Repository of artistic treasures | Sunday Observer
Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya

Repository of artistic treasures

24 October, 2021

The weariness and fatigue of a long drive vanished as we walked into the peaceful realm of the Maduwanwela Walauwa 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 Walauwa last week. Today, we take you to another magnificent monument in Maduwanwela, the Sri Mudalindaramaya, ancient Tempita Vihara nestling on the lap of the awe-inspiring mountain frontier of the Kolonna valley.

Kandyan period

Most visitors to the Walauwa miss the opportunity of visiting this enchanting Tempita Vihara, which dates back to the time of the Walauwa, located in the vicinity. 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 kilometres on a narrow road. The history of the Maduwanwela clan and its Walauwa dates back to the Kandyan period of King Wimaladharmasuriya II (1687-1707AD). Maduwanwela Maha Mohottala had constructed the original building during the reign of Wimaladharmasuriya II in 1700. The Walauwa 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 Disawa. The Maduwanwela Tampita Vihara had been built in 1764 by the early Chieftain belonging to the Maduwanwela aristocratic clan. The Disawa died in 1930. His Walauwa 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 clan. The Vihara has been named after the Mudaliyars (Mudali) Disawa who reigned supreme in the area of Maduwanwela, as Mudalinalage Aramaya which later became Maduwanwela Sri Mudalindaramaya.

Having parked our vehicle in the shade, we stepped into the Vihara through its main gate and met the Chief Incumbent, Ven. Maduwanwela Sugathananda

The three terraces

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. Sugathananda Thera, during the Disawa’s time (he came to the temple in a Dolawa), there had been a separate route to the Vihara from the Walauwa 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 Disawa and family members.

Even today, we can see the old entrance at the Vihara premises. It had been a tradition of past Disawas to renovate and maintain the Vihara, gifting the lands to the Vihara.

The historic significance of the Vihara is associated with Kandyan period murals, elegant architecture and craftsmanship. Ven. Sugathananda Thera took us to the image house of the Vihara, which stood on granite stone columns on a wooden platform, with walls of wattle and daub and a thatched roof with flat tiles.

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 ceiling is decorated with elaborate paintings of lotus flowers. Looking at the murals at the Sri Mudalindaramaya Vihara, we noticed that the murals probably belonged to the Kandyan and pre-independence periods. Although the murals on the outer side belong to the pre-independence period, the main seated Buddha statue in the image house belongs to the Kandyan period.

Image house

The entrance to the image house is adorned with a beautifully decorated Makara Thorana, (dragon arch) with two figures of the lion and two dwarfs. There is a 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 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 feature in the Vihara is its architectural style, similar to that of the Maduwanwela Walauwa. The Avasa Ge (Bhikkhu’s residence) is a relic of the past dating back to the period of the Maduwanwela Walauwa. It has been an abode of the Bhikkhus 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 the Walauwa architectural design.

The Vihara is also filled with well-preserved, beautifully carved elegant furniture and pottery. It is said that the furniture was manufactured by Don Carolis Furniture dealers, especially, for the Maduwanwela Disawa in 1860.

The furniture and other items had been the property of the Maduwanwela Walauwa, and donated to the Vihara by the Maduwanwela Disawa.

Remnants of a bygone era can still be seen in 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.