When we were talking with the archaeological department assigned person at the Thivanka Image House (තිවංක පිළිම ගෙය), he mentioned about the Madirigiriya Vatadage, which is one of the well preserved circular image house in the country. Even thought I have heard about it so many time in the past when I was at school, I haven't been able to visit this place yet. Mainly because it was situated quite far from the main attractions in Polonnaruwa, the Pulasthipuraya (පුලස්තිපුරය) or Pulathsipuraya (පුලතිසිපුරය).
We managed to get the direction from the person at Thivanka Image House, and decided to go there cause we have been to almost all the other important places in Polonnaruwa main attraction (ඇතුළු නුවර). It was quite far from the place we have started though I thought it was not that far. We had to get directions from many locals on the way. It was 32Kms from Polonnaruwa on Polonnaruwa-Higurakgoda-Madirigiriya road and 3Kms on the Watadage Road from Madirigiriya clock tower. Situated in an isolated location, this place seems to get very low tourist attraction. There was only one more crew at the place while we were there even though there were quite a lot of tourists in the Polonnaruwa. It seems this place is not much popular among tour guides because we haven't seen any foreign visitors. May be extra cost to come 32Kms from Polonnaruwa is a burden for them. But I think it is a well spent time and money to witness this glorious architectural monument of the ancient Sri Lanka. Road map to Medirigiriya\Mandalagiri Viharaya
Leaving around ten in the morning, it took us about an hour to get to the location. The road conditions were not the best but quite good. Heat was at its peak when we got to the location. There is about 100 meters walk from the car park to the site. Path was well shaded with trees.
Road map to Medirigiriya
There is an stone fence surrounding the site. There are several ruined buildings in the site including two image houses, a pagoda and the main attraction of the site, Medirigiriya Vatagade (මැදිරිගිරිය වටදාගේ) the circular image house of Medirigiriya. There are two paths to enter the site, we took the shorter path form the parking to got to the site which is not the main entrance. Hence we have missed the famous cave in the site as mentioned here. At the site, first we came across one image house which has five Load Buddha statues, three standing and two siting postures (Samadhi - සමාධි). The building along with the statues are in a dilapidated state.
First image house Buddha statues in the first image house
On an altar next to the first image house is the second image house. This building consist of one large rectangular building and two smaller buildings. In front of the larger building, there is a well preserved medical bath tub (බෙහෙත් ඔරුව). Two smaller image house has ruined Samadhi (සමාධි) Buddha statues.
Steps to the altar
Main rectangular building on the altar
Small square image houses with ruined Buddha statues and the circular image house (Vatadage) Medical Bath Tub (Beheth Oruwa - බෙහෙත් ඔරුව)
Next building is the famous circular image house (vatadage\watadage - වටදාගේ) of Medirigiriya. Starting from the entrance, one can witness the great architecture of the image house. Huge stone arch at the entrance is a witness to the gloriousness of the building. However, in this building the stone arch is situated before two guard stones which are at the starting point of the steps. Beginning from the stone arch, there is a "U" shape room surrounding the staircase. There is no carving found in the guard stones. The image house also has a two Half-moon stones (Sadakada Pahana - ) at the entrance before of the stone arch as well as at the beginning of the staircase. These half-moon stones also don't have any carvings.
Vatadage Stone arch and the staircase
The staircase has three parts, first and the second part of the staircase is steep and are separated by a small resting step. At the end of the second part of it, there is a large square resting space. From there, it is only five steps toward the altar where the circular image house is situated. At the end of these steps, there are huge stone Punkalas (පුන්කලස) on either side of the steps. There are also two stone structures which looks like stone drains on either side of the final staircase. The Korawak stones (කොරවක්ගල) which are found in later buildings are not found in this building (as I have noted). Normally it is used as a railing in either side of a stair case in later buildings.
Second part of the steep staircase Final steps and a full view of the remains of the image house
There is a stone fence around the circular image house which is situated on a circular stage. Around the fence there is a ring shaped space which can be use to go around the image house. Inside the fence, there are several stone pillars in three rings which seems to be the supporting for once existed wooden roof. There are four entrances to the building in facing directions and in each entrance there is a Samadi Buddha statue. Behind these statues in the pagoda, built using bricks. Only a small part of this pagoda is existing at the time. Between each Buddha statue, there is a Bodhisathwa (බෝධිසත්ව) statue.
Two huge stone punkalas and the far view of the other pagoda Samadhi Buddha statues and ruined bodhisathwa statues and remains of the pagoda inside.
The pagoda at the opposite side of the circular image house is also ruined one. It is a large pagoda compared to the one in circular image house. There is a staircase carved in the rock to get to this pagoda (දාගැබ). From this rock, one can have a better view of the circular image house.
Stairs carved on the rock Second pagoda
There is also a hospital complex in the premises, which we have missed due to entering from the wrong entrance. However, there seems to be only one building restored in it and lot more to explore in the area. There seems to be lot of destruction and land grabbing by the locals as the initial archaeological site which had 600 acres is now reduced to 250 acres.
After about one and half hours exploring the site, we decided to get back and on the way to the park we have noticed few elderly people in the parking area close to our vehicle picking up somethings. When we got close to them we noticed that they are collecting small fruit fallen from a huge tree near by the car park. I asked them what they are collecting, one of them said it is Ma-dam. Though I have heard of the fruit, I haven't ever seen one or haven't even imagine that there could be any sort of dam in such a huge tree. I picked up few of them, which were amazingly similar to the dam fruit we found in small bushes around my hometown. I wasn't sure about eating one, but my brother had tested few and said the taste is just like those we find in our area. Collectors said they are collecting to sell them to local ayurvedic shops and the fruit has a great ayurvedic value. An unexpected information discover from an archaeological site, but it was well worth in one of the proceeding trip to Gange Wadiya.
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Reference : AmazingLanka