The Tämpiṭavihāras of Sri Lanka

The Tämpiṭavihāras of Sri Lanka

Elevated Image-Houses in Buddhist Architecture

By Kapila D. Silva & Dhammika P. Chandrasekara
Foreword by Amos Rapoport

The Ṭämpiṭavihāras of Sri Lanka focuses on one distinctive Buddhist architectural practice from pre-modern Sri Lanka – the construction of Buddha image-houses on elevated wooden platforms supported by stone pillars. 

PDF, 194 Pages


July 2021

£25.00, $40.00

EPUB, 194 Pages


July 2021

£25.00, $40.00

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About This Book

The Ṭämpiṭavihāras of Sri Lanka focuses on one distinctive Buddhist architectural practice from pre-modern Sri Lanka – the construction of Buddha image-houses on elevated wooden platforms supported by stone pillars. As a centre of Buddhism, Sri Lanka has a rich tradition of erecting Buddha image-houses, the origin of which dates to the fifth century. Yet, the ṭämpiṭavihāra tradition only existed from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The ṭämpiṭavihāra is an exceptional type of image-house, not only for its specific timeframe and unique construction technology, but also for its complex architectural conception of the Buddhist worldview and soteriology. Except for this period of Sri Lankan history, this architectural exemplar does not exist in anytime or anywhere in the entire Buddhist world. This book examines the significant aspects of ṭämpiṭavihāra architecture and documents some of the distinctive examples with an analysis of their architectural design and symbolic content.

Richly illustrated with photographs and drawings, the book is organized into two parts. The first part examines the significant historical, cultural, and architectural aspects of ṭämpiṭavihāras in depth. The second part documents fifty of the distinctive examples of ṭämpiṭavihāras in the country with an analysis of their architectural designs and symbolic content. Each example is illustrated with architectural drawings of its plans, elevations, and sections along with photographs. The book also includes a list of over 200 extant tämpiṭavihāras in the country. This book is the very first comprehensive examination of the subject of tämpiṭavihāras published in any language and made available for a global audience. It narrates the story of ṭämpiṭavihāras from a multidimensional perspective that involves architecture, anthropology, archaeology, art history, geography, history, sociology, and theology. Consequently, it appeals to a vast array of enthusiasts of these disciplines in addition to scholars in Asian studies, South Asian studies, Sri Lankan studies, and Buddhist studies.


‘This book, a product of 20-years of journey to experience and reveal the spirit of place and distinctiveness of built structure, is a landmark presenting the continuity of history since late medieval period, as illustrated by the distinct shrines built on stone pillars, called ṭämpiṭavihāra. I am sure this will open new avenues for further research.’ — Prof. Rana P.B. Singh, President- Asian Cultural Landscape Association

The Tämpiṭavihāras of Sri Lanka makes an invaluable addition to literature on regional Buddhist religious literature. Its excellent documentation, analysis and presentation of architecture, materials and methods of construction, artistic embellishments as well as vernacular nuances and terminologies of Tämpiṭavihāras, along with the Brikshya-chaitya and the Stupa, raises the book to a laudable act of conservation. I find its creative use of classroom and field learning experiences of students and teachers refreshing, instructive and worth emulating.’ — Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, Lumbini College of Buddhism and Himalayan Studies, Lumbini Buddhist University

‘The authors provide a systematic and in-depth introduction to Buddhism's history and the tradition of Buddhist heritage in Sri Lanka. The book reveals the hidden treasure of Sri Lankan architecture that was previously understudied or less known. I applaud this book's publication as a valuable addition to the repository of knowledge of Asian architecture. It is indeed an important step to transform Asia from a knowledge consumer into a knowledge producer and a substantial contribution to Architectural discourse in general.’ —Dr Johannes Widodo, Director of Graduate Programs in Architectural Conservation, National University of Singapore

Author Information

Kapila D. Silva is a professor of architecture at the University of Kansas, USA.

Dhammika P. Chandrasekara is a senior lecturer of architecture and Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Moraṭuwa, Sri Lanka.


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Table of Contents

Illustrations; Acknowledgements; Foreword by Amos Rapoport; 1 Introduction; Part I The Ṭämpiṭavihāra Tradition; Chapter 1 The Tradition of Buddha Image-Houses in Sri Lanka; Chapter 2 The Ṭämpiṭavihāra Design; Chapter 3 The Evolution of Ṭämpiṭavihāras and Their Variations; Conclusion; Part II Illustrations of Selected Ṭämpiṭavihāras; Introduction; Central Province; North Central Province; North Western (Vayamba) Province; Sabaragamuva Province; Southern Province; Ūva Province; Western Province; Bibliography; Appendix: A List of Ṭämpiṭavihāras in Sri Lanka; Index.


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