Sandahiru Seya and SL’S Dagoba Architecture
By Lakshman I. Keerthisinghe
“Our ancestors had built our ancient Dagobas in remembrance of our former heroes and this gigantic Dagoba is a tribute to the war heroes of our time, which will stand tall for future generations to see as a testament to the sacrifices they made.” General Kamal Gunaratna- Defence Secretary
The Tripitakaya has been replicated on golden leaves and deposited in the ‘Sandahiru Seya’ Stupa. In addition an eight kilo copper statue of the Buddha has also been deposited in the Stupa, in addition to a large amount of treasures donated by businessmen and the public. The ceremony to deposit these treasures in the square chamber above the Stupa dome was held on 28 March 2021 under the patronage of Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne, the commanders of the Tri Forces, Police and CSD and the Maha Sangha. The square chamber will be 39 feet in height when completed. Further, the Devatha Kotuwa will be another 25 feet high and above that will be the Koth Kerella which will be a further 72 feet tall and the Koth Wahanse will be another 18 feet tall with the Chuda Manikya being three-and-a-half feet in height. In fact, in addition to the construction done so far, the Dagoba will see another 100 feet added on at its completion in November 2021. The base of the Dagoba runs around 28 feet below ground level, The donated three-and-a half-foot high crest gem is designed to be placed at the tip of the Conical Spire embedded with precious stones and gold. The mega construction undertaken by the Tri-Forces is 282 feet in height with a circumference of 801 feet.
It is significant to note that around 29,000 Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and CSD soldiers sacrificed their valuable lives to liberate the country from the clutches of terrorism. Over 60,000 soldiers were injured during the war and even today, over 14,000 are confined to a wheelchair or bed having been critically injured and rendered disabled. That is the fate facing these valiant war heroes in spending the rest of their lives but they are proud of what they have sacrificed in battling for the liberation of their precious motherland-the beautiful paradise island of Sri Lanka for all peace-loving patriotic Sri Lankans irrespective of any communal differences.
The largest Stupa
Since the great Stupas that were built by our former kings, this is the largest Stupa being built in modern times in the country. Funds for the construction of this Stupa comes from contributions made by military personnel who have willingly donated a part of their salary and other donors. The enormous Sandahiru Seya is a mere 18.5 feet less in height than the mighty Ruwanweli Seya, which is a revered Buddhist place of worship. The Defence Secretary paid a tribute to the Buddhist clergy for their support and assistance in realising the dream of constructing this magnificent Dagoba, adding that without their advice and guidance, this task could not have been achieved. The initial name of this Dagoba was ‘Ranaviru Seya’ but it was subsequently changed to ‘Sandahiru Seya’, indicating that this structure will remain as a place of worship and a sign of gratitude to the fallen and injured war heroes for as long as the moon and sun rises in our land. The auspicious placement of the first brick on the Hatharas Kotuwa (square pavilion) of the Sandhahiru Seya Stupa at Anuradhapura took place on 25 May 2020 amid Pirith chanting and blessings of the Maha Sangha. Soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army led by Corps of Engineering Services are constructing this monumental pagoda in memory of fallen War Heroes of the north central province. Similar pagodas are to be constructed elsewhere in the country in the future. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa several years ago, during his tenure as the Defence Secretary, initiated the construction of this large Stupa in the sacred old kingdom of Anuradhapura as a tribute to the memory of all fallen war heroes.
Dagobas or stupas of Sri Lanka are significant to the architectural and engineering development in the island. Stupas designed and constructed in Sri Lanka are the largest brick structures known to pre-modern world. The construction of stupas were considered acts of great merit as the purpose was mainly to enshrine the sacred relics of Buddha. The stupa designs stipulate that, entrances to stupas are laid out so that their centre lines point to the relic chambers. Stupas such as Jetawanaramaya, Abhayagiri, and Mirisevati were in the shape of a paddy heap while Riwanveli is in the shape of a bubble.
In conclusion, ancient dagoba architecture in Sri Lanka is unmatched by any other architectural designs in the world and have to be preserved for posterity by the Sri Lankan people with pride.
The writer is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM, MPhil.(Colombo)-[email protected]