had a circumference of 2,011 feet (613 m). Jetavanaramaya is the largest stupa constructed in any part of the world. It is over 120 metres in height and has a diameter of 367 feet (112 m). The foundations are 28 feet (9 m) deep. It needed bricks that could bear the load of 368 pounds. Jetavana was the third tallest building in the ancient world. Abhayagiri (370 ft) ranked fifth and Ruvanvelisaya (300 ft) came seventh (the first, fourth and sixth places were held by the Pyramids of Giza).

Bodhighara or Bodhigara

The bodhighara is a shrine enclosing a bodhi tree. This shrine consists of two platforms, with the tree on the upper platform. It had a roof that was neither circular nor square. The best examples of bodhighara are in Sri Lanka. The bodhighara at Nillakgama in Kurunegala district (8th century) was the first to be identified. Dr. Paranavitane considered it to be the only well preserved example of this type of shrine in Buddhist countries. It was `somewhat in the original form`. Thereafter 38 more bodhigharas were found in Sri Lanka.

Vaulted roof shrine
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The brick shrine with vaulted roof, as seen in Polonnaruwa at Thuparama, Lankatilaka and Tivanka Pilimage, is also considered unique to Sri Lanka. Dr. Paranavitana says that these buildings have no exact parallel elsewhere in the Buddhist world. Specially shaped bricks of a fine texture have been used for the vertical mouldings at the entrance at Lankatilaka. The joints between the bricks are so fine that not even the point of a penknife can be inserted into the joints. The Thuparama is almost intact today and gives an idea of the manner in which the vaulted roof was created. The principles of the true arch were known to the ancient Sri Lankans, but the horizontal arch was considered a safer method of construction.

Bodhighara or Bodhigara
------------------------
The bodhighara is a shrine enclosing a bodhi tree. This shrine consists of two platforms, with the tree on the upper platform. It had a roof that was neither circular nor square. The best examples of bodhighara are in Sri Lanka. The bodhighara at Nillakgama in Kurunegala district (8th century) was the first to be identified. Dr. Paranavitane considered it to be the only well preserved example of this type of shrine in Buddhist countries. It was `somewhat in the original form`. Thereafter 38 more bodhigharas were found in Sri Lanka.

Vaulted roof shrine
--------------------
The brick shrine with vaulted roof, as seen in Polonnaruwa at Thuparama, Lankatilaka and Tivanka Pilimage, is also considered unique to Sri Lanka. Dr. Paranavitana says that these buildings have no exact parallel elsewhere in the Buddhist world. Specially shaped bricks of a fine texture have been used for the vertical mouldings at the entrance at Lankatilaka. The joints between the bricks are so fine that not even the point of a penknife can be inserted into the joints. The Thuparama is almost intact today and gives an idea of the manner in which the vaulted roof was created. The principles of the true arch were known to the ancient Sri Lankans, but the horizontal arch was considered a safer method of construction.
Sky scrapers

The nine-storied Loha maha paya (3rd century BCE) would have been an elegant building. It had an exposed wooden frame supported on stone pillars. It was plastered in white, with shining copper roof tiles and a pinnacle at its apex. It had lightning conductors or chumbakam made of amber and tourmaline. Its rafters were made of talipot palm. It rose to a height of 162 feet (49 m) and had approximately 179,316 square feet (16,659 m2) of floor space. It could seat 9000 monks. Roland Silva remarked in 1984 that such an extensive floor space would stagger the designers in Sri Lanka `even today`. The dominant element in these buildings, was the tiled roof supported by timber beams and rafters. The roofs were tiled, from as early as the third century BCE, with red, white, yellow, turquoise and brown tiles. There were also tiles made of bronze.

Temple Complexes
----------------
The temple complexes were well planned. In the Alahana pirivena complex at Polonnaruwa, the image house and stupa were built on high ground. The sloping area, which was terraced, held the other buildings such as the residential quarters of monks. A person entering through the gateway had a full view of Lankatilaka, which dominated the group.

Palaces
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Five royal residences have been identified. They are Vijayabahu`s palace in the inner city at Anuradhapura, the palaces of Nissanka Malla and Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa, the palace of Sugala in Galabadda in the Uva province, and Parakramabahu`s palace in Panduvasnuvara near Hettipola, when he was ruling over Malaya rata.
Hospitals

Some idea of hospital architecture can be inferred from the monastic hospitals at Mihintale and Polonnaruwa. This hospital plan can be seen at the National Museum, Colombo. There was an inner and outer court and the rectangular inner court had a series of cells, toilets and bath, with an exit at one end. One cell had a medicinal bath. Alahena had long dormitories instead of cells. The outer court accommodated a refectory, a hot water bath, storerooms and dispensary. A wall cordoned off the hospitals. The provision of two open courts in addition to windows ensured maximum ventilation and free circulation of air within the building itself.

Houses
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A house dated to 450 BCE, built of warichchi (wattle and daub) has been discovered near Kirindi oya. Another has been found at Adalla, Wirawila, and at Valagampattu evidence has been discovered of houses dating from 50 CE to 400 CE. The kitchen utensils are still there. In medieval times, the rich had large houses built of stone, mortar and lime, with tiled roofs and whitewashed walls. There were rooms and apartments with doors and windows. The windows had fanlights. The doors had keys, locks, and hinges. The houses had compounds or courtyards and balconies. There were separate rooms for pounding paddy, a storeroom or atuva for paddy, and sheds for keeping chariots. Latrines are also mentioned. All houses however had small kitchens.
Water
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There were island pavilions surrounded by water called Sitala Maligawa. There were ponds with [[Nelumbo nucifera{lotuses]]. The royal gardens in Polonnaruwa had dozens of individually-named ponds in different shapes and sizes. Sigiriya had an octagonal pond. Polonnaruwa had one resembling the coils of a serpent and another like an open lotus. Kuttam Pokuna in Anuradhapura had a graduated series of ponds going from shallow to deep. Essential facilities were not forgotten: the Nandana Gardens had a large gleaming bathroom.


Source(s)
Wiki

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Thambi
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 21:42:28 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Back in business ,nice -:)
Emperor74
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 21:48:52 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Nothing about Hydraulic technology ?
AnuD
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 22:06:07 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Anuradhapura Lova mahapaya is supposed to be a seven - storied building.

I have seen stone carved lavatories look just like the modern ones.

Edited By - AnuD - 25 Oct 2008 22:10:29 GMT
Vaishnavi
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 22:08:45 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Mahan Mark Levinson

Architecture of Ancient Sri Lanka


The whole article is talking about Sinhala Bhudist architecture. Ancient Lankan architecture includes Hindu heritage too. Did you miss them accidental r the Mahawansa thoughts prevented you from including them

Further architecture is just not beautiful things or its not just rich people make with rich materials. Most of the tamil ancient houses of poor men had good architectural features. We continued them until early eighties.

But unfortunately our younger generations do not know these things. How many our sons and daughters know what is a Thalai Vasal? what is a rapu?
AnuD
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 22:11:50 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Ancient Lankan architecture includes Hindu heritage too.


Vaisnavi may be Thivya's Mother.
toyya
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 22:16:24 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Lankan architecture includes Hindu heritage too


oh come on, Dont be so Tamil ! :O((
samadi
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 22:17:47 GMT  Report for Abuse  
One ate the bait..who is next...????
Daisy
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 22:19:15 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Vaishnavi,

Further architecture is just not beautiful things or its not just rich people make with rich materials


aneeeee reallllyyyyy?????..... :o)

why is it that you guys always have to drag in religion and race in to everything??? It's ancient SRI LANKAN architecture!....it's your heritage too!..

Edited By - Daisy - 25 Oct 2008 22:21:08 GMT
MarkLevinson
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 22:19:42 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Back in business ,nice -:)


No appa :):)

-----------

Empo,

Water gardens are there.........


-----------

AnuD,

Vaisnavi may be Thivya's Mother


I just wonder it might be someone else.....
MarkLevinson
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LK Information  25 Oct 2008 22:20:01 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Back in business ,nice -:)


No appa :):)

-----------

Empo,

Water gardens are there.........


-----------

AnuD,

Vaisnavi may be Thivya's Mother


I just wonder it might be someone else.....
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