Isurumuniya Temple and Isurumuni lovers in Sri Lanka

Isurumuniya Temple


Isurumuniya is one of the ancient rock temples situated in the sacred city of Anuradhapura. There are about 200 kilometres from Colombo main city of Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura is the first

royal capital in Sri Lanka. Isurumuniya centres around a cluster of gneiss boulders lying below the bund of Tisawewa.


Isurumuniya is a sacred temple that has two cave shrines. There is a reclining Buddha in one cave and a stone seated Buddha image in another cave. The site has many outstanding stone carvings of aesthetic appeal and mythological value.

This monastery was built by king Devanampiyathissa, the first Buddhist king of Sri Lanka. It was one of the largest monasteries of Anuradhapura.

Isurumuniya was also called Mega Giri Viharaya in the past. Its meaning was “the temple of the rain clouds. The oldest part of this monastery is the small cave shrine above the pond. A flight of steps, adorned with a moonstone ( Sandakadapahana), Two sets of guard stones (mural) and two balustrades or wing stones ( Korawakgal) lead up to it. The shrine room appeared very beautiful.

The sacred cave shrines

This sacred cave shrine is the oldest part of this monastery and is situated above the pond. The main attraction of the shrine is the seated Buddha image. It is a stone seated buddha image but later it was plastered in gold. It is believed that may be the first Buddha image to be made on this island. The Buddha image was carved out of living rock.

Many English writers have written about Isurumuniya. The English writer, Henry w. cave says about in his ‘The ruined cities of Ceylon’.

“This curious building carved out of the national rock, occupies a romantic position”

This shrine room art is resembling the Guptha style in India.

Sandakadapahana in Isurumuniya

Sandakadapahana (moonstone) is a semicircular slab of stone carved with figures of animals and lotus flowers. It is at the foot of any flight of steps to a Buddhist temple. Isurumuniya  Sandakadapahana is very special one. There are four animals’ carvings following each other on this moonstone. They are the elephant, horses, lions, and bulls. According to one interception, they symbolized four main characteristics. The elephant symbolizes birth; the houses decay; the lion's diseases and the bull's death. These animals follow each other. Everyone who is born will change by growing old, suffering from diseases and death.

Somebody says the four animals symbolized the four quarters of the world. How can Isurumuniya sandakadapahana is very popular one among another moonstone in Anuradhapura.

The guard stone in Isurumuniya

There are very beautiful guard stones in the Isurumuniya temple. It is at the foot of the flight of steps to the old cave shrine. Every flight of steps at a Buddhist temple is flanked by two guard stones on either side of the moonstone. In Sinhala wards, it is called ‘Muragala”. The guard stone depicts a male figure.  It wears a crown and the head is framed by the hood of the cobra. Because it is called king Naga.   Isurumuniya guard stone has seven hoods. It is a very beautiful one.


The Balustrade (Korawakgala)

There is a very beautiful Balustrade at the entrance to the old cave shrine. It is on either side of the flight of steps. It depicts the mythical animal known as Makara. He is the king of dragon because it is an open mouth. The two Balustrades at Isurumuni temple have sculptures that are not found in any other Balustrade. These are called thumpathrena.


The Isurumuni Lovers.

Isurumuni Vihara is famous for its stone carvings. The Isurumuni Lovers are one of them. It is the most outstanding sculpture at the Isurumuni museum. It represents a man and a woman seated on his lap and their love. It has been suggested that its original home could have been the royal park adjoining this temple.

Some believe The Isurumuni Lovers are symbols of Hindu God Shiva and Parvathi. But a lot of people in Sri Lanka believe it is a depiction of Prince Saliya, the son of King Dutugemunu and Asokamala. The famous Archaeologist, Dr Paranawithana also believes they are Aaliyah and Asokamala. 

Sculpture of a Royal Family

The Man and the Horse

The Sacred Bodhi Tree

Bats Cave

Old Shrine Room 

Shrine Room 


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