Nissanka Latha Mandapaya – Polonnaruwa
Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is one of the more unique constructions made by King Nissankamalla in the 1100s; the Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is believed to be the discussion house for Buddhist chanting (pirith) and still stands as an essential masterpiece that showcases how the religion of Buddhism influenced society back in the day. The memorial is located in the western end of the ‘Dalada Maluwa’ (where the Sacred Tooth Relic was housed), making its consequence all the more important in the annals of the Sri Lankan story. The complex is also recognised to be the ‘King’s Court’ by some archaeologists.
Its highlighting determinant is its open-air design, which possesses some unique resembling pillars crafted to depict blossoming lotus flowers. Moreover, This is because there are also other features of interest, which have been preserved over time. But, at the same time, unique features have been destroyed due to the constant invasions of the Chola during the 14th century. Therefore, the details of the building, especially the stone columns, are reflected the most significant standards of the ancient architectural techniques in the whole island, according to the famous archaeologist Senarath Paranavithana.
History of Nissanka Latha Mandapaya
Nissanka Latha Mandapaya was built by King Nissanka Malla between 1187-1196 and was named after him. It is located near the western entrance of the Dalada Maluva, which contains the oldest and most sacred monuments in the city of Polonnaruwa. King Nissanka Malla used the building to listen to the pirith, chanting Buddhist scriptures. A nearby stone inscription identifies this as the purpose of the structure.
The architecture of Nissanka Latha Mandapaya
Elevated Stone Platform: The structure of Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is an elevated stone platform that is approximately 53 feet long and 31 feet wide. A low stone wall surrounds the platform, and the structure is entered through a single stone doorway.
Unique Stone Columns: The special feature of Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is the eight granite columns arranged in two rows, with four in each row. These columns are carved in a manner found nowhere else in the country. Each column is approximately 8 feet 4 inches in height and is elaborately carved to resemble the stem of a lotus flower. The crown of each column is carved in the shape of a blossoming lotus bud. Unlike stone columns commonly seen in the architecture of this period, these are curved in three places. According to archaeologist Senarath Paranavithana, the stone columns at Nissanka Latha Mandapaya are the best examples of this ancient Sri Lankan architectural feature.
Small Stupa at the Center: A small stupa appears at the centre of the platform, flanked by stone columns. The stupa is also made from stone, but the top part of it has been destroyed. Its base is decorated with a carved design.
Stone Railing and Doorway: A stone railing surrounds the platform, and the structure is entered through a single stone doorway. In contrast to the elaborately carved stone pillars, these have an undecorated and plain finish.
Significance of Nissanka Latha Mandapaya
Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is a significant example of ancient Sri Lankan architecture. Its unique stone columns and the small stupa at the centre of the platform make it stand out from other structures in the area. The building also serves as a reminder of the religious and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.
How to Reach
To reach Nissanka Latha Mandapaya, you can travel to Polonnaruwa in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. From there, you can take a tuk-tuk or a taxi to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, where the mandapaya is located. The site is located near the western entrance of the Dalada Maluva area, which contains the city's oldest and most sacred monuments. Once you reach the entrance of the Dalada Maluva, it is a short walk to the Nissanka Latha Mandapaya. Visiting the site early in the morning or late in the evening is advisable to avoid the day's heat.