The famed Isurumuniya Rock Temple holds an important place in the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. Located in the historic city of Anuradhapura, the site is almost always included in the itinerary of both foreign and local visitors to the city. The location has gained popularity due to the historic temple with its fine carvings and the picturesque surroundings in which it is located.
Isurumuniya is inseparably associated with the monarchy of the island nation. According to the chronicle of the Sinhalese people, the Mahavamsa, the initial Buddhist temple at the site was created by King Devanampiyatissa who reigned from 250 – 210 BC. It was intended as a dwelling place for 500 monks who had been ordained by the Arahat Mahinda. King Vasabha further developed the construction and King Voharika Tissa installed a protective barrier around the site.
Meanwhile King Kasyapa contributed greatly for the development of the rock temple; to compensate for his sin in killing his father, he expanded its courtyard and significantly improved conditions there for the benefit of the resident Buddhist monks. Unfortunately when the seat of power shifted to a different location the area fell victim to desertion and deterioration. The site only attracted attention again when foreign academics revisited and explored the area in the early years of the 19th century.
Today Isurumuniya is recognized as a proud testament to the creative and artistic abilities of the ancient Sinhalese. The temple features many interesting sculptures, of which the best known is the ‘Isurumuni Lovers’ which is dated to the 5th century. This world-renowned carving is considered to portray the Gupta style of art which was developed at the time of the Gupta Dynasty of India in the 4th and 5th centuries.
The rock temple is located between two boulders, one of which adjoins a pond. On this boulder the visitor will see carvings of elephants that appear to be descending into the pond. Many other interesting carvings may also be seen at the Isurumuniya Rock Temple.
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