Ridi Viharaya Temple


Ridi Viharaya Temple was built where Silver ore was found, used to create Ruwanweli Dagoba at Anuradhapura by King Dutugemunu during his reign.
Ridi Vihara is an important Raja Maha Vihara referring to the Cultural Triangle. Historical Data on this Monastery complex is observed in amazing Caves written in Brahmin Inscriptions. They date posterior to the 2nd and 3rd Centuries BC. Throughout the time of Arahat Mahinda, many Arahaths are assumed to have resided in these caves, which numbers around twenty-five in the neighbouring area of Ridi Vihara and Rambadagalla area. The caves had been made by carving into the rock and donated by chieftains of the place to the Sangha.

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History of Ridi Viharaya

Ridi Viharaya was constructed during the reign of Dutthagamani of Anuradhapura, a renowned Sinhalese king of ancient Sri Lanka. Dutthagamani, known for his victory over the Tamil prince Ellalan of the Chola Kingdom, initiated the construction of Ruwanwelisaya, a monumental stupa that stands tall today. The completion of Ruwanwelisaya required various materials, including silver.

During this time, a group of merchants travelling from the central highlands of Sri Lanka to Anuradhapura stumbled upon a jackfruit tree in the Ridigama area. As part of a ritual, they offered the fruit's first half to Buddhist monks. To their amazement, four Arhat monks appeared and accepted their offering. Then, four more monks arrived and did the same. After partaking in the jackfruit, the final monk, Arhat Indragupta, guided the merchants to a cave where silver ore was found.

Excited by the news, the merchants informed Dutthagamani upon reaching Anuradhapura. The silver ore they discovered provided the necessary material for completing Ruwanwelisaya. In gratitude for this significant finding, Dutthagamani built the Ridi Viharaya complex on the site of the silver ore. The construction involved 300 masons and 700 other workers, including the chief artisan Vishwakarma Prathiraja.

Location of Ridi Viharaya

Ridi Viharaya is located in Ridigama, approximately 18 kilometres northeast of Kurunegala. Kurunegala is located 94 kilometres northeast of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. The temple can be found about 10 kilometres from Ibbagamuwa, along the A6 highway that connects Kurunegala and Dambulla.

The Temple Complex

Ridi Viharaya boasts a complex that houses approximately twenty-five caves. These caves have been considered the abode of Arhat monks since the arrival of Arahat Mahinda in the 3rd century BCE. Over time, the temple experienced periods of decline and revival. However, in the 18th century CE, the temple complex was revitalised during the reign of Kirti Sri Rajasinha of Kandy. Adding Uda Viharaya and connected devices such as Kumara Bandara Devalaya and Paththini Devalaya further enriched the temple.

Associated Buildings and Structures

Within the premises of Ridi Viharaya, several notable buildings and structures can be explored. One such structure is the Serasum Gala, a rock to the right of the entrance, believed to be the original site of the temple. It is said that Dutthagamani used to dress there before worshipping at the temple. On top of this rock, a small stupa can be found.

Another significant building is Waraka Welandu Viharaya, which dates back to the Polonnaruwa era. This building is associated with the merchants who offered jackfruit to the Arhat monks. The name "Waraka Welandu Viharaya" refers to the consumption of jackfruit. The building is constructed in stone and displays Kandyan-era paintings. Its stone roof is supported by intricately carved pillars featuring designs on all four sides, including depictions of female dancers influenced by Hindu art.

The Hevisi Mandapaya, situated in front of the Maha Viharaya, is a pavilion that contains a rice bowl and various historically significant objects. One notable item displayed here is a centuries-old Pallakkiya used to carry elderly monks.

Maha Viharaya, the main temple, is located inside the Rajatha Lena, a massive rock resembling the head of a cobra. This cave is believed to be the original site where the silver ore was discovered. The Maha Viharaya houses numerous Buddha statues, including a 9-meter recumbent Buddha and an ancient gold-plated Buddha statue from the Anuradhapura era. In addition, the temple's walls and roofs are adorned with intricate paintings.

Uda Viharaya, the upper temple, belongs to the Kandyan era. It contains a seated Buddha statue with a unique Makara Thorana and a semi-circular Sandakada pahana (moonstone). The Sandakada pahana is distinctive, featuring two dragons on either side of Lord Buddha's shoulders, unlike similar designs' more common triangular shape. In addition, the chamber of Uda Viharaya showcases paintings of mythological animals and the prominent character Ravana from the Ramayana. Adjacent to this temple is a Hindu deva laya dedicated to the protector god of the area.

Paintings and Sculpture

The cave walls of the Rajatha Lena are adorned with paintings depicting incidents from the life of Gautama Buddha. While some frescoes remain incomplete, their early sketches are still visible. The cave walls also feature small carved-out drains, known as "Kataram," designed to divert rainwater from the paintings.

A unique sculpture found within the Maha Viharaya is the Pancha Nari Ghataya. Initially appearing as a vase, it reveals five intertwined maiden figures upon closer observation. This intricate ivory carving is a remarkable example of craftsmanship. Two lion carvings made of ivory can also be observed on either side of the central sculpture.

The roof of the Maha Viharaya is supported by wooden pillars adorned with flower designs. Drawings of Sath Sathiya, depicting the seven weeks following Gautama Buddha's enlightenment, and Kandyan era symbols such as Nawanari Kunjaraya, Thri Sinha Rupaya, Vrushba Kunjaraya, and Sarpenda can be seen. The initial paintings in Uda Viharaya were created by the renowned artist Devaragampala Silvath Thena from the Kandyan era, while artists from the Nilagama generation completed the remaining images.

Ridi Viharaya, with its rich historical and architectural significance, stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.


Q1: How old is Ridi Viharaya?

A1: Ridi Viharaya dates back to the 2nd century BCE, over 2,000 years old.

Q2: Who built Ridi Viharaya?

A2: Ridi Viharaya was built during the reign of Dutthagamani of Anuradhapura, an ancient Sinhalese king of Sri Lanka.

Q3: What is the significance of Ridi Viharaya?

A3: Ridi Viharaya is significant for its association with the discovery of silver ore, which contributed to the completion of Ruwanwelisaya, one of the largest stupas in Sri Lanka.

Q4: What are some notable structures within the Ridi Viharaya complex?

A4: Some notable structures within the Ridi Viharaya complex include Serasum Gala, Waraka Welandu Viharaya, Hevisi Mandapaya, Maha Viharaya, and Uda Viharaya.

Q5: Are there any unique sculptures or paintings in Ridi Viharaya?

A5: Ridi Viharaya houses unique sculptures such as the Pancha Nari Ghataya and ivory lion carvings. The cave walls are adorned with paintings depicting incidents from the life of Gautama Buddha.



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