Shiva Devale No 1

The Shiva Devale no. 1, is one of many temples at Polonnaruwa dedicated to Shiva. It dates from the Pandyan occupation of the early thirteenth century, following the collapse of Sinhalese power; The temple is made of finely cut, slate-grey stone, fitted together without the use of mortar.

Time and time the blocks are removed and replaced and for this reason you will notice code numbers painted on almost every stone during archeological work giving the whole structure the curious appearance of an enormous building set. You can still see protruding lumps which would have helped workers when manoeuvring the blocks into place, and which would later have been carved off. The bottom halves of two rudely truncated guardian figures stand by the doorway, while inside there’s a rather battered lingam – the extraordinary treasure-trove of bronze images found here are now in the National Museum in Colombo. Around the back of the shrine stand cute and tiny statuettes and a couple of venerable and heavily bearded figures which possibly represent Agni, the pre-Aryan Indian god of fire.

1) Built. The only Hindu monument profiled in this guidebook, it likely dates from the 13th century, after the city had fallen to the second wave of Hindu invaders.
2) Location. Just south of the Quadrangle, along the main road from the citadel. The decision to build the temple at such close proximity to the Sinhalese people’s most sacred sector, the Quadrangle, likely signaled the change in political control and the arrival of the conquerors’ Hindu faith.


Layout and appearance

1) All-stone construction. The structure stands out from Polonnaruwa’s Sinhalese monuments in that it is built entirely from stone, with no mortar, consistent with south Indian Hindu temple-building precedent. Sinhalese designs, by contrast, featured brick-and-mortar walls and wooden roofs with stone decorative accents.
2) Side entrance. For unknown reasons, the east-facing temple breaks from south Indian temple precedent with its off-axis primary entranceway: although it is possible to pass through an elevated entrance along the primary east-west axis (perhaps this was a ceremonial entrance), the primary entrance to the walled open-air courtyard on the temple’s east side appears to have been through a door on the south wall, disrupting uninterrupted axial movement into the sanctum.
3) Multi-chambered design. From the courtyard, visitors proceed linearly through a mandapa and a double-chambered antarala on route to the sanctum (Fig. 82).
4) Sanctum. The sanctum still holds a lingam, the traditional phallic symbol for Shiva, the creator-destroyer god in the Hindu trinity to whom the temple was dedicated
5) Destroyed superstructure. The superstructure that originally rose over the sanctum presumably consisting of a pyramid formed by a series of diminishing square levels that was topped by a domed kiosk — has collapsed. To give you an idea of how it might have looked, we have included a south Indian Hindu temple prototype built by the Pallava dynasty in Mahabalipuram ( ig. 8, ).
6) High quality decoration. The premier decoration is on the exterior pilaster-lined walls of the sanctum. As you walk around it, look for: a continuous frieze of stylized lion heads; Kirtimukha heads rising over deity shrines; and broken Hindu deity images.

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