Polonnaruwa Vatadageya; a honorable heritage

Polonnaruwa is one of ancient scared city which consists of very famous Buddhist architectures in Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa Vatadageya (The Sthupa House) is one of the most honorable and special Buddhist creation of them. Because it indicates not only the Sri Lankan culture but also the ancient heritage of the motherland. When considering the other the Sthupa Houses Sri Lanka like Thuparamaya, Madirigiriya Vatadageya, Lankaramaya, Polonnaruwa Sthupa House can be introduced as a well-planned architectural creation and this can be taken as the maximum stage of the SriLankan Sthupa House concept according to the archeologists.

Thus this is the greatest conserved Sthupa House in Sri Lanka than other Sthupa Houses. This was constructed in the Polonnaruwa era and the constructor is little unclear. Because according to the creation lists in epigraphs of the king Nisssnka malla, Pollonnaruwa Vatadageya is his creation and he constructed this to keep the lunch bowl of the Lord Buddha. But some archeological discoveries show that this is a creation of the king Parakramabahu I under his kingdom to keep and protect the Scared Tooth Relic from the foreign enemies. However after the year 1215, Polonnaruwa Vatadageya was abandoned as a result of South Indian attacks.

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Polonnaruwa Vatadageya, Credit : Nishan Weerasooriya

It is situated in the area called “Dhaladha Maluwa” in Polonnaruwa district. Dhalada Maluwa contains the most ancient and adorable mementos in scared city Polonnaruwa such as hetadage of king Nissanka Malla, Atadage of King Vijyabahu, Image of Boddhisatwa, Oth-pilimaya, Galpotha (stone book), Sathmahal Pasada and Nissanka Latha Mandapaya.  Vatadageya can be seen at the South East direction of Dhalada Maluwa. Vatadageya is covered a broad area in Dhalada Maluwa and this is round in shape. There are some factors which reflect that there was a gateway pavilion situated at the entrance of the Vatadageya.


There are two floors in this architecture and they are Upper floor and the bottom floor. And they are adding a huge esthetic value to the Vatadageya. Both upper and bottom floors are with stone engravings. From these engravings we can ascertaine the greater talents of ancient artists very clearly. There is only one entrance to enter the bottom floor and there are four entrances at the upper floor. Upper floor is on five feet and three inches (1.6m) height from the bottom floor and its diameter is eighty feet (24 m).  Bottom floor is on four feet and three inches (1.3m) height from the ground and its diameter is one hundred twenty feet (37 m).

Thus three concentric circular lines with stone bars are in the upper floor while the bottom floor consists of only two bar lines. The bottom part of upper floor stone bars are with the lotus flower shape. The two bar lines at the bottom floor were made from wooden materials with respect to their ruined round shaped familial, used to hold the bars. They show similar characteristics to the stone bars of Anuradhapura era.

Roof architecture

Some archeologists say that they are to bare a wooden roof for the temple. This roof helps to cover whole area of the upper floor and the half area of the bottom floor. But some believes that this had not a roof and the bars are to hang curtains and various Buddhist symbols. From the three lines of bars, conserved outer line is only there and we can not see the other two. But according to their ruins, the inner line, middle line and outer line had have sixteen(16), twenty(20) and thirty two(32) bars respectively. The existing bars are about eight feet (2.4 m) in height.

 Wall arts

The wall between the bottom and the upper floor was built by using bricks. It is very special because they used a well-mixed pillar composition to build it. Some believe that that is the reason for its excellence and existence up to now. Thus this wall is the only uniqueness of Polonnaruwa Vatadageya. Another specialty of this wall is its deep charming quality with a short wall art including simple flowers. Some says that flowers looks like “Binara” flowers. And in between them, we can see another flower like Jasmine design. The thickness of this wall is two feet and six inches (0.76 m). Usually the ancient time people made the Sthupa Houses to protect both pagoda and the devotees who come to worship it.

Polonnaruwa Vatadageya
Polonnaruwa Vatadageya Buddha statue , credit

At the very middle of the upper floor we can see a Pagoda and its diameter is around twenty seven feet and eight inches (8.43 m). This pagoda also has the common Sri Lankan Sthupa shape “Bublulakara”. And today we can see only the bottom spherical shaped part of this. Though traditionally pagodas have three “Pesa” rings, this pagoda only has two “Pesa” rings. This is very important thing when comparing with other ancient pagodas in Sri Lanka.

 Samadhi statues

At four entrances there are four five feet height Samadhi Buddha Statues that face to the entrances. And they are on two feet and ten inches (0.86 m) heighted stone chairs. The hair of these Buddha statues is very different from other Buddha statues. Because there is no circinate hair on them. The hair of them looks like wearing a head covering. The stone statues are with “Dhanya Mudra”. The robe of the Buddha statue is unusual. Because it is so flat to the body. From those four statues, only two statues are in unaffected mode. And other two have only aught. This is a one of marvelous creation of Sri Lankan Ancient artists.

Staircase of Vatadageya Polonnaruwa
Staircase architecture and engravings

They decorated the each and every gateway with Moonstones (Sandhakadapahana), Guard stones (Muragala) and Korawakgala. There is an artistic and unique staircase at the entrance form bottom floor to upper floor. The moonstone at north entrance. The guard stones at eastern entrance are the most beautiful engraving because they have the highest aesthetic value which illustrates the capability of the ancient artists. According to historians, as much as the traditional moonstones show the transmigration of the animal as Buddha vision, these moonstones also shows that.

And there are some differences between moonstones of other eras in Sri Lanka and moonstones of Polonnaruwa era. Normally moonstones are with four animals, lion, horse, bull and elephant. But there is no any design including bull in Polonnaruwa era moonstones like others. Because bull was a scared thing according to Hindu believes in that era.  These all carvings elevate the Buddhist cultural and traditional heritage of Sri Lanka.

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