Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya: Repository of artistic treasures | Sunday Observer

Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya: Repository of artistic treasures

29 January, 2017
Exterior view of Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya

The weariness and fatigue of a long drive vanished as we walked into the peaceful realm of the Maduwanwela Walawwa and its Tempita Vihara, known as, Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya, where the age old sacred Bo tree spreads its branches to extend its protective shade, cooling the entire compound. The Bo leaves rustled in the afternoon breeze, soothing our senses.

We featured the Maduwanwela Walawwa a few weeks ago and today, we take you to another magnificent monument Maduwanwela, the Sri Mudalindaramaya, an ancient Tempita Vihara nestling in the lap of the awe-inspiring mountain frontier of the Kolonna valley.

Most visitors to the Walawwa miss the opportunity of visiting this enchanting TempitaVihara, which dates back to the time of the Walawwa, located in the vicinity of the Maduwanwela Walwwa. The Vihara can be reached by travelling 24 Kms along the Embilipitiya - Kolonna road and turning right at the temple junction and proceeding about two Kms on a narrow road.

Archaeological monument

The history of the Maduwanwela clan and its Walawwa dates back to the Kandyan period of King Vimaladharmasuriya II (1687-1707 AD). Maduwanwela Maha Mohottala had constructed the original building during the reign of Wimaladharmasuriya II in 1700. The Walawwa boasted 121 rooms, 21 Meda Midul (quadrangles) and three security walls, a court room, and a magnificent Bo-tree.

The mansion had been later improved by the last of the illustrious clan, Sir James William Maduwanwela Maha Dissawa. The Maduwanwela Tempita Vihara had been built in 1764 by the early Chieftain belonging to the Maduwanwela aristocratic clan. The Dissawa died in 1930 and his grand Walawwa is now a protected archaeological monument.

Situated on the edge of a vast stretch of green paddy-fields is the historic Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya Tempita Vihara, believed to have been a flourishing Vihara during the time of the Maduwanwela dynasty. The Vihara has been named after the Mudaliyars (Mudali) Dissawa who reigned supreme in the area of Maduwanwela, as Mudalinalage Aramaya later became Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya.

Having parked our vehicle in the shade, we quietly stepped into the Vihara through its main gate and met the Chief Incumbent, Ven. Maduwanwela Sugathanandathera Thera who was busy with some workers at the temple, but obliged us to show the Vihara interior despite his busy schedule.

According to Ven. Mduwanwela Sugathananda Thera, during the Dissawa’s time (he came to the temple in a Dolawa), there had been a separate route to the Vihara from the Walawwa which ran through the east of the Vihara entrance. There are three terraces to enter the Vihara. The lowest terrace is assigned for the villagers, the second terrace for officials, while the upper and final terrace is for the Dissawa and family members. Even today, we can see the old entrance at the Vihara premises. It had been a tradition of past Dissawas to renovate and maintain the Vihara, gifting the lands to the Vihara.

Elaborate paintings

The historic significance of the Vihara is associated with Kandyan period murals, elegant architecture and craftsmanship. The Chief Incumbent, Ven. Sugathananda Thera took us to the image house of the Vihara, which stood on a granite stone foundation on a wooden platform, with walls of wattle and daub and a thatched roof with flat tiles. The visitors are advised to walk slowly on the wooden platform due to its antiquity.

The image house has statues of the Buddha and other deities. The murals depicting the tales of Buddha’s life are adorned with Narilatha and tendrils with foliage in full bloom. The ceilings are decorated with elaborate paintings of lotus flowers.

Looking at the murals at the Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya Vihara, we noticed that the murals probably belonged to the Kandyan and modern periods. Although the murals on the outer side belong to the recent past, the main seated Buddha statue inside the image house belongs to the Kandyan period. On either side of the Buddha statue are two other statues of Seriyuth and Mugalan, his Chief Disciples. The entrance to the image house is adorned with a beautifully decorated Makara Thorana, with two figures of the lion and two dwarfs.

Among the Kandyan period murals on the front wall of the Vihara, we saw a bizarre figure of a Yakka (demon) prominently illustrated. It has a hideous face with its mouth wide open, holding a pig in its mouth. One figure has 10 hands, five on each side, holding elephants by their trunks, human beings by their hair and other symbolic armaments.

There is a short series of wooden steps to reach the image house of the Vihara. The internal floor is covered with ceramic tiles and a raised platform for flowers bearing the date 1918-02-08. The entrance doorway frame of the Vihara also marks the 2410 Buddhist year and 1848 as “Shaka Warsha”. These dates may have been marked during subsequent renovations by the Maduwanwela clan. The most striking features in the Tempita Vihara is its own architectural style, similar to the Maduwanwela mansion. The Avasa Ge (monk’s residency) is a relic of the past dating back to the period of Maduwanwela Walawwa. It had been an abode of the priests then too, and is well maintained to this day. The doorways, windows, roof and rooms including the huge ‘Meda Midula’ all show a similarity to Walawwa architectural design. When we visited the Vihara recently, repairs were being carried out in the old ‘Avasa Ge.’

The Vihara is also filled with beautifully carved elegant furniture, well-preserved in the Vihara, now kept under protection due to the renovations. It is said, the valuable furniture was manufactured by Don Carolis Furniture dealers, especially, for the Maduwanwela Dissawa in 1860. The furniture and other items had been the property of Maduwanwela Walauwa, and donated to the Vihara by the Maduwanwela Dissawa.

The Vihara today, is on a journey of revival due to the unwavering efforts of Ven. Maduwanwela Sugathananda Thera. The Vihara so far has had four clans of Sangha. The first Chief Incumbent of the Vihara was Ven. Kalle Siri Sunandhabidhana Thera in 1917. After the passing away of the fourth Chief Incumbent of the Vihara, Ven. Kalle Dewanandhabidhana Thera, the present Chief Incumbent took over. Sugathananda Thera, born in Maduwanwela itself, came to this Vihara in 2012 and took measures to safeguard the Vihara in its ancient grandeur.

Remnants of a bygone era can still be seen at the Vihara premises, narrating tales from history and what may have been. But, it remains intact and safeguarded, and Ven. Sugathananda Thera ensures that the heritage of the Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya is preserved for posterity, so that they could see how our ancestors prospered.