Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve
Permanent Delegation of Sri Lanka to UNESCO
Ampara District, Eastern Province
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Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve is situated in the Ampara district of Eastern Sri Lanka. It is located in a mountain identified as Rajagala which could be approached through Ampara Mahaoya highway near the Rajagala Tenna village. The first identified name of Rajagala is the “Girikumhiilla” depicting the name of Crocodile Mountain as the mountain looks like a lying crocodile to the distance. The monastery was named later as “Grikumhiila Tissa Pabbatha Viharaya” using part of the name of the King Lajjatissa. According to the ancient sources this monastic complex has been build and donated to the monks in between the year 116 – 109 BC. Thereafter it has been identified as Ariyakara Viharaya. Several ancient books have identified this monastery as Ayiyakooti Vihara, Kumbalthispav Ariyakara Vihara, Ghirithimbilathispav Viharayas such or Ariyakara Viharaya.
The monastic remains in the Rajagala could be identified on the mountain which is about 346 meters above the mean sea level. The approach to the flat plain of the mountain is through beautifully build two stone stairways through the dense forest blending with the slope of the mountain. The common buildings such as Stupas, Refectory, Uposathagra (Building devoted to religious observances), Hot Water Bath House, A house build to collect spring water for cooking purposes with two large stone bowls, a Chapter House, Lahabthage, a small tank and several other unidentified buildings are scattered in this area. This area could be identified as the area where the ordinary people were gathered to carryout religious observances and to offer various donations to the meditation monks of the monastery. The dewing units of the mediation monks who were residing in this monastery were located in the rocky hill above this area converting the caves into dwellings. As much as about 50 such dwellings in which about 500 monks would have lived together could be identified scattered in this area with stone walls build during the 1st century BC still intact. It is interesting to note some of these caves have inscriptions as “Seethalena” which is depicting the name of cool cave. The interior of these caves is cooler than outside even today due to the flow natural air according to the construction methodology. There are several stone inscriptions scattered in the reserve. In a recent survey it has been identified that the 593 monastic remains scattered in an area of 400 hectares. According to the remains in the archaeological reserve the monastery could be identified as a category of mixture of Pabbatha Vihara Type and Vanavasa Type Multiple Residential Unit Monasteries with cave dwellings depicting an ancient mediation monastery. This monastic complex has been vacated due to the South Indian invasions in 993 and 1017AD since
then it has been gradually deteriorated due to the natural causes and also due to the vandalism by treasure hunters in near past.
After the commencement of the Archaeological Survey of Sri Lanka in 1890 there had been several attempts to document the archaeological remains in the Rajagala but no such systematic archaeological activities were carried out in this site. As such the site is one of the rarest archeologically untouched sites in Sri Lanka. Due to the civil war of Sri Lanka this site had been neglected for nearly thirty years as this site is located in the Eastern Sri Lanka in the border of Ampara and Batcalloa Districts. After the end of the civil war the Department of Archaeology has decided to commence archaeological activities in the site and did commenced an archaeological investigation training programme in the view of establishing a training school in 2011. The Director General of Archaeology invited the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura to take over the site for the provision of all necessary archaeological services in order to arrest the deterioration process prevailing in the site and to present to the site for the fulfilment of needs of the present and future societies. Since 01st September 2012 the Explorations, Documentations, Archaeological Excavations, Architectural Conservations, Layout, Maintenance, Security and Provision of Public Relation activities are carried out as a joint project of the Department of Archaeology and the University of Sri Jayewardenepura of Sri Lanka.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The most ancient name of the present Rajagala or the Rassahela is Girikumbbhila. According to all these names identified in the ancient text it is now evident that the name of this monastery - Grikumbhila Thissa Pabbatha Viharaya has been derived from the name of the mountain identified as Grikumbhila and adding the names of the people such as Thissa Pabbatha. Since the monastery has been built by the patronage King Lajjitissa in the mountain identified as Kumbhhila, the name Tissa might have been used. Kumbhila is the name identified for a Crocodile in the Pali text. Since this mountain looks like a Crocodile to the distance this name may have been used. According to ancient texts this monastery has been famous for the preaching of Ariyavansa which meant to identify it as Ariyakara Viharaya.Therefore, the identification of the present Rajagala Monastery is as Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve.
According to ancient texts proven by several inscriptions found from Rajagala Arcaheological Reserve, King Lajjitissa commenced the establishment of this monastery during the period of 167 – 137 BC when he was a prince living in the Eastern Province and completed monastery and handing over the completed monastery to the Buddhist Priest might have happened in between the period of 116 – 109 BC. After this there are no records in the Mahavamsa for a period of 700 years. But several inscriptions found in the area provide evidences of the existence of this monastery. Thereafter several records prevail in the ancient texts which identifies that the monastery was in existence during the period of King Dappula I (692AD) and during the period of King Udaya I (797-801 AD). Thereafter during the period of King Mahinda V the country experienced the invasion of the South Indian Chola Kings and finally during 993 AD due to the invasion of Chola the Anuradhapura Civilization was completely fallen and the entire population was moved southwards and as a result the Rajagala Monastery, which was in existence and inhabited by Buddhist Priests for about a period of 1000 years was also was depopulated and became ruined. As such the monastery has a great historical significance thus have a great Historical Value over 11 centuries.
The ancient Sri Lanka was divided to three administrative sections namely – Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti. Degavapi or Digamadulla District is part of the Ruhunu administrative section. It had been identified that there are about 100 different archaeological sites in the Digamadulla District. Out of these 100 identified archaeological sites about 60 were located in the Gal Oya Basin all are belongs to the Anuradhapura Period. Out of these the Rajagala has been identified as the best-preserved meditation forest monastery in the region. The preliminary investigations carried out by the Department of Archaeology have identified the following archaeological remains in the monastery scatters over 400 hectares:
- Eastern Stairway leading to the top of the mountain which is 1340 meters long
- Northern Stairway leading to the top of the mountain which is 1090 meters long
- Stairway connecting the Northern and Eastern Walkways at the top of the mountain
- Walkway connecting the uncompleted Buddhist statue to the Stupa platform in which two Stupas are located
- The only Stupa in Sri Lanka which contains the relics of the Arahath Mahinda Thero proven by the only inscription to say so in Sri Lanka
- Two Stupas in a Single Platform
- Lahabthge near the Stupas in a single Platform
- Walkway connecting the area where two stupas are located to the area where common buildings are situated
- Ruined Building believed to be the Refectory
- Ruined building believed to be the Uposathaghara/Poayage
- Building in which stone bowls are situated which has been used for the collection of spring water to the cooking and drinking purpose of the Refectory
- Ruined building believed to be the Tampitage
- Ancient Tank of Rajagala used for the collection of water for the purposes of the monastery
- Walkway connecting the Stupa to the Buddhist Statue
- Ancient Spill way of the Tank
- Eight Ponds located in various locations caved in natural rock to collect the spring and rain water
- Five small Stupas located in different locations
- Sixteen ruined buildings located in various locations
- Specially carved Cave
- Small resting places within the water way
- Large inscription near the stone bowl building
- Six stone stairways caved in natural rock
- Pathway leading to the cave residences of Buddhist monks
- Specially constructed stone entrance way to a cave residence of meditation monk (may be the chief priest)
- Twenty-Eight caves used as the residences of the meditation monks
- Three meditations cells build using stone blocks
- Two caves used as resting places in the stairways
- Toilet located in a cave
Apart from the above significant monuments the resent archaeological explorations have revealed that there are about 593 archeologically important remains within the area. Apart for this there are about 70 inscriptions found in the reserve and out of them the most important inscription is the inscription stating the Relics of Arahath Mahinda is enshrined in a stupa in the premises. This is the only inscription in Sri Lanka to identify the presence of Arahath Mahinda in the country. The monastery is very significant in the ancient water management system. It contains several ponds to collect water in several locations and also a small tank in the common area. The building in which stone bowls are situated which has been used for the collection of spring water to the cooking and drinking purpose could be identified as a special building in the monastery which is still in operation and the spring water is still collected for the drinking purposes. As such the monastery contains an Archaeologically significant value which also transforms into an Educational and Academic Values.
Rajagala Monastery complex has been identified as one of the three distinctive types of monasteries build during the early Anuradhapura period. As is has been identifies as a Pubbatha Vihara Type but no distinctive sacred edifice is identified. Instead of such edifices the common buildings are located in the flat plain in the top of the mountain. The monastery has been constructed as a meditation monastery in which about 500 monks who has attained the enlightenment had been residing. Accordingly, it could be identified that the Rajagala meditation monastery was famous for the Ariyawansa Preaching and there had been about 500 enlightened monks thus having a Cultural, Religious and Spiritual Values.
According to the ancient texts and inscriptions Rajagala meditation monastery has been associated with Kings, Deputy Kings and Noblemen who has donated villages, paddy fields, taxes from water streams and reservoirs, golden coins and has also constructed building for the development of the monastery thus having a significant Cultural Value.
On the other hand the significant feature of this monastery is that the ordinary people have climbed up to the flat plain of the mountain and gathered in that area were the common buildings are located in order to offer various donations to the meditation monks of the monastery and in return the monks have provided religious blessings to them. This could be identified as a significant Social Value of this monastery.
The monastery has been built in a mountain creating stone stairways, religious buildings, service buildings, path ways and monks’ residences in caves dwellings blended with the natural environment. When approaching the monastery through the eastern stairway the approach has been constructed to admire distant landscape in the area. The path ways leading to the cave dwellings and the other build residences are constructed in a way to admire the distant landscape in the vicinity as well. As such this monastery could be named as a monastery of a mixture of Pubbtha Vihara Type and Vanawasa Vihara Type which is not found in Sri Lanka or in the world. As such the monastery could be identified as a special Buddhist Monastery with a significant Aesthetic Value.
As explained above the Monastery has been built in a mountain which consists of 400 hectares of natural forest. The forest of Rajagala contains several species of Flora and Fauna. According to the preliminary investigations the site contains 76 different species of Flora and 61 different Species of Fauna. The entire monastery has been laid to blend with the natural environment. All access paths to the monastery and monuments have been constructed with the minimum damage to the natural environment. All water ways have been preserved and simple stone bridges have been constructed when laying foot paths across the water ways. The stone boulders identified with in the site have been preserved and the foot paths have been created by blending the stone boulders. As such the entire site is created as site which has a valuable cultural landscape thus having an exceptional Ecological Value.
The remains identified so far in the monastery has provide evidences of stone build structures, brick build structures, construction of stone stairs ways blended with the natural hill slopes, ponds carved out of natural rocks, cave dwellings constructed using natural or manmade caves with stone walls constructed in the 2nd Century BC, paintings in cave walls, etc thus having a potential Scientific Value to identify and learn the ancient construction technology and methodology.
After the end of civil war in 2009 the site has now being declared safe for the visitors. As such the site has now being visited by national and international visitors. The entire visit to the site takes about a half a day and the site is closed for visitors by 5.00 pm as there are several wild elephants in the area. As such it has an economic Existence Value. The government of Sri Lanka together with the Department of Archaeology has invested in the site preservation and had allocated financial provisions through its annual budget and the 2013 and 2015 American Ambassadors Grant for Cultural Preservation has also provided two financial assistance grants through their Large Grant programme. The line ministry of the Department of Archaeology also has provided financial assistance for the site through the Central Cultural Fund. Since the department is short of human resources, the site has now been handed over to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura to carry out the Archaeological activities commencing from the 1st September 2012. As such the site is now equipped with an economic Optional Value. Since the commencement of the archaeological work in the site by the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, not only the Department of Archaeology but also the different government department in the area together with the clergy and the ordinary people has come forward to join hands in the preservation of this rare monastery in the aim of handing over it to the future generations thus having an economic Bequest Value. Since the monastery is a rare example of an ancient mediation forest monastery, it may be developed as a possible destination of a Cultural and Eco Tourism for the national and international visitors after its conservation and provision of services. As such the site is potential of having an economically viable User or Market Value.
As explained above Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve have an exceptional Socio Cultural and Economical Values which cannot be identified in any of the monasteries in the world thus having and an outstanding universal value which merits inscribing as a World Heritage Site.
Criterion (i): The flat plain of the Rajagala Mountain in which the common buildings are located has to be approached trough two stairways one in the North and one in the east. The one and half hour climb will provide a present experience of walking through forest environment, hardship of climbing of stone steps, resting in the way side cave resting places, walking through natural rock outcrops, experiencing the mingling water in rock cut water ponds and experiencing the distance landscape. This will also allow the present visitors to refresh their minds how the enlightened monks would have walked through these stairways by discussing their noble preaching and resting in the way. The visitors will also be able to refresh their minds about ancient the people who had used these stairways to reach the common area to carry out their religious observances and to provide offerings to the enlightened monks.
After reaching the common area experience of the setting out of the monuments, their inter relationship with each other, their gradualness, their construction methodology, their usage, etc. could be seen. The environment has become pleasant as the reservoir is filled with water. The visitors could sit by the in the embankment of the tank under the shade and admire the beauty of the landscape around the tank. The landscape around the tank has been be laid out with resting places to provide more relaxation. The monument with stone bowls in which how spring water is collected to two stone bowls for storage and used for cooking purposes in the refractory is one the key monuments that could not be seen in any part of the world. The special cave carved to look like an umbrella may be to assemble the people to hear the preaching of a priest is also rare in the world. In this area the common buildings such as Mihindu Stupa, Refectory, Hot Water Bath, Poyage, Tampitage, Stone Bowl Building, Path way, Lahabthage, Two Stupas in Single Platform, Bodhigrara, Grand Stairway, etc shows the creativity of the ancient builders. This area having been designed exclusively to the common people as they were not permitted to go to the private areas of meditation monks.
Thereafter the private areas in which enlightened monks which was not opened to the public in ancient times were situated in the higher plain of the mountain. This could be reached once again walking through forest environment and climbing stone steps through natural stone boulders. The remarkable experience of creation of cave dwellings for meditation monks with the construction methodology of stone walls in Anuradhapura Period to convert the caves into cells of monks could be identified in this area. The technological and scientific experience of the construction of the superstructure during the 2nd century BC is identified as there are no such surviving walls in any part of the country build during the 2nd century BC. The inscriptions caved in these caves to identify the persons names and their family who has donated these caves are remarkable The specially build stone entrance ways to caves and how the toilet has been created in a cave to experience the natural environment when a person get into it and close the entrance door by hanging the robe in a wooden pole placed between two rocks are also excusive. The remains of ancient paintings in the caves will also provide a pleasant experience of the painting technology prevailed in this era. Walking through the forest by admiring the natural environment, distance landscapes and mingling of the insets will provide a great experience as how the natural environment has been planned to create a pleasant environment for the meditation monks. Fauna species roaming around the forest is also provide a great experience. The stone build mediation cells located on top of rock outcrops show how the monks have been mediated by admiring the distance landscape and the cultural environment. It is worth mentioning that some of these caves have an airconditioned environment inside the caves by relating a wind path flow in to the caves and the inscription in these caves state that they are cool caves (Seetha Lena).
The grand flight of steps leading from the embankment of the tank in which thousands of enlightened monks had descended towards the tank to have their bath before leading to the refectory to obtain their daily meals shows the creativity of the ancient builders. This flight of steps will lead to a different area where the different types of buildings which are constructed by using bricks, stone columns, etc. with entrance flights of steps decorated with Guard Stones, Balustrades, and Moonstones etc. There are several ruined Stupas and stone cut ponds could be seen within this area. Walking through this area will have different experience of ancient monastery structures and their construction methodology. Since the area is opened to a distance landscape admirable experience of the natural beauty of the distance landscape could be experienced.
The pathway leading from the platform of two Stupas towards the cave in which paintings of natives could be seen shows that this are have been inhabited even during pre-historic period. Beyond that there are several buildings with mediation walks, residential buildings, etc.
As explained above the conversion of the Crocodile Mountain to a place of a Meditation Monastery by using the topographical landscape to create remarkable two flight of steps to reach the common area in the flat plane at the top of two mountains, creation of a tank in the valley of the two mountains to fulfil the all requirements in the monastery, conversation of the common area to locate all necessary common buildings of which the common people could be used as a place of worship, creation of the topographical landscape with stair ways to reach the mediation cells in the monks, conversation of natural caves as meditation cells of the monks, use of the other topographical landscape to build structed with stone, bricks etc. to different types secular buildings and use of the topographical landscape to build structures with stone, bricks, etc create different types of manmade buildings clearly represent an exceptional masterpiece of human creative genius in the World.
Criterion (iii): Rajagala Archaeological reserve is located in the Ampara district of Eastern Sri Lanka. It is located in a mountain identified as Rajagala which could be approached through Ampara Mahaoya highway near the Rajagala Tenna village. The first identified name of Rajagala is the “Girikumhiilla” depicting the name of Crocodile Mountain as the mountain looks like a lying crocodile to the distance. The monastery was named later as “Grikumhiila Tissa Pabbatha Viharaya” using part of the name of the King Lajjitissa. According to the ancient sources King Lajjitissa commenced the establishment of this monastery during the period of 167 – 137 BC when he was a prince living in the Eastern Province with his father King Saddhatissa - the brother of King Dutugemunu - while he was ruling as provincial king of the Eastern Province. Ancient sources and the inscriptions found in this monastery proves that this monastic complex has been completed and donated to the monks in between the year 116 – 109 BC. After the donation of this monastery in the 2nd century BC by King Lajjitissa there are no records in the Mahavamsa for a period of 700 years. But several inscriptions found in the area provide evidences of the existence of this monastery. The final identification of this monastery is stated in the Mahavamsa during the period of King Udaya I (797-801 AD) as it is stated as the King Udaya has repaired the Monastery and constructed two new buildings which were identified as missing. Thereafter during the period of King Mahinda V the country experienced the invasion of the South Indian Chola Kings and finally during 1215 due to the invasion of Maga the Rajarata Civilization was completely fallen and the entire population was moved southwards and as a result the Rajagala Monastery, which was in existence and inhabited by Buddhist Priests for about a period of 1100 years was also was depopulated and became ruined.
The monastic remains could be identified on the mountain which is about 346 meters above the mean sea level. The approach to the flat plain of the mountain is through beautifully build two stone stairways through the dense forest blending with the slope of the mountain. The common buildings such as Stupas, Refectory, Uposathagra (Building devoted to religious observances), and Hot Water Bath House, A house build to collect spring water for cooking purposes with two large stone bowls, a small tank and several other unidentified buildings are scattered in this area. This area could be identified as the areas where the ordinary people were gathered to carry out religious observances and to offer various donations to the meditation monks of the monastery. The dwelling units of the mediation monks who were residing in this monastery were located in the rocky hill above this area converting the caves into dwellings. As much as about 50 such dwellings could be identified in this area together with stone walls build during the 2nd century BC still intact. Accordingly, it has been identified that above 50 such cave dwellings are scattered in this area and about 500 monks would have lived in these cave dwellings. It is interesting to note some of these caves have inscriptions as “Seethalena” which is depicting the name of cool cave. The interior of these caves is cooler than outside even today due to the flow natural air according to the construction methodology. There are about 70 stone inscriptions scattered in the reserve. The entire monastic remains scattered in an area of 400 hectares. According to the remains in the archaeological reserve the monastery could be identified as a category of the mixture of Pabbatha Vihara type and Vanavasa Type with cave dwellings depicting an ancient mediation monastery. Since this monastery in existent for a period of 11 centuries with 500 enlighten monks and it is the only identified monastery with has been built as a mixture of Pabbatha Vihara type and Vanavasa Type complexes in the World, it bears an unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which has disappeared.
Criterion (iv): According to the survey carried out in this monastery in the year 2016 it has been identified that there are 593 monuments still intact. According to the inscription found in this monastery it has been identified that the relics of the Arahath Mahinda, who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka from India is enshrined in a stupa in this monastery. Since there is no such evidence available so far in Sri Lanka and in the World the conserved stupa in near the inscription considered as an exceptional building. A specially caved cave in the common area of Rajagala Monastery, Umbrella Cave or Kuda Lena which may have been used for assembly purposes cannot be identified in any part of the world. Building constructed to house the collection stone bowls may be used for cooking and drinking purposes is a building with exceptional organisation of spaces which is considered as the only building in the world. The construction of the refectory as a rectangular building with two half circles at the two ends considered to be one of the three building surviving in the entire world. Out of the 161 caves identified in this complex around 50 have been inhabited by monks. Out of these three caves have been identified as Cool Caves. The inscriptions in these caves also have identified as Cool caves (Seetha Lenana). One of the caves has specials build up features such as a stone door way. One cave has been converted to a toilet. One cane has been converted to a two storied cave. Most of the caves have stone walls build during the 2nd century BC which is rare in the entire world. There are exceptional buildings identified in this complex is the meditation cells build out of stone boulders. One of such building is still remains to observe the technology of such construction in the entire world.
Rajagala Monastery has been created by King Lajjitissa using natural landscapes of the Crocodile Mountain. The two stairways leading to the flat plan of the mountain has followed the contour lines of the mountain to create an easy climb. The flat plane in the top has been used to create the space to locate the common buildings of the monastery of which the general public could be allowed. Thereafter the two plains of the mountain on either side of the flat plain had been created to the use of monks which is considered as the private spaces allocated to the monks. These areas also could be approached by stairways special build to reach the areas using the natural landscapes. The natural caves have been converted to monks dwelling units without creating harm to the environment. As such usage of natural landscape to create a meditation monastery is remarkable and has an exception value in the world.
As such the archaeological remains in the Rajagala Monastery could be considered as having an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural, technological ensemble and landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The original form and layout of the meditation monastery encompassing organisation of spaces with the natural environment are well preserved. Although in ruins, the physical remains of the stairways, common buildings in the flat plane, the ancient tanks, dwelling caves and other build up monuments at the top of the mountain provide evidence of their use and function as a meditation monastery and the layout of their location and setting in the overall plan of complex. The location of the monastic complex on the mountain continues to express the visual dominance of the complex and to offer panoramic views in several directions. The form and design of the architectural remains of the common buildings, cave dwellings and other buildings are substantially preserved to express the 2nd century AD design principles. Although in ruins, the architectural and structural remnants of numerous elements and components have survived in terms of their material and substance. Similarly, physical remains of the hydraulic elements are preserved in terms of form and design, material and substance while some 2nd century elements are still functioning. The form, design, original use, and function of these attributes express the culture of a typical meditation monastery thus preserving its authenticity.
Within the boundaries of the Meditation Monastery of the Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve, all the elements and components related to the overall layout, landscape design, monumental art, hydraulics, and inscriptions that are necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are well preserved. The physical fabric of these elements is in good condition and has been preserved to express the value. The whole extent of Monastery, is completely intact and hence ensures the full representation of the features and conveys the totality of the value. The panoramic views from the various places of the monastery is also intact. As such the integrity of the entire site to express its outstanding universal value is completely preserved without any new developments and interventions.
Comparison with other similar properties
Typologically, Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve could only be compared with other Buddhist Monasteries which has been included in the World Heritage List. They are Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur in Bangladesh; Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi and Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar in India; Bagan in Myanmar; Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol and Taxila in Pakistan and Sacred City of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka.
Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur in Bangladesh is a temple centred settlement which consists of the largest and best-known Buddhist monasteries in Indian subcontinent with the complex itself covering more than 20 acres, almost a million square feet (85,000 sq. meters). The structure of the complex is quadrangular, consisting 177 cells and a conventional Buddhist stupa at the centre. Each of the four sides of the Somapura Mahavihara is precisely 922 feet (281m) long, built around a massive inner courtyard that houses a large number of shrines and stupas of different shapes and sizes along with terracotta plaques, inscriptions, ceramics, coins and stone sculptures. The monastery compound is dominated by a central temple that bears similarities with Buddhist temple architectural patterns of terraced structure with interposed chambers, cruciform basement and gradually declines to a pyramid-form. Although the Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve is also a Buddhist Monastery the form and design are totally different from the Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur in Bangladesh as it has been established in a mountain with common buildings are located in a central platform. The Architectural style of the buildings are also different as they consist of cave dwellings and buildings build with mainly stone foundations and columns filled with rubble and brick walls.
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi in India comprises a group of Buddhist monuments (monolithic pillars, palaces, temples and monasteries) all in different states of conservation most of which date back to the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. It is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary in existence and was a major Buddhist centre in India until the 12th century A.D. Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve also has some similarities as it has also been functioned as a Buddhist Monastery from the 2nd Century BC to 12th Century AD. The restored stupa in the monastery is somewhat similar to the Stupas in Sanchi but some features like the entrance gateways and the Railing around the Chathra are different. The placement of Chathra on top of Siripatul (foot) Stones could be identified as the only remain in the world which is not seen in the Sanchi Stupa. Mmonuments identified in the monastery consist of cave dwellings and buildings build with mainly stone foundations and columns filled with rubble and brick walls which are different to the monuments in Sanchi.
Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar in India comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BC to the 13th century AD. It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal. Nalanda stands out as the most ancient, spectacular residential monastic-university of the Indian Subcontinent. Although it has some similarities as it contains stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) which are also identified in the Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve in Sri Lanka the architectural style of the monuments are different as it consist of cave dwellings and buildings build with mainly stone foundations and columns filled with rubble and brick.
Bagan in Myanmar is a sacred landscape, featuring an exceptional range of Buddhist art and architecture. The seven components of the serial property include numerous temples, stupas, monasteries and places of pilgrimage, as well as archaeological remains, frescoes and sculptures. Bagan temples, stupas, monasteries the architectural style of the monuments are different to the style in the Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve in Sri Lanka as it consists of cave dwellings and buildings the architectural style of the stupas and monasteries and their form and are different.
Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol and Taxila in Pakistan is located around 500 feet in a top the small hill and around 2 km from village bazar. The Stupa Court, a cluster of stupas located in a central courtyard. The monastic chambers, consisting of individual cells arranged around a courtyard, assembly halls, and a dining area. A temple complex, consisting of stupas and similar to the Stupa Court, but of later construction. The Tantric monastic complex, which consists of small, dark cells with low openings, which may have been used for certain forms of Tantric meditation. Additional structures on the site may have served as residences or meeting halls, or for secular purposes. All of the buildings on the site are constructed from local stone, and are mortared with lime and mud. The remains of the Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve in Sri Lanka do have some similarities with the Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol and Taxila in Pakistan as it also situated in a hill. It also has monastic chambers, consisting of individual cells, assembly halls, and a dining area. But the main difference is the monastic cells which were built converting caves and the architectural style of the monuments which are quite different from the form and design and material and substance.
Sacred City of Anuradhapura is the greatest monastic city of the ancient world that date from the middle of the 5th century B.C. remained the proud seat of kingdom of Sri Lanka until the 11th century A.D. It consists of renovated monuments, restored edifices, preserved ruins and historical sites where the archaeological excavations are still being continued. According to the architectural and archaeological evidences the ancient monastic remains in Anuradhapura consists of two main categories the Maha Vihara type (which housed 5000 monks), Pabbatha Vihara type (which house 500 monks) and Vanavasa -Type (which housed 50 monks) monasteries in Sri Lanka. Monastic plan of the Mahavihara-type where the central courtyard was focused upon by the colossal stupa and the peripheral courtyards were assigned to the other religious buildings, the communal units and the residential cum teaching institutions. The Pabbatha Vihara type monasteries considered here forms a large quadrangle, approximately 1000 ft. x 1100 ft., surrounded by a wide moat and is approached by a broad avenue on one side or on all four sides. The avenue or avenues led straight to the central square terrace held by retaining walls. The space between the moat and the terrace formed a lower platform and had been made use of for the layout of the living quarters or cells (kuti) of the resident monks. The central terrace was occupied by the sacred edifices meant for devotional and ecclesiastical practices. Beyond the moat was an outer platform with a bath house and probably a refectory on the front side and the whole monastery was enclosed by a boundary wall provided with a gateway in the middle of the front side. Further, a shrine complex was placed usually beyond the moat and facing the middle of the rear side of the quadrangle and was connected to the moated site by a formal avenue. Vanavasa-type seems almost like a counter reformation to the hard-theological changes seen in the Pancavasa designs, where great emphasis was given to image worship. The Vanavasa -Type is seen to be even more in contrast, to the even either Mahavihara set up, where the colossal relic shrine of the stupa, is seen to disappeared totally in the Vanavasa – Type with two distinctive types - Single Residential Unit and Multiple Residential Unit.
The Sacred City of Anuradhapura is associated with a Citadel, Grand Reservoirs and Mahavihara Type, Pabbatha Vihara Type and Vanavasa Type Single Residential Unit Monasteries. Within the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, no mountains with rock out crops have been used to create a monastery. As such the Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve shows completely different set out and cannot be considered similar to the monastic remains of the World Heritage Site of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura. Since the Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve has been established as a Meditation Monastery associated with a mountain it is somewhat similar to the Vanavasa Type Multiple Residential Unit Monasteries that could be identified in the other parts of Sri Lanka which contains more than one residential building distributed over a wider geographical area while the major service buildings being grouped and located in a separate zone but it is completely different as it is a mixture of a Pabbatha Vihara Type.
Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve has been established as a Meditation Monastery associated with a Mountain it is somewhat similar to the above mentioned Vanavasa Type Multiple Residential Unit Monasteries that could be identified in the other parts of Sri Lanka which are not found anywhere in the other parts of the World. The main difference of this Monastery is the approach to the flat plain on the top of the mountain through two stair ways to reach the common area by contrast in Vanavasa Type Multiple Residential Unit Monasteries in which the common area is situated at the foot of the Mountain slope. Un like in the Vanavasa Type in which other constructions a large pond, a Janthaghara, a Cankamana and a large building (possibly an Uposatha-Hall) are grouped together, there are buildings that are found in the Sacred quadrangle of a Pabbatha Vihara Type in the Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya, such as Stupas, Refractory, Lahabthage, etc. thus creating a common are with the buildings in aid of spiritual upliftment of the common people. Other distinctive character in the Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya is the conversation of natural caves to residential units which are not common to the Vanavasa Type Multiple Residential Unit Monasteries.
As such Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve could be considered as the only monastery in the world that has been established with the mixture of Pabbatha Vihara Type and Vanavasa Type Multiple Residential Unit Monasteries converting the natural landscape to a Meditation Monastery thus having and Exceptional Universal Value.