|Girihandu Cetiya||Guardstone with Pahallva influence.||The 8th Century Vatadage|
|Cetiya||Guardstones with Pahallva influence.||Girihandu Cetiya|
|Steps to the Doorway|
The Girihanduseya temple at Tiriyaya is supposed to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka enshrined with the hair relic of the Buddha.
It said that the stupa was built by two traders duing the time of the Buddha. According to the Pūjāvaliya, Tapassu and Bhalluka, the two merchant brothers from Pokkharavati (=Pushkalavati now Charasaddha) in Uttarapatha in what is now North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan (the ancient land of the Kambojas and Gandharas), "visited the east coast of Ceylon and built a Cetiya there. An inscription also makes a similar record"
Recently though, their have been attempts by tamil extremists to connect the traders to pahallava traders that used to visit the temple.
The top of the whole hill is artificially leveled and surrounded by a wall with a gate on the east and another on the north. Apart from the stupa itself there are six shrines within this enclosed area, the largest of which held a recumbent Buddha image. Another shrine must have been sacred to Avalokitesvara as the bodhisattva is mentioned in one inscription as abiding on the hill.
These altars all once had Buddha images on them. Two rows of pillars held a huge dome over the stupa. Note that the inner circle of pillars is octagonal while the outer ones are square up to about four feet and then octagonal. Note also that the capitals are joined to the shafts of these pillars rather than being separate. Archaeological investigation has shown that the stupa was originally 25 feet in diameter but in about the 8th century when the domed roof was built it was enlarged to 32 feet. When archeologists got to Tiriyaya in 1951 vandals had already broken into the stupa and stolen the relic and its casket and they have never been recovered!!