Jetavana Image House

This is one of the few surviving large-scale image houses in Anuradhapura. image houses never gained the same prominence here as in Polonnaruwa since image worship did not gain momentum in Sri Lanka until the 4th-6th centuries, relatively late in the city’s 1200-year history.

Background

  • Built. Late Anuradhapura period, likely 8th-9th centuries.
  • Location. Just west of Jetavana stupa (exit through stupa’s west entrance). Toggle Map above.

Layout

  • Gedige type. It conforms to the gedige type of image house: all-brick construction (no wood superstructure) with a corbelled ceiling; it has thick walls to support the much heavier ma­sonry superstructure. Unfortunately, the ceiling-roof has been entirely lost.
  • Mandapa and sanctum. The image hall has a simple layout, similar to the earliest im­age house in Polonnaruwa, Thuparama. Visitors enter the east-facing structure through a mandapa hall that affords access to a larger square sanctum.
  • Buddha image destroyed. The sanctum originally held a standing Buddha image; only its round platform remains..
  • Circumambulation corridor. A corridor designed for ritual clockwise circumambulation of the Buddha runs around the sanctum (yellow highlights in figure below).
  • Secondary entrance. A consistent feature of Sri Lankan image halls, a secondary entrance occupies the right wall of the mandapa.

Look for :

  • Door jam. The mandapa’s original monolithic door jam — rising 8 meters/ 26 feet — has survived, giving perspective on the original height of the ceiling Although Sri Lankan structures were chiefly built with bricks, stone was used for highlight features such as this.
  • Buddha platform and reliquary. The round platform that supported the Buddha image survives. Look inside the platform to see the compartmentalized stone reliquary (yantragala) that held sacred objects. Reliquaries were placed under all Buddha im­ages and this gives an excellent in situ perspective into the arrangement.

 

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