Polonnaruwa Vatadage (circular house of relic) Dalada Maluwa (hall of
relic) in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
The Temple of the Tooth of Lanka during the glorious era of Polonnaruwa
The centerpiece of the ancient city of
Polonnaruwa, the Dalada Maluwa (the hall of the Tooth Relic), was a
sacred precinct containing 12 magnificent buildings. Although there are
numerous vatadage across Sri Lanka, the Vatadage at Polonnaruwa is the
most famous. As with many other vatadage, it had a stupa in the centre
with four Buddha images facing the cardinal directions.
The Vatadage, one of the oldest & most beautiful monuments in
Polonnaruwa, is to our left as we enter the Dalada Maluwa. In spite of
its modest proportions, the circular building with concentric terraces
is a superbly planned & executed 12th century masterpiece. It was
certainly intended to house the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha,
which is now deposited at The
Sacred Temple of Tooth in Kandy. Built by
King Parakrambahu the great (1164-1196AD), it was later embellished by
King Nissankamalla (1198-1206).
Outer structure, the first terrace
The entire outer structure with a diameter of 18m is a gorgeous riot of
artistry, with almost every surface carved in a melee of decoration. The
outer wall is decorated with friezes of lions & dwarfs, & topped by an
abstract lotus design.
Upper structure, the second terrace
Four entrances to the upper terrace are adorned with magnificent stone
carvings: moonstones flanked by nagaraja (Cobra king) figures with seven
hooded cobra head guardstones.
While the Nagaraja figures were believed to prevent evil spirits
entering the premises, the moonstones- elaborate semi-circular welcome
step stones carved in polished granite- represent the spiritual journey
from samsara, the endless cycle of death & rebirth, to Nirvana, the
ultimate escape from suffering. These were unique decorative features of
Sinhalese architecture. The moonstone at the northern entrance is the
finest in Polonnaruwa.
Central dagoba (stupa)
From the upper terrace, steps lead through four entrances, aligned in
the cardinal directions & each presided over by a seated Buddha. In the
center are the ruins of the small central brick stupa in which the Tooth
Relic was enshrined during the glorious days of ancient capital,
Polonnaruwa. In sharp contrast to the building, this innermost sanctum,
the reason for the very existence of Vatadage itself, is virtually
Lost to the Dravidian invaders
The building has lost the conical roof of three concentric circles, most
of the dagoba (stupa) and one of its guardstones at the base of the steps
among many other features & surrounding buildings to the marauding
Dravidian invaders from South India.
on photo to enlarge