Thursday, April 5, 2018

Vessagiriya

Vessagiriya caves, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
This is an ancient site with archaeological ruins known by the people as Vessagiriya. Located in Anuradhapura of North-Central Province, Sri Lanka, this site is believed to be the temple of Issarasamana Vihara founded by King Devanampiya Tissa (247-207 BC).

The site is located about a mile to the south west of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya. Mainly three clusters of rocks, surrounded by structural ruins of an ancient monastery are identified in the location. About 23 caves which had been prepared as dwells for Buddhist monks are found. Several caves bear inscriptions inscribed on the brows of the caves just below the Katarama (drip-ledge), marking the name of the donors who had donated the caves to the monks.

Vessagiriya Inscriptions 

Transcript Parumaka Palikada putha 
upasaka Harumasa lene catudisa shagasa
Translation : The cave of the lay devotee
Haruma, son of his eminence Palikada, (is
dedicated) to the (Buddhist) priesthood of
four quarters.
Reference : Wickremasinghe, 1912. p. 19.
A cave inscription at Vessagiriya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
A cave inscription at Vessagiriya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
Transcription : Tuladara nagaya putha 
devaha lene agata anagata catudisha shagasha
Translation : The cave of Deva, son of Tuladara
Naga, (is given) to the (Buddhist) priesthood of
the four quarters, present and not present
Reference : Wickremasinghe, 1912. p. 19.

Transcription : Parumaka Palikadasa bariya 
Parumaka shurakita jhita upashika Citaya lene
shagasha chatudisha
Translation : The cave of female devotee Cita
(Citra), daughter of his eminence Shurakita and
wife of his eminence Palikada, (is dedicated) to
the (Buddhist) priesthood of the four quarters
Reference : Wickremasinghe, 1912. p. 19.

A cave inscription at Vessagiriya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
History
Vessagiriya is one of shrines built by King Davanampiya Tissa (Mahawamsa: ch. XX: 15-20). The chronicle Mahawamsa gives an account about the shrines built by Devanampiya Tissa in which the shrine Vessagiriya is mentioned as the ninth in the order of description. According to the chronicle, Vessagiriya got its name from the 500 Vaisyas (commoners) who lived there, after they had been ordained by Mahinda thera.

The name Vessagiriya is mentioned again in the chronicle Mahawamsa in connection with King Vattagamini Abhaya (King Valagamba 104-76 BC). After defeated by Tamils in battle, King Valagamba fled his capital and had found refuge in Vessagiriya forest where he met Kutthikula Mahatissa Thera, the then abbot of the forest monastery.

However there is an uncertainty among the scholars regarding the location of ancient Vessagiriya monastery
The ancient Vessagiri Vihara founded by Devanampiya Tissa is certainly not the cave monastery in the southern part of Anuradhapura which now bears this name: inscriptions in-situ identify modern Vessagiriya with the ancient Issarasamana Vihara. Historically, too, the situation of Vessagiri could be inferred to be several miles south of Anuradhapura, because Vattagamini Abhaya, fleeing after his defeat in the northern suburbs of the city, took refuge in the Vessagiriya forest: and modern Vessagiriya or its vicinity was no place of refuge for a king fleeing from an enemy in occupation of his capital.
Citation: Nicholas, 1963. p. 98.
Ruins at Vessagiriya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
Issaramana Vihara is also one of shrines founded by King Devanampiya Tissa (Mahawamsa). It received its name from the 500 disciples of Prince Arittha who dwelt there, after they had been ordained by Mahinda thera.

The name Isiramana Viharaya is mentioned in the temple inscriptions belong to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries. During this period a Uposatha house and a wall had been added to the temple by King Vasabha (67-111 AD) and King Voharika Tissa (209-231 AD).

According to Mahawamsa, King Kassapa I of Sigiriya (477-495 AD) had renovated Issarasamana temple and renamed as Bo-Upulvan Kasubgiri Viharaya, giving it his own name and the names of his daughters Bodhi and Uppalavanna. This is confirmed by the inscriptions found in the Vihara premises.

  • Vessagiriya Rock Inscriptions

    Transcript : Latakatala(hi) oluvadu Puyagonu-lami B(o)ya Opulavana Kasapi ga-ri raja maha vahere siya agana vahara-la cidavi ma pala sava satanata
    Translation : Puyagonula, the brick layer of Latakatala, caused my wife to be freed from slavery in the royal monastery of Boya-Opulavana-Kasapi-gari. (May) the fruit of this (action be) for the benifit of all beings.
    Reference : Paranavitana, 1934
  • Vessagiriya Rock Inscriptions

    Transcript : Sahasavarala Dalameya Sakanakana-Vesiminiya Aba Kasaba-giriye va-hara sayaka kahavana di vaharila cidava-yaha maha pala sava satanata
    Translation : Sahasavarala Dalameya and Sakanakana Vesaminiya Aba gave a hundred Kahapanas to the Kasabagiriye monastery and freed (themselves) from slavery. May the fruit of this (action) be for the benefit of all beings.
    Reference : Paranavitana, 1934














The temple was endowed during the reigns of King Jettatissa III (628 AD) and King Dathopatissa II (659-667 AD). A Maha-Pasada had been added to the temple by King Mahinda [(956-972 AD) Nicholas, 1963].

Attribution
1) Rock Shelters, Vessagiri 083 by G41rn8 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

References
1) Wickremasinghe D.M.D.Z., 1912. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being Lithic and Other Inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). London. Archaeological survey of Ceylon. pp.10-20.
2) Nicholas C. W., 1963. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series, vol VI, Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). pp.98, 148-149
3) Paranavitana, S.; Codrington. H. W., 1934. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being Lithic and Other Inscription of Ceylon (Vol. IV). London. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. pp.132-133.

Location Map

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