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Suriyagoda Rajamaha Viahraya

The historical temple called Suriyagoda Rajamaha Viharaya is located in the Gangapalatha Suriyagoda grama niladhari division in Yatinuwara Divisional Secretariat in the district of Kandy. This temple which has been popularized as Suriyagoda Rajamaha Viharaya is also known as Suriyagoda Sri Narendraaraama or Suriyagoda Sri Narendrasinhaaraamaya. Saddharamaalankaara which was written in the Gampola period depicts an interesting story regarding the origin of this temple. Acoording to that, Suriyagoda village temple had been initially known as kadadoragam or kadaroddaagam. This village has been referred to as bandarigaami and Suriyaththalagaami in a granting document (thudapatha) which was granted to the Suriyagoda temple during the Kandyan period. Sinnce thala means goda in Sinhala, it can be conjectured that Suryaththala gaami might have become Suriyagoda in the later periods by emitting gaami.

Historical Background
The origin of the Suriyagoda Temple is undoubtedly related to the Kotte period. It is said that a person called Suriyagoda Vihare Gendara Wijayasundara Raajaguru Raajakaruna Atthanaayake Senarath Bandara who had worked as a consultant and raajaguru (royal teacher) of king Parakramabahu VI (A.D. 1412-1467) has built a temple in this place. He and his family members had protected the place, thereby making offerings to the Buddhist monks. During the reigns of king WImaladharmasuriya I and WImaladharmasuriya II, Ven. Rev. Wegama Kitsirimewan Rajasundara and Ven. Rev. Edanduwawe Kitsirimewan Rajasundara respectively lived in the same temple. However, it was during the reign on king Wimaladharmasuriya II where the temple became a renowned Buddhist temple. The major reason behind that was the fact that Ven. Rev. Siriyagoda Kitsirimewan Raajasundara who was the teacher of Weliwita Saranankara Sangaraaja dwelt in this temple as its owner and chief monk. It is said that Rev. Suriyagoda ws one one the monks who gained upasampadaa at Gatambe (A.D. 1697) by Rev. Santhaana and Rev. Lokaraagapugga who came to Sri Lanka on the royal patronage of king WImaladharmasuriya II. Further, since Ven. Rev. Weliwita Sangaraaja has mentioned in one of his documents that our teacher, Ven. Rev. Siruiyagoda lived in Hanguranketha by assisting king Sri Wira Parakrama Narendrasinghe with meaningful and disciplined advise, it becomes clear that Rev.Suriyagoda served as a royal consultant of king Sri Wira Parakrama Narendrasinghe. Consequently, he was given the honorary title Kithsirimewan Raajasundara by the king and the patronage of

king Narendrasinghe who was the last Sinhala king who ruled the country for 32 years was directly given to this temple. From that time onwards, the temple came to be known as Narendraaraamaya or Narendrasinhaaraamaya. However, Rev. Suriyagoda was finally subtected to death punishment on the charge that he had helped Ganskon Adhikaarama to involve in a secret relationship with the queen. Rev. Saranankara was a 23 years old monk when this unfortunate even took place. The king, having got angry, not only gave the ownership of the temple to Udappula Appu, but he also made arrangements to send all the relatives of Rev. Suriyagoda away from the area as a punishment. Due to the commitment of Rev. Waliwita Saranankara, it was possible to get kings Sri Wijeya Rajasinghe (1739-1747 AD) and Kirti Sri Rajasinhge (17471781 AD) to assist and facilitate the temple in many ways. At present, there is a royal charter which refers to a land which was granted to the temple by king Kirti Sri Rajasinghe in 1781 AD. Since that time, land donations were made on behalf of the well-maintenance of the temple. According to a palm-leaf manuscript placed in the Suriyagoda Temple, there duties were assigned to four generations: Viharegedara generation, Aarachchigedara generation, Maarawakkada generation, and Bulumullegedara generation. These generations were supposed to perform 12 duties for the betterment of the temple, and duties were equally distributed among the four generations.

Historical Value
It is possible to call the Suriyagoda temple as a Buddhist temple which has all the features that implies the historical value and traditional identity of the country. A characteristic feature of this temple is that constructions such as Pratimaaghara, pagoda, Siimaamaalaka, alms-hall (dharmashaala), Siripaa Vihara and monastery are situated inside the same building complex. This is also characteristic of Tampita architecture which belongs to the Kandyan period. The main access point to the temple is the main entrance is found after passing several rock stairs. This door frame which is 10 feet in height has been connected to the rocky parapet. Another important feature of this is that both the door to which the above mentioned door-frame is attached and the parapet wall are covered by a roof with tiles. The main entrance is located along the southern direction and its door frame and the door are made out of wood. This door frame and the door clearly represent the traditional architectural features of the Kandyan period. The door frame includes architectural features such as dekanda, padikanda, haras kada (udalipatha) baapatha and angul kanuwa.

The shrine room is situated towards the northern side of the building and it represents the architectural elements inherited to the construction method called Tampita. It has been constructed by laying timber with a width of 17 inches on eight granite pillar with 18 inches in height. The walls are made of wattle (varichchi) and the roof is covered with tiles (pethi ulu). Where the statues and paintings inside the shrine room are concerned, there is a statue of the sleeping Lord Buddha which is constructed on a vajraasana, under a dragon thorana. This statue is located towards the north of the shrine room. The dragon thorana above the statue contains cravings of gods Shiva, Brahma, Indu and Vishnu. Left and right walls of the temple contain paintings of Kandyan period, representing a range of significant events in the life of the Lord Buddha. The left wall has been divided into four main columns. The uppermost column contains 13 figures of devotees who are walking to worship the Lord Buddha. The figures are represented in yellow on reddish background and their robes are marked with thin lines in red colour. An article (letter?) written by Ven. Welivitiye Sangaraja himself suggests that the paintings of the Suriyagoda Temple have been done by an artist called Deldeniye Sittara Naide. Furthermore, there is a special building with engraved pillars which have been constructed according to the ancient engraving tradition. This building which is directly joined to the temple is both used as a dharmashaala and as the Simamalaka. One of the special engravings among engraved pillars inside the sima ge is the one representing two wrestlers. The other wooden pillars are decorated according to the malkam and liyakam tradition as well. Another two pillars have been brought to this place from the poya simamalaka which was located in the Gatambe ferry in the Mahaveli river. Thus it has to be mentioned that those two pillars are also worth attention.

The Museum
The museum located in the Suriyagoda Rajamaha Vihara is another historically valuable construction. At present, one of the rooms in the Sanghavasa building has been devoted to the museum. The entrance of the museum includes an engraved wooden door-frame which clearly depicts the principles of the ancient craftsmanship. There are a number of antiques related to Ven. Welivita Saranankara. The alphabet used by Ven. Saranankara which was written by a monk called Giraathalan Pattuve Madulle Unnanse has now been located in this museum. Moreover, a stylus used by Ven. Saranankara Sangaraja is placed in this located. This stylus is placed in a wooden case with two caps.

Some other items placed in the museum include the tusk statue of the Lord Buddha and the belt which were presented to Ven. Saranankra by the king of Siam; The golden statue and gold plated casket which presented by king Narendrasinghe; the sandalwood statue which was worshipped by Ven. Saranankara, his hour glass and a brass lamp. This list has to be further expanded in order to include the some other items such as a silver statue of the Maitree bodhisattva, a bronze statue of the Lord Buddha, and a series of statues of the Buddhas related to the Suvisi Vivarana. The museum also has a large number of palm leaf manuscripts on which the tripitaka is written. It is also noteworthy that some dhamma books which were written by Ven. Saranankara on short palm leaves are placed in the museum. Another important item is the palm leaf Jataka Story book which is said to be found by him by putting a greater effort during the time he was collecting dhamma books. Additionally, this museum library contains a collection of palm-leaf manuscripts which include both the Buddhist literature and various volumes of the Tripitaka. It is fairly clear that the Suriyagoda Rajamaha Temple deserves a special attention in inquiring into religious, aesthetic, and architectural aspects of the Kandyan period. The Suriyagoda Rajamaha Temple has made a significant attempt in order to further extent Buddhist affairs by establishing the Welivita Saranankara Buddhist Centre. This temple is also famous among the public as a significant historical place where a wide range of religious and national activities are being conducted. The 'Welivita Asarana Sarana Saranankara Economic and Social Cooperative Foundation' serves the Buddhist community in many ways while the Samanera Institution is also attempting to establish a very good Bhikku community, following what has done by Ven. Welivita Saranankara Sangaraja. It must be further noticed that religious and academic activities conducted by the present Head of the Temple, Rev. Veralugashinne Dhammarathana and Rev. Bulumulle Gunarathana (B.A.) with the aim of illuminating the name of the Ven. Welivita Saranankara are enormous and significant.