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Ruins

Kantaka Chethiya

  Province North Central
  District Anuradhapura
  Nearest Town Mihintale
  Period 119-109 BC
  Ruler King Lanjatissa

Introduction

Kantaka Chethiya was renovated in 1930's to the current status. When this stupa was discovered, it has been a just a mound of earth covered by various debris. This has been known as the Kiribadapavu Dagaba, Kiribat Vehera, or Giribhanda during this time. But a stone inscription found close by has identified the original name of this stupa as Kantaka Chethiya. It is unknown who built this stupa but it is said that the King Lanjatissa (119-109 BC) has built a stone mantel built for this stupa. Therefore we can assume that the stupa was built prior to 119 BC. The present stupa is 425 feet in diameter and is about 40 feet high. This stupa is most popular for one of the most well preserved vahalkada which can be seen today. Vahalkada is a special architectural feature which are four projective front pieces on the four sides of the stupa. The southern vahalkada is the best preserved. This gives a excellent example of the design of vahalkada at the very early periods. The band of 'Ghana' figures on top the structure take special place in most buddhist buildings. They are also called 'Vamana' figures or 'Bahirawa' figures. They are sort of mythical dwarfs in various amusing positions. In this structure on has a horse head, another bear head, another monkey head, and some are standing on the head. They also carry various musical instruments in their hands. The most significant Ghana figure here is the one with the elephant head who carry no musical instrument. Historian Professor Paranawithana believes that this is the very first form of the God Ghana, a very popular god in Hinduism. This god is now represented by a elephant head and 4 arms. The paintings on the southern vahalkada also takes a special place in the Sri Lankan History. Except for Sigiriya Frescos, Mihinthale is one of the very few places that frescos belonging to earliest periods can be seen. One such set of paintings was found inside the relic chamber of Giribanda Stupa which is now in the Mihinthale Museum. The other is the paintings on the southern vahalkada. These are painting of lions but most of them has been faded away. Primarily red and yellow colours has been used for these paintings.