Kiri Vehera

Kiri Vehera is the best preserved of Polonnaruwa's dagobas - the name means "milk-white", referring to the white lime plaster that covers the building and which was almost perfectly preserved when the dagoba was rescued from the jungle after seven hundred years.

Originally called the Rupavati Cetiya, it’s believed to have been constructed by one of the queens of Parakramabahu. As at the Rankot Vihara, Kiri Vihara boasts four vahalkadas and an unusual number of brick shrines around its base, while to the left an inscription on a raised stone plinth records the location at which Nissankamalla worshipped.

 

Background

1) Built. Sponsored by Subhadra, the wife of ruler Parakramabahu I (1153-1186). Kiri Vehera is named for its milky white color, derived from the bright white lime plaster that covers the underlying brick construction.
2) Location. The hub of Alahana Parivena monastery, at the center of the old city.

 

Layout

Stupa at center. The stupa occupies the center of a square stone terrace, accessed by stairs on the cardinal points.
Smaller scale stupa vies with image house for supremacy. While still visually impressive, the stupa has smaller dimensions: 24 meters/79 feet in height (from the platform) and 21 meters/69 feet in diameter. To put this in perspective, this compares versus Anuradhapura’s Jetavana with colossal dimensions of 71 meters/233 feet and 102 meters/335 feet, respectively. One critical reason Polonnaruwa’s stupas never reached the mind-blowing proportions of those in Anuradhapura is that the stupa was less of a focus; although still a central feature of the monastery, it now competes with the image house — in this case, Lankatilanka, immediately to its south — for prominence.
Secondary shrines. In addition to the shrines (vahalkadas) on the cardinal points (dark
blue highlights in figure below), Kiri Vehera has smaller secondary shrines flanking them (light
blue highlights in figure below), presumably added to foster greater interaction with Buddha images. This distinctive feature of Polonnaruwa stupas, rarely seen in Anuradhapura, attests to a stronger cult of the image.

Kiri Vehera – Layout

 

Appearance

Typical features. The stupa reveals the typical Sri Lankan features: steep-sided and a large solid harmika, thick inverted conical chattra spire and triple molding base.
Reconstructed shrines. Since the primary and secondary shrines of Kiri Vehera have been reconstructed — most important, the upper portion that held a small niche for the Buddha image — it makes clear their original appearance.. As discussed in detail in our profile of Rankot Vihara stupa, the shrines held significantly less decoration than those of Anuradhapura. Visitors would circumambulate the stupa in a clockwise manner, stopping at the Buddha image shrines along the way to leave offerings.

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