Spelndour of Ridi Viharaya

Tucked away in the ancient regal Kingdom of Kurunegala, is Ridi Viharaya, a temple that dates back to King Dutugamunu’s era, which is associated with the king’s task of building the famous Ruwanwelisaya. It is from this location that a large haul of silver is said to have been discovered – the silver that was used to construct the famous Ruwanweli Stupa. The historical significance apart, the temple, which had been developed with the influence of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy periods, has a significant appeal to it with many interesting features including several rock caves believed to have been occupied by nomadic monks in ancient days for meditation.

For those visiting Kurunegala, navigating to Ridi Gama, the village where the temple is situated, is no difficult task. From Kurunegala main town, it is approximately about 20 kilometers along Rambodagalla Road. Once you reach the destination, the visitors have the option of taking either the newly constructed road or a flight of granite steps to go up to the temple.

What greets your eyes as you reach the top is the temple's main chamber andstupa called, Maha Viharaya. Set against a large rock in the back drop, Maha Viharaya is an awe-inspiring sight. As you enter in to the Maha Viharaya, you can witness the paintings carved on the inward layer of the rock, which serves as the roof of the chamber. Inside, you also find several standing, reclining and Samadhi statues of Lord Buddha, few statues of deities and a statue of King Dutugamunu created out of Chandrakanthi stone. The Buddha statue kept inside a glass cabinet, we learnt, is a valuable gold plated statue said to have been donated by king Dutugemunu.

Interestingly, you may also find something unusual to be cited inside a Buddhist temple- on a flower pedestal inside the Vihara Geya (Chamber), you may notice several tiles depicting the pictures of the life of the Jesus Christ. It is assumed that these tiles may have have been gifted by the then Dutch Governor who maintained close ties with the temple’s chief monk at that time.

From Maha Viharaya- you can go to the Uda Viharaya (the upper chamber) the entrance to which falls through an ivory arch way adorned with intricate carvings. With two lion carvings on either side of the arch way, and a design of pancha nari getaya in the middle (pancha nari getya or the design of five female figures interwoven, is considered the highest level of ancient craftsmanship), today, the archway is covered with a glass frame as this has been subjected for vandalism over the years.

For the wealth of colorful wall murals the Uda Viharaya depicts, the chamber is essentially a heaven for those with an interest in studying art and temple murals. A stone edifice on the temple garden which has the resemblance a Hindu shrine is yet another interesting aspect of the temple. A granite structure standing on eight stone pillars- adorned with various stone carvings- is said to have been built during the Anuradhapura period, yet the designs carved on the pillars suggests that this structure has Pollonnaruwa and Kandy period influence too.

The structure is referred to as the Waraka Welandu Sthanaya (Place Where Jack fruit was consumed) for the reason that a nomadic monk by the name of Indragupta who occupied a cave here consumed jack fruit at this particular location. The legend states that a group of merchants, who were travelling past the jungle here, had decided to break journey on citing a jack fruit tree, and on seeing the meditating monk, the merchants had made an offering of jack fruit to the priest. Pleased by their gesture, the monk had then directed the merchants towards a cave with a massive silver ore. The silver discovered by the merchants from this location had been handed over to king Dutugemunu to build the Ruwanwelisaya and the King had later constructed Ridi Viharaya temple at this location as a mark of gratitude for getting the resources to construct the stupa.

In close proximity to Waraka Weladu Sthanaya, you also find Serasum Gala- the rock where King Dutugamunu bathed and dressed himself in Royal attire during his visit to the location. Atop the Serasum Gala is a tranquil spot and here you will be able to get a view of the surrounding area- the greenery all around and the occasional movements of the saffron robed monks walking the stone pathway into the meditation huts.

A confluence of history and religion, exploring Ridi Viharaya is truly a delightful experience.

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