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.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Hatton National Bank Building (Nuwara Eliya)

Nuwara Eliya Hatton National Bank Building
The old Nuwara Eliya Hatton National Bank Building is located in Queen Elizabeth Drive in the Administrative Limits of Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council in Nuwara Eliya District, Sri Lanka. 

The bank building bears British architectural features but information about its construction date is unclear (Wijesinghe, 2015). On the wall above some of the windows is a logo of three letters, INB denoting the abbreviation stand for Indian National Bank. Therefore, it can be assumed that this building was originally established by the Indian National Bank during the British colonial period (1815-1948) in the country. Presently, the building is maintained by the Hatton National Bank (HNB) which occupied it in 1971.

A protected monument
The Hatton National Bank Building bearing Assessment No. 42 in the Nuwara Eliya Administrative Limits is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 23 February 2007. 

See also

1) Wijesinghe, T.K., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Nuwara Eliya Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-36-4. p.84.
2) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, no: 1486. 23 February 2007. p.126.

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This page was last updated on 14 August 2022

Kantaka Cetiya

Kantaka Cetiya
Kantaka Cetiya (also known as Kanthaka Dagoba/Chethiya) is a Stupa located in the ancient Buddhist complex monastery of Mihintale, Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka. The Stupa is notable as it has the best and the most ancient ornamental frontispieces (Vahalkada) found in the country (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004).

This Stupa is believed to have been constructed during or soon after the reign of King Devanampiyatissa [(247-207 B.C.) Nicholas, 1963]. According to Mahawamsa, Devanampiya Tissa had refurbished sixty-eight caves (present Ataseta Len) in the neighbourhood of the Kantaka Cetiya for the use of the monks headed by Arhat Mahinda. During the reign of King Lanja Tissa (119-109 B.C.) a Chatra stone (a stone umbrella) had been added to the Stupa (Nicholas, 1963; Wikramagamage, 2004). King Mahadhathika Mahanaga (9-21 A.D.) held a great festival at this site which became known as the Giribhanda festival (Nicholas, 1963). In the 8th century A.D., King Udaya I (797-801 A.D.) restored Giribhanda Viharaya (Nicholas, 1963). The Mihintale Slab Inscriptions of Mahinda IV has mentioned this Stupa as Kiribandpavu Dagoba (Nicholas, 1963; Wikramagamage, 2004).

One of the two inscriptions mentioning the name of King Mahadhathika Mahanaga (9-21 A.D.) at Mihintale is found on a rock surface near the Kantaka Stupa (Sirisoma, 1990). This inscription records the donations made to the Kataca Ceta (Kantaka Cetiya) by two kings, King Tisa (Bhathika Tissa) and King Naka [(Mahadhathika Mahanaga) Sirisoma, 1990]. From the Stupa name given in this inscription, it has been believed that the Stupa now called Kantaka Cetiya is the same as the Kantaka Cetiya that is mentioned in the chronicle Mahawamsa.

Kantaka Cetiya Rock Inscription
Kantaka Cetiya Rock Inscription

Later Brahmi
Language: Old Sinhala
Content: The great King Bhatikatissa gave the revenues from the land and water taxes of Kabavika tank to the Kantaka Cetiya. The great King Mahadathika Mahanaga having purchased Balayatha-Gamakavi tank gave to the Kantaka Cetiya the revenues from the land and water taxes.
Reference: The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and Ministry of National Heritage and Cultural Affairs

Kantaka Cetiya Cave Inscription
Kantaka Cetiya Cave Inscription

Period: 3rd Century B.C.-1st Century A.D.
Scripts: Early Brahmi
Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: Parumaka Naga puta Asaliya lene agata anagata catudisika sagaye
Translation: The cave of Asali, son of the chief Naga is donated to the Sangha of the four quarters, present and absent
Reference: Paranavitana, S., 1970; The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and Ministry of National Heritage and Cultural Affairs

Kantaka Cetiya Stupa is 21 m in height and has a peripheral length of about 127.5 m (Wikramagamage, 2004). The stone works of Kantaka Cetiya are dated to about the beginning of the Christian era. Two terracotta figures belonging to the 5th century have also been found on the temple premises (Paranavitana, 1950).
Frontispieces which are at the cardinal points of the Stupa are formed of horizontal bands separated by string courses (left photograph). The flank of the frontispieces is adorned with limestone stelae which contain the oldest specimens of the plastic art in the country (Paranavitana, 1950). According to Wikramagamage, these frontispieces may belong to the 1st century A.D. or to a period even earlier (Wikramagamage, 2004).

As found in the frontispieces at Abhayagiri, Jetavana, and Ruwanweliseya Stupas, some remains of ancient paintings have also been found in the frontispieces of Kantaka Cetiya (Wikramagamage, 2004).

1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.59.
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.163.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1950. Sinhalese Art and Culture. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 98(4822), pp.588-605.
4) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscription of Ceylon: Volume I: Early Brahmi Inscriptions. Department of Archaeology Ceylon. p.2.
5) Sirisoma, M.H.; [Wijesekera, N (Editor in chief)], 1990. Brahmi inscriptions of Sri Lanka from 3rd century B.C. to 65 A.D. Archaeological department centenary (1890-1990): Inscriptions. Commissioner of Archaeology. pp.28, 35.
6) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.159-164.

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This page was last updated on 14 January 2023

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Galle Trilingual Slab Inscription

Galle Trilingual Slab Inscription
The Galle Trilingual Slab Inscription is a stone slab containing inscriptions engraved in three languages; Chinese, Persian and Tamil. It is presently exhibited in the Transitional Period Gallery of the National Museum of Colombo, Sri Lanka. This artefact is considered an important cultural relic of the ancient Silk Route of the sea. 

The slab was discovered in 1911 by H. F. Tomalin (the then Provincial Engineer at Galle of Southern Province) at a culvert near the turn of Cripps road within the Galle municipal area (Pathmanathan, 2005; Perera, 1913). When it was discovered, the stone is said to be used as a cover stone of the culvert with the engraved side downward (Perera, 1913). The stone was later moved to Colombo National Museum (Pathmanathan, 2005).

The inscription bears the date 15 February 1409, indicating its inscribed date in China. It was carved in Nanjing, the then capital city of China in the seventh reigning year of the Yongle Empire [(or Yung Lo (1402-1424 A.D.)] of the Ming Dynasty. It was brought to Sri Lanka by the great navigator Zheng He [also known as Cheng Ho (1371-1433 A.D.)] during his third voyage [1409-1411 (it was the second voyage under his leadership)] to countries (Dewaraja, 2006). After landing followed by a trade fair at the Galle harbour he installed the inscription as a commemorative tablet in order to highlight the majesty and benevolence of the Ming empire (Dewaraja, 2006).

Galle Trilingual Slab Inscription
The three inscriptions that have been engraved on one side of the slab are bordered by a floral chain. The top part of the inscription is round in shape and adorned with a carving of two dragons facing each other. The slab is about 4 ft. 9 inches in length, 2 ft. 6 inches in breadth and 5 inches in thickness (Paranavitana, 1933). The right portion of the slab is occupied by the Chinese inscription while the left upper part is by the Tamil inscription and the rest is by the Persian inscription.

The Chinese record which is the best-preserved inscription was deciphered and translated by E. Blackhouse (Pathmanathan, 2005). It contains the blessings to the Lord Buddha and a list of offering alms bestowed by Cheng Ho, Wang Chin Lien and others at the shrine of the Buddhist temple in the Mountain of Sri Lanka [(most probably Sri Pada Mountain) Paranavitana, 1958]. The Tamil inscription of which language contains linguistic difficulties evokes the Hindu divinities and mentions the ritual items sent to Sri Lanka for the worship of Tenavarai Nayanar (Paranavitana, 1933). The name Tenavarai, according to Senarth Paranavitana, is the Tamil form of the Sinhalese Devinuwara [the City of God (modern Devundara)] and Nayanar is the Tamil word used to denote the God/lord (Paranavitana, 1933). In the chronicle Mahawamsa, Devinuwara is mentioned as the centre of the cult of the deity Uppalavanna who is currently identified with God Vishnu. The Persian inscription is largely defaced and readable parts contain blessings of the light of Islam and a number of offerings might have been made to Allah, Prophet or some Muslim priest. The clear translation of the Chinese inscription has helped in deciphering the other two inscriptions, Tamil (which contains linguistic difficulties) and Persian [(which is badly worn out) Dewaraja, 2006]. 

The inscription contains no Sinhalese part, the majority language of Sri Lanka. This is because, the records were intended by the admirals and other sailors (Chinese Buddhists, Tamil speaking Indian Hindus and Muslim sailors) who came in ships from outside to express thanksgiving to the masters of their respective religions (Dewaraja, 2006).

Galle Trilingual Slab Inscription Galle Trilingual Slab Inscription
1) Dewaraja, L., 2006. Cheng Ho's Visits to Sri Lanka and the Galle Trilingual Inscription in the National Museum in Colombo. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 52, pp.59-74.
2) Pathmanathan, S., 2005. Tamil inscriptions in the Colombo National Museum: Spolia Zeylanica. Vol 47. (2010). Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka, pp.53-67.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1933. The Tamil inscription on the Galle Trilingual Slab. Epigraphia Zeylanica (Vol. III). pp.331-341.
4) Paranavitana, S., 1958. The god of Adam's Peak. Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, 18, p.17.
5) Perera, E. W., 1913. The Galle Trilingual Slab. Spolia Zeylanica (Vol. VIII). pp.122-131.

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This page was last updated on 7 November 2022

Satmahal Prasada

Satmahal Prasada
Satmahal Prasada (lit: The seven-storied palace) is a solid pyramidal structure of seven stages located in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. It has been built outside of the northeastern corner wall of Dalada Maluwa (the Sacred quadrangle) and close to the slab inscription, Gal Potha

The chronicle Mahavamsa mentions that King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.) built a seven-storied mansion (Sathmahal Prasada) in Polonnaruwa but it is not believed to be this building as there is no positive evidence to verify the relation between this building and the fact given in the chronicle. Still, the ancient name and the builder of this monument are not known. Depending on the architectural features it has, this edifice is dated by scholars to the 12th century A.D. (Paranavitana, 1960). 

Wat Kukut in Lumphun in ThailandVarious conjectures have been made regarding the purpose of this structure but presently it is established that Satmahal Prasada was a Stupa of an uncommon type (Paranavitana, 1950). It has been built in the stepped pyramidal form, rising from a square base of about 9 m on each side. Two buildings following a similar architectural layout of Satmahal Prasada have been found in Anuradhapura; the Nakha Vehera and the Prasada Stupa in Abhayagiri Monastery (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004).
A structure of the same design has been found in northern Thailand which is a Stupa (Cetiya) named Mahabala according to a 12th-century inscription (Paranavitana, 1960). The 8th-century Stupa at Wat Kukut in Lumphun in northern Thailand (right photograph) also bears closer architectural similarities to that of Satmahal Prasada (Jayasuriya, 2016). 

Satmahal Prasada is also considered one of the architectural examples of South-East Asian influence in Sri Lanka (Reynolds, 1981).

1) Wat-Kukut-Lamphun-1 by Ddalbiez is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 2.5, CC BY-SA 2.0 and CC BY-SA 1.0.

1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.78.
2) Paranavitana, S. 1950. Guide to Polonnaruwa. Govt Press, Colombo. p.14.
3) Paranavitana, S., Ray, H. C. (Editor in chief), (1960). Civilization of the Polonnaru period (continued): Religion, literature and art. University of Ceylon: History of Ceylon (Vol. I, Part II). Ceylon University Press. pp. 595-596.
4) Reynolds, C.H.B., 1981. Sri Lanka and South-East Asia: political, religious, and cultural relations from ad c. 1000 to c. 1500. By WM Sirisena. pp. xiv, 186, 8 pl., map. Leiden, EJ Brill, 1978. Guilders 68. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 113(1), pp.104-105.
5) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.212.

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This page was last updated on 10 August 2022