compiled and edited by Ven. S. Dhammika
Tantirimalai is a collection of low rounded hills of naked rock that rise above the utterly flat countryside. It was on or near the highway that led from Anuradhapura to Mannar, ancient Sri Lanka’s main port, and may have been one of the stopping places on the highway. History says that this is one of the places where Sanghamitta and her retinue rested when they were bringing a cutting of the Bodhi Tree from India. Several large rock pools amongst the rocks remain full all year and this made habitation possible in this otherwise remote and dry place. Looking southeast from the top of the highest point at Tanthirimale the pilgrim will get a fine view of the Ruhanvalisaya and the stupas on Mihintale.
On the highest point at Tanthirimale is a Bodhi Tree and stupa. Climbing down the rocky incline towards the west the pilgrim will come to a cliff out of which a huge reclining Buddha image is carved. This image rests on a undecorated pedestal and is 40 feet long. The face and part of the arm supporting the head have been damaged by treasure hunters. While lacking the dignity of the Gal Vihara reclining Buddha the skillful treatment of the creases in the robe on this image creates a graceful fluid effect pleasing to the mind. The image dates from about the 10th century.
If the pilgrim climbs back up to the top of the hill and walks down the other side he or she will come to a short flight of stairs cut out of the rock which leads to Tanthirimale’s second image. This Buddha image is in a shallow niche cut out of the side of a cliff which stretches for about 150 feet. The image sits on a throne which has five notches on its front, each of which has a crouching lion in it. The back rest of the throne is made up of two rampant lion and a makhara-ended crossbar and above this are two gods with chauries. The Buddha itself is in the dhyana mudra with a serene expression on its face and behind its head is a plain round halo. The throne and the image together are 8 feet high. This image was once enclosed within a temple as is clear from the stone door frames, the pillars and the mortis holes in the cliff that would have one held rafters. Although slightly weathered this is a particularly fine Buddha image and shows some Dravidian influence; it may have been made by a south Indian sculpture.
How To Get There
The round journey is about 50 kms and will probably take all day so leave early. As soon as you arrive at Tanthirimale find out when the bus returns to Anuradhapura so then you will know how long you can spend looking at the temple
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