Lankatilaka Vihara is a Buddhist Temple located in the district of Kandy, Sri Lanka. This temple is an important site of historical and religious relevance. With its unique architecture and rich cultural elements, the temple attracts visitors both from Sri Lanka and around the world. This travel guide aims to provide you with all the information you need to plan your visit to Lankatilaka Vihara.
Lankatilaka Vihara has a storied past, dating back to the 14th century. Built by King Buwanekabahu IV in 1344 AD, the temple has connections to the Gampola kingdom, which was a powerful stronghold along the Mahaveli River. The construction was overseen by the king's Chief Minister, Senalankadhikara, with design work by South Indian architect Sthapati Rayar.
The era during which the temple was built was a significant time for Sri Lanka, marked by the consolidation of the Gampola kingdom. During this period, there was a resurgence in Buddhist thought and art, which can be seen reflected in the temple's construction and design elements. Additionally, the kingdom had strong trade ties with South India, which may have influenced the choice of a South Indian architect and the integration of Dravidian architectural elements.
Historical records also indicate that the temple was not only a spiritual center but served administrative functions. It was a place where royal decrees were often issued, and community gatherings were held. Over the centuries, Lankatilaka Vihara underwent various changes, reflecting shifts in religious practices and rulership, but it has continuously remained a significant site for both religious observance and cultural heritage.
This temple is more than just a place of worship. It serves as an educational center about Buddhism. The murals and sculptures within the temple offer insights into Buddhist philosophy. Lankatilaka Vihara holds a significant place in the religious landscape of Sri Lanka. For many devotees, it serves as a place for meditation and spiritual rejuvenation. Additionally, the temple also holds annual ceremonies and festivals that attract large crowds.
Lankatilaka Vihara is well-known for its distinct architecture. The temple combines Sinhalese and Dravidian architectural styles, resulting in a unique blend. Built on a rock, the temple stands 41 feet tall and is made primarily of clay bricks. The temple's facade is adorned with intricate carvings, while the interior features detailed murals. The ornate wooden pillars inside add to the grandeur of the temple.
Main Features of the Temple
The temple exhibits a unique layout resembling a cross, with four sides extending outward. The original design included four stories, but today, only the ground and part of the first floor remain.
Lankatilaka Vihara was dedicated not only to Buddha but also to several deities, including Vishnu, Saman, and Vibhishana, among others. This reflects the diverse religious beliefs and practices in the Gampola and Kandyan kingdoms during that era.
The temple can be reached from two directions. One route begins at the Sanghawasa and includes a set of stone steps that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Along this route, visitors will notice large storage bins for rice known as ‘Atuwa.’
Within the complex, visitors will find a Dagoba (stupa), a Bo tree, and a significant stone carving of Lord Buddha’s footprint, known as the Buddha Siripatula. There's also a preaching hall near the main entrance with a distinctive roof covered in flat and round tiles arranged in intricate patterns.
Built primarily of granite and covered with plaster, the main temple stands three stories high. The inside features vibrant wall paintings and exquisite examples of architectural design. A Moonstone lies at the entrance, and the gateway is flanked by two Korawakgalas (balustrades). Once inside, you'll notice lion figure paintings that are unique to Lankatilaka Vihara.
In the main chamber housing the Buddha statue, visitors will encounter an array of artistic elements. A seated Buddha statue is placed under a Dragon Arch, surrounded by designs that symbolize the concept of 'Bodhi.' The walls feature paintings depicting the lives of the previous Buddhas.
The temple premises feature inscriptions in both Sinhala and Tamil. These provide historical context, including mentions of land gifts to the temple by the kings of the time.
Location and How to Get There
Lankatilaka Vihara is about 15 kilometers away from the main city of Kandy. You can reach the temple by car, bus, or tuk-tuk. There is ample parking space available near the temple. If you prefer public transport, regular buses run from Kandy to the temple.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Lankatilaka Vihara is during the months of January to April. During this period, the weather is relatively dry, making it easier to explore the temple and its surroundings. The temple is less crowded on weekdays, so you can enjoy your visit in a more peaceful atmosphere.
Tips and Advice
- Dress Code: Ensure you are dressed modestly, covering shoulders and knees, as Lankatilaka Vihara is a religious site.
- Footwear: Remember to remove your shoes before entering the temple premises.
- Photography Rules: Taking photos inside the main shrine is generally not permitted. Always check for signs or ask temple staff for guidelines.
- Guided Tours: Guides are available at the temple for a nominal fee. They can provide insightful information on the history and architecture of the temple.
- Respect Local Customs: Be mindful of local religious practices and rituals.
- Travel Light: Carrying large bags or backpacks into the temple might be restricted. It's advisable to bring only essentials.
- Embekka Devalaya: Located about 4 kilometers from Lankatilaka Vihara, Embekka Devalaya is another excellent example of Sri Lankan architecture and craftsmanship. This temple is famous for its intricate wood carvings.
- Ambuluwawa Tower: A multi-religious site that offers scenic views and a peaceful environment for contemplation. It's about a 30-minute drive from Lankatilaka Vihara.
- Gadaladeniya Temple: Located just a few kilometers away from Lankatilaka, this is another historical temple that dates back to the 14th century. It features stone carvings and ancient paintings.
- Royal Botanical Gardens: Situated in Kandy, about a 30-minute drive from the temple. The gardens are a perfect place for a leisurely walk and offer a variety of flora.
- Kandy Lake: Located in the heart of Kandy City, this artificial lake provides a calm and beautiful setting. It's a great place for a boat ride or an evening walk.
The visit to Lankatilaka Vihara offers an in-depth look into Sri Lankan history, architecture, and religious practices. Whether you are interested in Buddhism, Sri Lankan history, or architectural beauty, this temple has something to offer. So, be sure to stop by this amazing temple if you are traveling in Kandy.