A unique vihara on dwarfed rock pillars
By Gamini G. Punchihewa
During the ancient Kandyan period, there was a unique type of vihara called the "Tampita Vihara", also known as "Deva Matha Viharaya". "Tampitha Vihara" is a temple on pillars. Its most prominent feature is that it is mounted on monolothic pillars or dwarfed rock pillars.
This type of viharaya that stood on raised platforms of wood standing on stone pillars was constructed this way in order to prevent white ants or other vermin from entering it and damaging it.
"Tampita Vihara" has yet another name- the "Deva Matha Vihara". Deva here means timber and matha means amidst a vihara of timber.On a recent tour around the interior of Kandy, not far away from the city, I came to know that there are only two such Deva Matha Viharayas in the Uda Nuwara and Yata Nuwara areas.
These archaic monuments are preserved by the Department of Archaelogy. In my ramblings around Kandy, I was fortunate to come across one such Deva Matha Vihara at a place called Meenimarupitiya (its derivation being a place where a murder had occurred in the past) in Eladetta about seven miles from Kandy on the road to Dalugala.
The superstructure of the Deva Matha Viharaya is composed of wattle and daub and is square in shape.
The height of the doorway is about four feet and its dimensions are 10 feet by 15 feet, standing on six stone dwarf pillars. The doorway is so small that one has to bend down as if in obeissance, to enter the Vihara. Such Deva Matha Viharas enshrine Buddha statues and are places of worship. The walls are adorned with murals and the roof is thatched with flat tiles.
There is a gilted statue of the Buddha in a sitting position made out of terra cotta which is similar to ones found in Gadaladeniya and Lankatillake viharas in the vicinity.Exquisite designs depicting Jataka stories cover the walls while on the ceiling there is a painting of flowers and creepers with tendirls which is fast detiorating.
Behind the Deva Matha Vihara is a large bo tree with bowers that have given shade to many.
Interestingly, the home gardens of the villages are abundant in pepper vines which are seen festooning the jak, mango and coconut trees. Sadikka is also found in abundance.