Thiriyai, also spelt Tiriyaya, is the most significant and most attractive ancient site in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province. Surprisingly, it has remained to be untouched by mass tourism, though located in only 30 km distance from the beloved beaches of Nilaveli near Trincomalee. Thiriyai's ruins of a Buddhist monastery are situated on and around a hillock not far from the ocean. The main attraction is a well-preserved circular temple on the very top of the hill. Apart from ist beauty, it’s remarkable for two reasons. Although it’s a so-called Vatadage, which is a type of building that is specific to Sinhalese monastic architecture, Tamils have played an important role in establishing this Buddhist site in the first millennium. Thoughs days many Tamil merchants and seafarers from Southern India were Buddhist and left traces of their presence all along the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the guardian stones of the Vatadage of Thiriyai seems to be the earliest of this elaborate kind in Sri Lanka. This means, the less-known Thiriyai in the coastal area set an example for Buddhist art in the core zone of the island’s interior und cultural core region of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Visiting Thiriyai undisturbed by the crowds but with oppotunities to meet Buddhist pilgrims from all regions of Sri Lanka is a delightful experience. The site is extraordinarily charming and can be called an insider tip for heritage travelers.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka