Buddhism and Sri Lanka

According to Sri Lankan chronicles, Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C. by Arhant Mahinda, during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa.

Sri Lankan Inscriptions

The earliest trace of epigraphy in South Asia is said to be found in Sri Lanka. A piece of pottery, dated to circa the 4th century B.C. has been discovered from the Anuradhapura citadel.

Architecture of Sri Lanka

The architecture of Sri lanka has a long history and shows diversed forms and styles, mainly infuenced by their religions and traditional beliefs.

Sri Lankan Antiquities

Inherited from the past, Sri Lanka has a large number of antiques with cultural and historical significance which reflects the glory of past era.

Visit Sri Lanka

Located in the northern waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is an island blessed with a large number of attractons which has made the country an ideal destination for the tourism.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Christ Church, Baddegama

Christ Church is an Anglican church situated in Baddegama village in Galle District, Sri Lanka. It is maintained by the Colombo Diocese. 

History
Robert Mayer, a missionary of the Church Missionary Society made a tour with his party along the Gin Ganga river in search of a suitable place for building a new church and at Baddegama they spotted such land and chose it for their purpose (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The construction works of the church were commenced in 1821 with the help of George Winter and were finished by 1822 (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). A verandah was added to the church in 1945 by Bishop Lakdasa de Mel (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

References
1) De Silva, N.; Chandrasekara, D.P., 2009. Heritage Buildings of Sri Lanka. Colombo: The National Trust Sri Lanka, ISBN: 978-955-0093-01-4. p.125.

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This page was last updated on 25 January 2022
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Monday, January 24, 2022

Jean Arasanayagam

Jean Solomons Arasanayagam (1931-2019) was a Sri Lankan poet, short story writer, novelist, dramatist and painter.

Life events
Born on 2 December 1931 to a Burgher family as Jean Solomons she received her schooling in Kandy and graduated from the University of Ceylon (Nimavat, 2011). She obtained an M.Litt from the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) in Literary Linguistics and worked as a lecturer at the English Teacher's College, Peradeniya (Ranaweera, 1991). In 1961 she is married into a Tamil named Thiyagrajah Arsanayagam lived in Navaly (Ranaweera, 1991; Sjöbohm, 1992). With the beginning of ethnic riots in the 1980s, Jean’s family had been victimized and was forced to flee the war zone as refugees in 1983 (Nimavat, 2011).
 
Arasanayagam's poems and short stories were published in a number of journals and anthologies in Sri Lanka and abroad (Ranaweera, 1991). Her works have been translated into several languages such as Danish, Swedish, French, German and Japanese (Nimavat, 2011). Besides being a poet, she was also a painter. Her paintings were once featured in the Asia Magazine as well as displayed in several exhibitions held in the Commonwealth Institute (UK), the Paris Biennale (France), and Lionel Wendt [(Sri Lanka) Ranaweera, 1991].

Arasanayagam died on 30 July 2019 in Kandy at the age of 87.

Publications
Poetry
# Kindura (1973)
# Poems of a season beginning and a season over (1977)
# Apocalypse'83 (1984)
# A colonial inheritance and other poems (1985)
# Out of our prisons we emerge (1986)
# Trial by Terror (published in New Zealand in 1987)
# The reddened water flows clear (published in the United Kingdom in 1990)
# Shooting the Floricans (1993) 
# Women,  All  women (2000)

Prose works
# The cry of the kite (a collection of short stories published in 1983)
# The outsider (published in Japan in 1987)
# Fragments of a Journey (1992)
# All is burning (1995)
# Peacocks and Dreams (1996)
# In the Garden Secretly and other Stories (2000)
# Dragons in the Wilderness (2008)

Awards
# The Sri Lanka Arts Council Prize for Non-fiction (1984) for Bhairava: A childhood in Navaly
# The Sri Lanka Arts Council Prize for Poetry (1985)
# The Triton College International Award for poetry (1990) 
# Premchand Fellowship of the Sahitya Akademi, India (2014)
# Sahityaratna award of the Sri Lankan government (2017)
 
References
1) Nimavat, D.B., 2011. The Cassandras in Exile: A Study of the Diasporic Sensibility in the Poetry of Meena Alexander, Sujata Bhatt, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Moniza Alvi and Jean Arasanayagam (Doctoral dissertation, Saurashtra University). pp.223-238.
2) Ranaweera, E., 1991. Some literary women of Sri Lanka. Women's Education and Research Centre. pp.1-3.
3) Sjöbohm, A., 1992. "Someone smashed in the door and gave me my freedom": On the writings of Jean Arasanayagam. World Literature Today, 66(1). pp.35-38.


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This page was last updated on 24 January 2022
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Moonstones at Abhayagiri Panchavasa

Sandakada Pahana I
The two most exquisitely carved Sandakada Pahana (moonstones) in Sri Lanka is found in two monastic residential complexes (Panchavasa) located adjacent to each other in the premises of Abhayagiriya Monastery Complex in Anuradhapura District. 

Sandakada Pahana is an elaborately carved semi-circular stone slab, usually placed at the bottom of staircases and entrances. It is considered a unique feature of the Sinhalese architecture of ancient Sri Lanka.

Sandakada Pahana I
Mahasen's Palace
The first Sandakada Pahana (moonstone) is found at the foot of the steps leading to the centre building of the monastic residential complex which is commonly identified by many as the Mahasen's Palace or Mahasen Maligawa (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004). Although it is called a palace, archaeologists have identified this as a monastic residential complex (a Panchavasa) which is also known as Pirivena, Prasada or Arama. It consists of a principal residential unit with four small associated residential units at the four corners, water closets and urinals. The Sandakada Pahana at this complex has been dated by scholars to the period between 7-8 centuries A.D.

Sandakada Pahana II
Sandakada Pahana II
The second Sandakada Pahana is also found at the foot of the steps leading to the main building of the monastic residential complex which is incorrectly identified as the Queen's Palace or Biso Maligawa (Wikramagamage, 2004). According to the view of Prof. Senarath Paranavitana, this is the most exquisite artistic creation of a moonstone found in the country.

Interpretations
Scholars have given many interpretations to the carvings appearing on the moonstones (Wikramagamage, 2004). As explained by Prof. Senarath Paranavitana, the most outer ring of the moonstone that containing a stripe of Palapethi represents the world in the flames of desire (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004). The next stripe containing the figures of four animals; elephant, lion, bull, and horse, symbolizes the four states of life; birth, ageing, illness and death (Jayasuriya, 2016). The thick creeper in the next ring represents craving and the line of swans in the next inner ring symbolizes purification or differentiating the good and evil (Wikramagamage, 2004). After that is another stripe showing a small and less-thick creeper which indicates the diminishing of craving. The half lotus in the most inner part of the stone represents Nirvana or the supreme bliss. However, this interpretation by Paranavitana has been rejected by certain other scholars (Wikramagamage, 2004).

Queen's Palace Queen's Palace .
References
1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.26.
2) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.104-105.

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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Bodhighara Shrines in Sri Lanka

Bodhighara (lit: Bodhi-tree shrine) is a type of Buddhist structure in Sri Lanka built around the sacred Bo tree (Ficus religiosa) in Vihara and monasteries. The Sri Lankan Bodhigharas of the Anuradhapura Period are considered the only extant examples so far discovered in the entire Buddhist world, of the hypothetical Bodhi-tree shrines referred to in ancient literature and depicted in the earliest Buddhist relief sculpture in India (Bandaranayake, 1990).
 
History
The Buddha attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya in India, seated on a stone seat (Vajrasana or Asana) under a Bo tree. Thereafter, both the Bo tree (or Bodhi tree) and Asana became objects of worship of Buddhists, not only in India but also in other Buddhist countries in the region including Sri Lanka (Karunaratne, 1998).
 
Soon after the introduction of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Sangamitta Theri, the daughter of Emperor Asoka (c.268-232 B.C.) and sister of Arhat Mahinda Thera, brought the southern branch of the sacred Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya to Sri Lanka (Bandaranayake, 1990; Nicholas, 1963; The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007; Wikramagamage, 2004). It was planted at Mahamegha park in Anuradhapura, on the ground earlier sanctified by the Buddha, by King Devanampiyatissa (247-207 B.C.) in the presence of a great multitude (Nicholas, 1963; Wikramagamage, 2004). As mentioned in the chronicle Mahavamsa, the first Bodhigara of the country was erected during this time and since then many kings built or repaired Bodhigharas around their kingdoms (Karunaratne, 1998). 

Presently, the Bodhighara has become an important element in every Buddhist temple in the country.
 
The structure
The Bodhighara (Bodhi = Bo tree, Ghara = house) was a roofed structure over the circumambulatory path that ran around the sacred Bo tree (Bandaranayake, 1990; The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007). It was designed in a manner as to cover only the area around the tree, leaving an open space in the centre as the tree requires sunshine for its growth (Karunaratne, 1998). It was usually terraced on three or more levels, each enclosed by a railing (Karunaratne, 1998). Four cardinally-oriented flights of steps were provided to access the upper terrace. The placing of a stone Asana, which symbolized the Buddha, at the foot of the Bo tree was an important part of this type of shrine (Bandaranayake, 1990; The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007).

Relatively well-preserved Bodhighara shrines (with stone Asana) have been found at Nillakgama, Galigamuwa, Pulukunava, Rajangane, Padikemgala and in Abhayagiri (Bodhighara I, Bodhighara II, Bodhighara III) and Jetavana (Buddhist Railing) temples at Anuradhapura (The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007).

Reference
1) Bandaranayake, S., 1990. The architecture of the Anuradhapura period 543 B.C.-800 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). pp.27-28.
2) Karunaratne, L.K., 1998. The history of Buddhist architecture in Sri Lanka. The 1998 International Symposium on Design & Development of Buddhist Architecture. pp.85-96.
3) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). pp.130-131.
4) The National Atlas of Sri Lanka, 2007. (2nd ed.) Survey Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-9059-04-1. pp.102,104. 
5) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites: Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.54-58

This page was last updated on 23 January 2022
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Dharani House, Abhayagiriya

Dharani House
Dharani House is a ruined building situated in Abhayagiri Monastery premises in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

Dharani
A form of mystic incantations identify as Dharani (Dhammaratana, 2000). Paying homage to Dharani Sutras which are considered as protective stanzas was a ritual in Mahayana Buddhism. Several slab inscriptions containing Dharani Sutras written in Sanskrit of the 9th century A.D. have been found from this building (Dhammaratana, 2000). North-eastern Nagari script has been utilized to engrave these stones (Dhammaratana, 2000).

References
1) Dhammaratana, I., 2000. Sanskrit Inscriptions in Sri Lanka: A thesis submitted to the University of Pune in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sanskrit. Department of Sanskrit & Prakrit Languages, University of Pune, India. pp.373-386.

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This page was last updated on 28 January 2021
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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Amavatura

Amavatura (lit: Ambrosial Water) is a devotional biography of the Buddha composed by Gurulugomi, a commentator and philosopher who lived in the 12th century in Sri Lanka (Reynolds et al., 1994; Wikramasinghe, 1900). It is considered the first prose narrative among extant Sinhalese literary works (Suriyahetti, 1975).
 
Amavatura is called the life story of the Buddha by its author Gurulugomi (Suriyahetti, 1975). He has compiled it by emphasizing one of the nine virtues of the Buddha namely Purisadhammasarathi which means "guide of tamable beings" (Suriyahetti, 1975). The work has been divided into 18 chapters under the following headings;

1) Durdanta-damana               2) Svasantana-damana               3) Parasantana-damana
4) Grihapati-damana               5) Brahmana-damana                 6) Raja-damana
7) Angulmal-damana              8) Parivarjaka-damana                9) Manavaka-damana
10) Digambara-damana        11) Jatila-damana                       12) Tapasa-damana
13) Bhikkhu-damana             14) Naga-damana                        15) Yaksha-damana
16) Asura-damana                 17) Deva-damana                        18) Brahma-damana

References
1) Reynolds, F., Tracy, D. and Greeley, A.T. eds., 1994. Religion and practical reason: New essays in the comparative philosophy of religions. SUNY Press. p.124.
2) Suriyahetti, P., 1975. A syntactical study of the Amavatura. University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (United Kingdom). pp.1-7.
3) Wikramasinghe, D. M. D. Z., 1900. Catalogue of the Sinhalese Manuscripts in the British Museum: London. pp.29-31.


This page was last updated on 22 January 2022
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Alahana Pirivena

Alahana Pirivena
Alahana Pirivena is the largest monastery complex located in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City, Sri Lanka.

History
The Pirivena was established by King Parakramabahu I [(1153-1186 A.D.) Jayasuriya, 2016; Nicholas, 1963; Wikramagamage, 2004]. Its name "Alahana" suggests that the site had been a former cremation ground and this has been confirmed by archaeological excavations carried out here in several places (Jayasuriya, 2016). The Stupas at the site are believed to have been constructed on the cremation grounds of prelates or royals. 

As mentioned in chronicles, the limits of Alahana Pirivena had been marked by 10 boundary stones and it comprised; Lankathilaka Pilima Ge, Rupavathi Thupa, Subaddha Cetiya, Baddhasima Prasada, Khandasima, a Pasada and several other buildings (Nicholas, 1963).

The monastery
Alahana Pirivena is considered the largest monastery complex in Polonnaruwa. It extends over more than 18 hectares and has a terraced layout (Jayasuriya, 2016). Kiri Vehera, Lankathilaka Pilima Ge, Baddhasima Prasada, and several small Stupas are located on the two upper terraces while the monastic hospital, ponds, and a number of residence monks' cells are located on the lower terrace.

The excavations done at the site by archaeologists have exposed a stepped pond with a unique design. According to the view of Prof. Prematilaka, the design of it is similar to the 14th century stepped pond at Hampi, Vijayanagar in India (Jayasuriya, 2016).

References
1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.81. 
2) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). p.179. 
3) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.214.

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This page was last updated on 22 January 2022
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Friday, January 21, 2022

Kingdom of Gampola

Gadaladeniya Viharaya
The Kingdom of Gampola was the fourth kingdom in Sri Lanka that flourished on the island from the 14th to the 15th century (from 1341 A.D. to 1412 A.D.). It was known as "Ganga Siri Pura" as its environmental association with the Mahaweli Ganga river (De Silva, 1990).

History
The Sinhalese Kingdom which was first established in Anuradhapura in the 3rd century B.C. moved to Polonnaruwa in the 11th century A.D. and then to Dambadeniya in the 13th century A.D. Buwanekabahu IV (1341-1351 A.D.), the son of King Vijayabahu V (1335-1341 A.D.) of Dambadeniya ascended to the throne after his father and shifted the capital from Kurunegala to Gampola giving birth to the fourth kingdom of the country, the Kingdom of Gampola. The exact reason for the transition of the Sinhalese Kingdom from Dambadeniya to Gampola is unknown even though it was commonly considered as for defence (De Silva, 1990). 
 
The last king of Gampola was King Buwanekabahu V (1372-1408 A.D.). After his reign, Kotte emerged as the new and the fifth kingdom of the country. 

Rulers of the Gampola Kingdom
Buvanekabahu IV (1341-1351 A.D.)                       Parakramabahu V (1344-1359 A.D.)
Vikramabahu III (1357-1374 A.D.)                          Buvanekabahu V (1372-1408 A.D.)
  
Inscriptions
A number of inscriptions (including copper sheets and Sannasas) belonging to the four rulers of the Gampola period have been recorded by scholars (Ranawella, 2014; Rohanadeera, 2007; Wijesuriya, 1990).
 
King Buvanekabahu IV
Kitsirimewan Kelaniya Vihara slab inscription. # Gadaladeniya Rock Inscription of Dharmakirti Sthavira
# Malwattegala Rock Inscription
 
King Parakramabahu V
Magul Maha Vihara slab inscription
# Alawala Amuna Rock Inscription
# Hapugastenna Slab Inscription
# Pidurugalpotta Amuna Rock Inscription
 
King Vikramabahu III
# Ampitiya Rock Inscription
# Galgane Viharaya Pillar Inscription
# Vigulavatta Slab Inscription
 
King Buvanekabahu V
# Madawela Pillar Inscription
# Rangiri-Pihilla Rock Inscription 

Other inscriptions
Galle Trilingual Slab Inscription (between 1409-1415 A.D.)

Architecture
It served as the royal residence for more than three decades but like in Dedigama, there are no major architectural remains other than some remains of the palace buildings (De Silva, 1990). This suggests that Gampola was not a stabilized urban settlement with buildings constructed out of permanent materials (De Silva, 1990). Some major shrines built or renovated during the Gampola Period include Niyamgampaya Viharaya, Lankathilaka Viharaya, Gadaladeniya Viharaya and Embekke Devalaya (De Silva, 1990).
 
References
1) De Silva, N., 1990. Sri Lankan architecture during the period 1200-1500 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.77.
2) Ranawella, S., 2014. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. VII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-9159-62-9. pp.27-84.
3) Rohanadeera, M., 2007. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon. Vol. VIII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-64-3. pp.11-22. 
4) Wijesuriya, W., 1990. [Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)] Section V: Inscriptions (1200-1600). Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series: Vol. II: Inscriptions. pp.200-201.
This page was last updated on 21 January 2022
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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Dharmaraja College, Kandy

Dharmaraja College is a government boys' school situated in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

History
The school was started in 1887 by the name Kandy Buddhist High School in a cadjan shed in the Natha Devalaya premises with 12 students (Abeyawardana, 2004). The foundation for the establishment of the school was laid by Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), an American who played a major role in the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the latter part of the 19th century (Abeyawardana, 2004). Andiris De Silva was the first principal from 1887 to 1890. The school was later renamed as Dharmaraja.

Sir D.B. Jayatilaka (1868-1944), a scholar who spear-headed the nationalist movement in the country became the second principal of the school from 1890 to 1898 (Abeyawardana, 2004). In 1915, during the time of the principal K.N. Billimoria (1902-1932), a two-story building for the school was completed at the Kandy city premises and in 1923 the school was shifted to another site (Abeyawardana, 2004). Billimoria was an instrumental figure in acquiring a 22 hectare site for the school where the college is now functioning (Abeyawardana, 2004).

William Gopallawa (1896-1981), the first and only Non-Executive President of Sri Lanka is a past student of Dharmaraja College (Abeyawardana, 2004).

Facilities
At present the school has common facilities such as class rooms, laboratories, libraries, play-ground, indoor stadium, swimming pool, quarters for teachers, hostels for students and a museum. Classes are conducted for boy students from grade 1 to grade 13 in three levels; primary, post primary and secondary. The Annual Big Match of the school which is popularly known as Battle of the Maroons is held since 1893 against Kingswood College, Kandy.
 
References
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.25-26.
 
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This page was last updated on 20 January 2022
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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Royal Palace of Kandy

Royal Palace of Kandy
The Royal Palace of Kandy (or Royal Palace of Senkadagala) is located to the north of the Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka. It is locally called as Maha Wasala, the traditional name used for the royal palace of the king since the time of King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.) of the Polonnaruwa Period (Abeyawardana, 2004).

History
The royal palace at Kandy was built by King Wimaladharmasuriya I [(1592-1604 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004]. Since then, it was the royal residence of the Kandyan monarch until the last king of the country, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha (1798-1815 A.D.). After the Kandy was handed over to the British throne by signing the Kandyan Convention in March 1815, the palace building was used by Sir John D'Oyly, the 1st Baronet of Kandy from 1821 to 1824 as his official residence (Abeyawardana, 2004).
 
Presently, a section of this palace building is used to house the Kandy Archaeological Museum.

The palace building
The Maha Wasala was the main building of the royal palace complex that also included the Magul Maduwa (royal audience hall), Meda Wasala (queen's palace), Palle Vahala (king's harem quarters) and Ulpange (queen's bathing pavilion). It is a long building of rectangular in shape. It has been reconstructed and renovated several times by Kandyan kings and therefore, the appearance of the original palace has been altered by today. However, the section of the palace that faces the Natha Devalaya is said to be the oldest portion of this building (Abeyawardana, 2004; Rajapakse, 2016). 


References
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.17-18.
2) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.9-10.

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This page was last updated on 19 January 2022
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