Sacred City of Anuradhapura - 4 : Isurumuniya Vihara (Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka)

In Sri Lanka, there are a lot of temples and sacred grounds related to the rock. It seems to try to bequeath sacredness of a remarkable rock, unlike India where the magnificent architecture appeared by engraving the rock. The oldest existing place in Sri Lanka is this Isurumuniya Vihara. It locates at the south end of the ruin district and the rock of four stories high raises oneself so that it would insist the sacredness in a level and less rolling Anuradhapura.

The monastery that derives from 3 centuries B.C. was a start of the vihara. In right side and the lower right of a small hall, they can find the deities or elephant images engraved into the rock, and, in the inside of small hall, the graceful alcove with archi form is also engraved. The sleeping Buddha image in the main hall is similarly cut out from the rock. Its repainting was taken place by support of famous Senso-ji Temple in Japan. The halls were constructed afterwards in order to protect those images, and a white Dagaba on the top of rock or the pond which water was brought from the large Tissa Wewa Bank built in the ancient times were also added as they see now.

Each elemen's level as cultural assets is high and the peaceful atmosphere is good, but, due to being added haphazardly, it may be lack of the integration and continuity of whole. While, it also may analize that, unlike Indian stone cave temples which intended to conquer and exceed the rock, Sri Lankan style for the rock seemed to state the respect for the rock and intend to live with the rock by a minimum elaboration and process planning over long time.

Sri Lankan culture gives an impression that the relation between the environment and artificial works is peaceful. In Isurumuniya Vihara, we understand that this relation with the rock have been succeeded from the ancient times. It also made Japan recall. Both countries are not connected directly to India and China with strong cultural power but are facing to those inserting the sea as a buffer. Therefore the culture of both countries may soften strength and generate the calm.

From the rock top of Isurumuniya Vihara, they see the rich green Anurardapra. This scenery where the artificial things are not remarkable shows that this place has not faced to rapid development yet and has been succeeded the old time.

To Japanese Version

Google Maps

4 hours and half by train and 5 hours by car from Colombo. 3 km to Isurumuniya Vihara from the train station



Lonely Planet Guide 'Sri Lanka' (Lonely Planet Publication, 2006)

2007.11 Photos in English version, and photos and text in Japanese version

2018.01 Change of photos and English text

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Isurumuniya Vihara (3rd Century B.C.)

Photo by Daigo Ishii