The Silver Temple (Ridi Vihara), Sri Lanka
A treasure trove of sculpture & paintings
Tucked away in beautiful rolling countryside, in a small village called
Ridigama (Silver village) 15 km west of the
Kandy - Dambulla highway, roughly
equidistant between Matale and Kurunagala, hidden away behind is a small
monastery cave temple of Ridi Vihara. The huge boulder that looms over
the whole temple complex is home to the local wild bee population. Their
nests bulge below the overhang. You wouldn't dare to disturb the folks,
would you? No, we wouldn't dream of it. They are the ones with sting.
Accidental Silver to finance the Ruwanweliseya Stupa
Ridi Vihara was built by the hero of the nation, King Dutugamunu who
reigned in the 2nd century BC. The king lacked the funds to complete the
great Ruwanweliseya Stupa (Ruwan Weli Saya dagoba) at
the discovery of a rich vein of silver at the village now known as Ridigma. The new found wealth having allowed the illustrious king to
carry on with his masterpiece, the king expressed his gratitude by
creating a cave temple at the location of the silver ore.
Jackfruit treat temple
At the entrance to the cave temple, just before the main body of the
temple lies the Varaka Valandu Vihara (Jackfruit treat temple), an
exquisite little temple, which dates from around the eleventh century.
Built right up against a small rock outcrop, it is dedicated to the
guardian of the mountain on which the Ridi Vihara is located. The bases
of the pillars are decorated with figures-a man with a spear, another
with a bow & arrow-while inside the tiny shrine sits a small yellow
Buddha statue & a few simple Kandyan-era paintings. When you are on the
tour with us, we will, of course narrate the story of the jackfruit
treat: how the temple got its name. And on tour in Sri Lanka you will be
having tender Jackfruit spicy curry (Polos), ripe Jackfruit curry in
sauce of coconut milk (Kiri cos) & ripe & juicyJackfruit (Varaka) as a
fruit. Tropical Jackfruit, one of the largest fruits in the world, is a
many splendoured love in Sri Lanka
The main rock-cut temple, Lower Temple
Beyond here, you pass through a wooden entrance pavilion (an old wooden
palanquin hangs from the roof) and cross a small courtyard painted in harmonious pastel colours to reach the main rock-cut temple, the Pahala
Vihara (Lower temple). Gold plated Buddha statue attributed to King Dutugamunu is kept securely inside a special case.
Pancha Nari Gataya (The knot of five maidens) in the lower temple
To the right of the entrance to the lower temple is an exquisite ivory
carving of a vase. At the close range the vase blooms into a figure of
five entwined maidens.
Blue & White Dutch wall tiles of Biblical stories in the lower temple
The temple's interior is surprisingly large; a veritable Aladdin's cave,
its walls are covered in tessellated hundreds of Kandyan-era pictures of
Buddha. A 9m recumbent Buddha rests on a platform, a flower altar
decorated with a blue & white tiles that narrates Biblical stories,
which were a gift from the Dutch envoy to King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe
(1746-1778 AD). The king in return had gifted the tiles to the temple.
Christianity being a non-violent religion, the Buddhist spirit of
tolerance of faiths would have spurred the Buddhist bhikkus (monks) to
see the tiles with due admiration of their quality & artistry.
Banishment of Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden, the last supper,
Mosses & the burning bush, prophets of yore, dove of peace, creation of
man are some of the scenes depicted in the tiles.
At the far end of cave stand from left to right statues of the Buddha,
King Dutugamunu (the last is an extremely
ancient statue date from Anuradhapura period), as well as a delicate
reclining Buddha from Burma.
Behind the temple, steps lead up to the right to the Uda Vihara (Upper
Temple) right behind. This eighteenth-century structure is attributed to
King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe. The entrance consists of Kandyan-period
moonstone & steps flanked by elephants. A series of Hindu deities &
images of the Buddha are located herein.
The main image of Upper Temple
In the main chamber is an impressive seated Buddha set on a busy
backdrop Makara Torana (Dragon Arch) of images of gods, devotees
and Buddhas. Paintings of mythological animals and King Rawana too adorn the
A trompe l' oeil Cobra House, next to the main chamber of Upper temple
Next door to the main chamber is the small "Cobra House". To the right
of the entrance door is a painting of a formation of nine maidens-a
trompe l' oeil which, as you walk backwards, magically transforms into
the shape of an elephant. It's a clever visual trick designed by the
There are more Kandyan-era decorative murals of flowers & Buddha statues
inside the Cobra House; behind it, a stupa sits almost completely
covered under another part of the overhanging rock
There is an attractive artificial lake at the foot of the hills.
Outside the temple complex you can see an abandoned dagoba at the top of
a smooth rocky outcrop. On the way up, to your right an ancient
inscription in the stone that has been etched on King Dutugamunu's
An easy 10 minute walk starts to the right of this stupa passing a
modern pavilion to an abandoned villa; nearby, on the top of the cliff,
is a slab of rock which affords magnificent views of hills & valleys.
on photo to enlarge