From tamraparni to taprobane and from ceylon to srilanka….. Pre colonial architecture of srilanka Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga August 2010
Disclaimer… I’ve a very strong conviction that it is impossible to explain architecture in words… I have always enjoyed seeing buildings and reading explanations about them… architecture cannot be totally explained but must be experienced…! “This presentation does not pretend to go beyond the historical framework of Sri Lankan historical studies in general: rather it is an attempt to compensate for the bias towards textual and linguistic martial by an archaeological approach to the architectural remains of the early periods, i.e. by providing a critical and interpretative analysis of the surviving monuments….” “Nor this is a comprehensive survey of early Sri Lankan architecture…!
Phases…. • Anuradhapura • Sigiriya • Polonnaruwa • Other short lived kingdoms • Decline and dispersal • The Arabs and the Chinese • The Portuguese • The Dutch • The British • Post independence
Outline • Sri Lanka – an island of architecture • Early settlements • Phases of pre colonial architecture • Anuradhapura • Sigiriya • Polonnaruwa • Reflection
“The Temples of their Gods are so many that I cannot number them. many of them are of rare and Exquisite work, built of Hewn Stone, engraven with Images and Figures…” Robert Knox (1681). A Historical Relation of Ceylon
Sri Lanka – an extraordinary sense of history • Assorted of names which reflect the complexities of its history and the diversity of its contacts with the rest of the world • Throughout the history, it has been influenced by its proximity to India and its position between Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal
Landmarks in history • Tradition places the arrival of the Aryans under Vijaya in the same year as the death of the Buddha, but scholars wish to keep an open mind with regard to the exact date • The island had been the meeting ground for several religious beliefs which developed in the Indo-Gangetic basins of North India • Yet, Buddhism right from its advent, became the dominant religion • Buddhism gave Sri Lankans a serene philosophy of life which served as an ensuring source of inspiration for their creativity in art, architecture and literature.
The first settlements • The early settlers lived in a loose network of separate clans • Extant evidence of their engineering skill and architectural achievements of the Sinhalese includes remains of vast irrigation projects, many ruined cities, notably the ancient capital Anuradhapura, and numerous ruined shrines including dagobas.
Anuradhapura - the concept of Sinhalese tradition • Anuradhapura is closely associated with a golden period of Sri Lankan history from 3rd Century BC to the 10th century AD. • Being the main centre of Sri Lanka’s culture and civilisation throughout the first 1300 years of the country’s history, we can assert with confidence that the successive development of Sri Lankan monastic architecture are to be found here
Anuradhapura - the concept of Sinhalese tradition • The whole site is studded with vast expanses of monastic sites. The tallest brick built sputas and several monasteries including the stone Buddha images
Basic principles of early architecture • The architects of the classical period based their designs on systems of mathematics and proportion developed from ideas about the cosmos. • Their larger public buildings and layouts for towns were based on rectangular grids, usually aligned to the points of the compass. • More complex buildings were often axial in plan and incorporated subtle of hierarchies of main and subsidiary axes . While such compositions often proceeded from a symmetrical parti, deliberate asymmetries were introduced to add surprise and interest. • They also demonstrated a unique approach towards topology and water and developed a geomorphic approach that celebrated naturalistic composition of buildings, winding staircases caves and narrow passageways. • In the same way, they sought to incorporate water both in naturally occurring pools and streams as formally planned ponds and channels.
Thuparama – the first stupa of srilanka • At the request of Mahindathero, King Devanampiyatissa built Thuparamaya • It is considered to be the first dagobabuilt in Sri Lanka following the introduction of Buddhism. The name Thuparamaya comes from "stupa" and "aramaya" which is a residential complex for monks. • This chetiya was built in the shape of a heap of paddy. • This dagobawas destroyed from time to time. During the reign of King Agbo II it was completely destroyed and the King restored it. What we have today is the construction of the dagoba, done in 1862 AD. • As it is today, after several renovations, in the course of the centuries, the monument has a diameter of 59 ft, at the base. The compound is paved with granite and there are 2 rows of stone pillars round the dagoba. During the early period vatadage was built round the dagoba.
Abhayagiri monastery – an exemplary foundation • Abhayagiri monastery founded during the 1st century BC by King Valagamba, covered at its peak an area of 200 hectares and housed up to 5000 monks • The main dagoba was built in the 2nd century AD, rose to a 110 m • Its influence can be traced to other parts of the world as Abhayagiri developed as a great institution in the ancient Sri Lankan capital
Abhayagiri monastery • Abhayagiri had all the components required by doctrines of a Buddhist temple: the image house, stupa, Bo tree . Recent archaeological excavations have also revealed other features such as roadways, assembly halls and temple buildings
Abharagiristupa • This is the second tallest brick edifice of the ancient world • A road access system anticipating modern concepts of town planning has also been uncovered with a highway from the city to the running through the monastery
Jethavana was built by King Mahasena (276-303). It is believed that this monument was built upon the enclosure where MahindaTherowas cremated • Jethavana Stupa is the largest stupa in Sri Lanka. It was originally 400 feet in height . At the time of the collapse of the Roman empire in the 4th century AD., this was the third tallest monument in the world. Even today as a brick monument, Jethavanaremains the tallest of its kind ever completed in the world. • It contains 93,300,000 baked bricks! • It has withstood the ravages of time and the elements for 1600 years , as a great witness to the engineering and architectural expertise and the sound knowledge of geometry and physics of our ancient inhabitants. • Technical and architectural achievements of this extraordinary masterpiece are of international appeal and a study fascinating to man.
Plan – Jethavanastupa • 1 – entrance • 2 – outer sand court • 3 – stone terrace • 4 – flower alters • 5 – stupa • The stupa is 100% accurately set out on a north-south, east-west axis, has an outer retaining wall and four gateways.
Jethavanastupa • Excavation to the north, south and east of the base of the Jetavanastupa firmly establish the fact that the 6 m deep foundation stands on bed rock. • The dome is indeed a very special design. Its shape has evolved to a perfect mathematical equation. • The strong concrete plaster of the surface f the dome protected the mass of bricks from direct erosion of the outside by the water run off.
Architectural decoration • Architectural elements of the buildings excavated at AbhayagiriVihara clearly reflect the social beliefs and religious practices prevalent at the time • Although Buddhism was the main religion followed by majority of population, influence of other local beliefs such as Hinduism was considerable and is expressed in the architecture of the period. • Most common is the Nagraja as part of a guard stone and illustrates the degree of perfection.
The first sandakadapahanas were created during the latter stage of the ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom. • They were only placed at entrances to Buddhist temples during this period Sandakada pahana (moonstone)
The elaborate mooonstone is in itself a distinctive element of ancient sculpture in the island. These semi-circular slabs of granite acquired increasingly complex bands of decorations over the years. The carvings of the semi circular stone slab were the same in every sandakada pahana. A half lotus was carved in the centre, which was enclosed by several concentric bands. Sandakada pahana
Sandakada pahana • According to historians, the sandakadapahana symbolises the cycle of Saṃsāra in Buddhism. • To some, the moon-stone is symbolic of transcending worldly temptations and achieving nibbane. • At the heart of many moonstones is a lotus petal. Buddhists regard the lotus as a sacred flower, a symbol of the male and female creative forces that prevails throughout Sri Lankan art, architecture, sculpture and literature. • It figures in the legend attached to the birth of the Buddha, when seven lotuses sprang into bloom at his feet as he took the first seven steps of his life. The lotus bloomed again in profusion at the moment he reached the state of Enlightenment.
The first band from the half lotus is decorated with a procession of swans (symbolising the distinction between good and bad) • Followed by a band with an intricate foliage design known as liyavel. The liyavel (foliage design) symbolise worldly desires (Taṇhā)
The third band has carvings of the elephant, a symbol of birth, the bull indicative of decay ; the lion, resent in disease. and the geese, a symbol of death. • The fourth and outermost band contains a carving of flames.
The samadhibuddha • The Samadhi Buddha Statue, which probably dates from the 4th century AD, is a magnificent image of the Buddha in Samadhi, a Buddhist term for deep meditation, or more literally, concentration. • It is said that this is one of the best pieces of sculpture in the world. • This remarkable image has an expression depicting ‘extinction of feeling and compassion,
The samadhibuddha • Crafted from limestone, it was originally one of four seated at the cardinal points around a long-deceased bo-tree. • Probably the eyes were originally studded with gems, and a path of paint found under the right shoulder is evidence that the entire figure may have bee painted • Javaharlal Nehru wrote that he found solace during his imprisonment by the British by looking at a photograph of this statue
The lovers • 6th Century Gupta style carving. The woman, seated on the man's lap, lifts a warning finger, probably as a manifestation of her coyness; but the man carries on regardless. The carving itself, popularly known as "the Lovers" dates back to the 6th century, and the style is of Indian origin • The figures may represent Dutugemunu's son Saliya and the law caste (Sadol Kula) maiden Asokamala whom he loved. It's known that he gave up the throne for her. • Many poets and song writers have taken inspiration from this carving to write their masterpieces
Ancient water management • Among the most significant artistic achievements in the field of hydraulic engineering and architecture are the Twin Ponds or “KuttamPokuna” • These are considered one of the outstanding architectural and artistic creations of the ancient Sinhalese. • The embankments were perhaps made to enable the monks to bathe using pots of other utensils
"KuttamPokuna" (Twin Ponds/Pools). • Water to the pools were transferred through underground ducts and filtered before flowing to the pool and in a similar fashion the water was emptied. • An opening for an outlet allowing water to be drained away has been discovered at the bottom of each pond, during recent excavations
Naga symbol • This symbol is generally associated with water and is often found at water inlets or outlets. • This present example is from Anuradhapura Twin pond complex
Ran MasuUyana- Ancient Royal Pleasure Garden • Before Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the mid 3rd century BC, parks were a definite feature of city planning. • But with the arrival of Mahinda Thero in 250 BC, all these parks were donated to Sanga Community by King Devanam Piyathissa (250-210 BC). • The originator of this garden is lost in the history but “Ranmasu Uyana” was probably established as a alternate to all the parks donated to the maha sanga. • This park covers an are of approx. 40 acres and is a fine example of Sri Lankan garden architecture. The water to the park was supplied by Tissa wawa and then released to rice fields around Isurumuni Vihara. There was even a changing chamber for the royal family. The ponds within the park are designed with precision irrigation techniques so that the water form Tissa wewa passed through all the ponds and tanks in the garden before releasing them for irrigation work.
tanks Basawakkulma tank Tissa wewa Tissa wewa
Construction methods – the underlying unity of Anuradhapura architecture • The prominent and dominant form of the superstructure are only lasting and historically meaningful as long as they retain their connection with the organic “base” • Nothing makes it more clearer than the construction methods employed during Anuradhapura period. • A careful analysis of the structural methods employed in the monastic architecture reveals that they are, in essence, only a development of the basic principles of rural buildings.
Construction methods – the underlying unity of Anuradhapura architecture • Classic Sinhalese architecture is essentially a mixed brick and timber tradition • The lost superstructures of Anuradhapura monuments, including the roof and the upper walls were almost certainly of timber. • The sub structure consisted of a basic platform of compressed earth with brick and masonry
Sirigiya – City, Palace and royal gardens • Sigiriya represents a unique concentration of 5th century urban planning, architecture, gardening, engineering, hydraulic technology and art. • Sigiriya comes dramatically, if tragically, into the political history of Sri Lanka during the end of 5th Century during King Datusena 1, who ruled from Anuradhapura • After killing Datunsena, his sun Kasyapaestablished a new capital in Sigiriya • The great tapestry of paintings at Sigiriya, the palace on the summit and the lion staircase are all part of a complex “sign-language” expressing royal power and ritual status.
A grand view of the Sigiriya rock, which was transformed into a magnificent palace by Kind Kasyapa of the 5th century AC
Urban form • One of the most important aspects of Sigiriya is that it is one of the best preserved and most elaborate surviving urban sites in the world from the first millennium AD. • The palace stands about 360 m above sea level, and among the most remarkable aspects of the urban form at Sigiriya are its planning mathematics and total design concept. • In its total conception, Sigiriya represents a brilliant combination of concepts of symmetry and asymmetry in a deliberate interlocking of geometrical plan and natural form
This is one of the the most famous features of Sigiriya • They are fragmentary survivals of an immense backdrop of paintings that once extended in a wide bank across the western face of the rock • It coveted an area nearly 140 m long, and at its widest, about 40 m high. The whole face of the hill appears to have been a gigantic picture gallery, the longest rock painting in the world
Meaning and style • An important and largely unanswerable question is how the present figures related to the entire composition of the painted band extended across the rock face. • Their fragmentary nature and unusual location have led to painting being interpreted in a number of ways: • They portray the ladies of Kasyapa’s court in a devotional procession to a shrine in a purely imaginative reconstruction and hence has no precedent in the artistic and social traditions of the region or the period (Bell) • They represent lightening Princesses which is an interpretation at once more literacy and sociological (Paranavithan) • Sigiriya women are “apsaras” in keeping with well established South Asian traditions and is not only the simplest but almost logical and acceptable interpretation (Coomaraswamy)
Style and authorship of paintings • This has been as controversial a question as that of their identity • Bell and Coomaraswamy saw them as extensions of the Central Indian School of Ajantha • Some argue this classification – and say Sigiriya paintings represent the earliest surviving examples of a Sri Lankan school of classical realism, already fully evolved when we first encounter them in the 5th century.
Mirror wall • The mirror wall dates from the 5th century and has been substantially preserved in its original form • Built up from the base of the rock itself with brick masonry, the wall has a highly polished plaster name hence it gets its name • Greatly inspired by the paintings, visitors might have composed poems addressed mostly to the ladies • The poems which express the thoughts and emotions of ancient visitors to Sigiriya, provide not only revealing comments on the paintings themselves but also an insight into the cultivated sensibilities of the time and its appreciation of art and beauty
The lion staircase • One of Sigiriya’s most dramatic features is its great Lion staircase, now preserved only in two colossal paws • The surviving masses of brick masonry and the original limestone risers give us a clear idea of the form, scale and materials used in the construction of thyme lion • The lion staircase house has stood to a height of 14 m
The palace was the centre of the royal city. The earliest surviving palace in Sri Lanka, with its layout and basic ground plan still clearly visible, it provides important comparative data for the study of Asian palace forms The palace