Tripin 2020 - page 21

We arrive at the sacred temple
just before sunset. The oldest
royal Buddhist monastery in Sri
Lanka, Kelaniya Temple, was built
and patronized by the Sinhalese
kings 25 centuries ago. Entering
through the dragon archway, we
see our first glimpse of the temple
upon a manmade hillock on a
plain by the banks of the Kelani
River. The parking lot, lined with
ancient trees doubles as a mini
market place for fresh lotus and
incense. Visitors to the temple
purchase these as customary
offerings. We make our way up the
stone staircase, among beaming
orange robes and silent bare feet.
Reaching the upper terrace of
the temple, standing beneath a
stately triple archway, the smell
of sandalwood shrouds my body
as if to remind me I am entering
sacred ground. There to greet us
It is believed Buddha together
with 500 Arahats (supremely
enlightened beings) visited
Kelaniya in 2531 to expound the
Dhamma, (the Buddhist doctrine)
to the inhabitants of the island.
Kelaniya Temple itself is believed
to have been built in the era prior
to the chronologically recorded
history of Sri Lanka (since 543
B.C.) and has played an important
role in nurturing and spreading
Theravada Buddhism throughout
South Asia. Though Kelaniya
has been a place of worship for
over 2,000 years, the present
temple buildings date mostly
from between 1880 and 1940,
as colonizing rulers throughout
history demolished and defaced
the site time and time again in an
effort to demoralize locals and
reigning factions at the time. The
temple is surrounded by a small
village of simple houses, but it
must have been a marvellous sight
in the 14th and 15th centuries,
when poets extolled the city’s
praises.
are intricate carvings protruding
from the saffron stone complex.
Endearing carved chubby dwarves
welcome us; each with coy
expressions and comical postures.
All of them play a part in seeming
to support the temple wall, yet
none of them appearing to suffer
from the effort.
Now facing the three great
symbols of the “triple gem”:
on the right is the dagoba,
representing the living presence
of Buddha; in the center is the
main temple building, signifying
the community of monks, or
Sangha; and finally on the left
is a thriving bo (or pipal) tree,
which reminds us of the Buddha’s
enlightenment and symbolizes his
teaching. An immediate sense of
serenity sets in.
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