Ridi Vihare – Silver Temple Sri Lanka

Ridi Vihare -“Silver Temple” in Sinhala – is a historic cave temple on the road to Sri Lanka’s ancient cities -an easy day trip away from Colombo. At first glance it looks like a large well supported rural temple nestled in the lush landscape. Looks are of course deceiving. Its treasures are subtle and hidden from impatient eye. First You have to get there.

Map to Ridi Vihare from Colombo via Kurunagala

The map below shows the route to Ridi Vihare from Colombo. The Temple is located at Ridigama (Silver Village). Yes there’s a theme 😉 The Colombo – Kurunagala segment of the route uses uncongested secondary roads described in an earlier post.

Route to Ridi Vihare via Colombo - Kurunegala

If you can’t make it, the alternative is the lovingly photographed book Ridi Vihare – The Flowering of Kandyan Art’ by SinhaRaja Tammita -Delgoda. Sunday Times has a review of “Ridi Vihare – The Flowering of Kandyan Art“. Its not cheap but worth it. That’s easy to say since our copy was bought with wedding gifted Barefoot vouchers.

We got to Ridi Vihare in the blazing afternoon heat and had the place to our selves and the neatly uniformed bare footed civil defence guy with a T56. He had the sanity to stay in the shade. We barbecued our paws on the burning sand. White lotuses were bought from the flower sellers outside the gates. Mrs C had packed a bottle of coconut oil & wicks for the lamps. Both our upbringings make it is hard to think of any religious place purely as a tourist attraction. So we do the usual Buddhist things before wondering around.

The lavishness of the “Ridi Vihare” book’s photographs makes the ordinariness of the temple more striking. No towering chunks of ancient history scattered about. It is quite easy to miss the oldest rock cut structure in the temple complex. It is the medieval cave/shrine that hides the visual fire works. However the doors were locked and nobody was about.

Then a shout and burly character came scampering out of the monk’s quarters, keys jangling. Its a care taker type person who with profuse apologies unlocks multiple doors. Inside the first cave it is deliciously cool. We’d prefer to quietly drink in the sights. But our benefactor launches into a rolling recitation of the temple and the cave. Very similar to the Sinhala priests (“Kapuralas”) of the Hindu shrines found in Buddhist temples. It sounds he’s memorised the whole thing in rather officious Sinhala.

He is very thorough about the details. We would have missed the Dutch tiles with Christian motifs and an ivory inlaid doorway if he hadn’t pointed it out. The inward facing Makara thorana is rich in glowing reds & yellow in one of the image houses is a particularly. Supposedly the only one. All a magical contrast to the “practical” feel of the agricultural landscape we drove through. Flash photography is not allowed to protect the ancient paint. Tripods are out to protect the floor. Unless you are very steady to pull of long exposure shots, it is best to keep the camera in the bag and just absorb the sights.

Unfortunately I don’t have the time to locate the pictures and flickr them. Anyway, there’s plenty of better ones on the net. For pictures, mysrilankaholidays.com has a page on Ridi Vihare with good images and a historical overview. Predeep Jeganathan has an atmospheric black and white. If you got links to more on the web feel free to post them in the comment box 🙂

Despite the visual delights of the main show, I am drawn to peripheral details. I felt an odd empathy with the expressions on this ancient looking incense burner. Took too many pictures of the door handles. Knelt longer than I should on hot paving to frame an minor craving. Eventually it was time to go. Our guide had already unlocked a box of souvenir cards which we dutifully purchased. On the way out we detoured to the lonely Stupa. A quiet peaceful place with mountain views. No grand monuments.

The mobile interrupts the peace. Will we be back in Colombo for dinner? I make the necessary promises as we head to the chariot. The road back was clear & sane. There’s even time for a brew outside Naramala. We sip it surrounded by cheerfully golden paddy fields waving hypnotically at us in the wind.

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