Buddhism and Sri Lanka

According to Sri Lankan chronicles, Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE 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 BCE had been discovered in the excavations of 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 belives.

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 fascinating variety of attractons which have made the country an ideal destination for the tourism.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Embekke Devalaya

Embekke Devalaya, Kandy
Embekke Devalaya is a historic shrine in the village of Embekka in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. The site is located on the Embekka - Pilimatalawa road, about 7 km from Pilimatalawa road. Embekka Devalaya is considered as the place which has the greatest collection of wood carvings found in Sri Lanka (Rajapakse et al., 2010).

History
According to the traditional asserts, Embekke was the audience hall of the Gampola Kings which have been later converted and dedicated to the Sinhalese war-god Kartikeya, popularly known as Kataragama Deviyo. A local deity called Devata Bandara is also worshiped here (Godakumbura, 2011). It is believed that this Devalaya was established by King Vikramabahu III [(1357-1374 A.D.) Godakumbura, 2011; Rajapakse et al., 2010]. Kirala Sandeshaya, a poetry written during the Kandyan period, mentions this shrine as Mahasen Devalaya (Rajapakse, 2016).  

The temple complex
Totally eight buildings can be seen in the site. Vahalkada (the entrance), Maha Devalaya (the main shrine), Palle Devalaya, Muruthengeya (the kitchen), Vee Atuwa (rice container) and the Buddha shrine are located in the temple premises while Rittageya (Embekke Ambalama)  and Sinhasana Geya (the throne house) are found outside of the temple. 

The porch at the entrance to the enclosure of the temple is called as Vahalkada and said to be the oldest construction found in the site (Godakumbura, 2011). It has been built on a quadrangle base of about 2.5 feet height and the roof is supported by 10 wooden pillars fixed to it. The pillars also contain fine wood carvings similar to the carvings those found on the pillars in the Hewisi Mandapaya. The structure is 22 feet 11 inches in length and 18 feet 8 inches in width.
Maha Devalaya consists of five parts; the Garbha, Pirith Kiyana Ge, Antharalaya or Meda Digge, Sandun Kudama and Digge or Hewisi Mandapaya, Embekke, Kandy The soldier, Embekke, Kandy
The main shrine (Maha Devalaya) consists of five parts; the Garbha (the sanctom), Pirith Kiyana Ge (Dhamma enchanting house), Antharalaya or Meda Digge, Sandun Kudama and Digge (dancing hall) or Hewisi Mandapaya (drummers' hall). The temple has earned a great attention of visitors because of the splendid low relief wood carvings found on the pillars and the high-pitched roof of the Hewisi Mandapaya (Godakumbura, 2011). It has been built on a quadrangle stone base of 34 inches high and contains 32 wooden pillars bearing the roof. In the medial panels of the wooden pillars contain the finest Sinhalese wood carvings including the swan figures, double headed eagle, the women growing out of the vine, bacchanalian figures, a wrestling pair, dancers, soldiers etc. (Godakumbura, 2011). The upper part of the pillars are decorated with dropping lotuses. The Madol Kurupawa (or Keni Madala), a giant catch pin (wood) which holds 26 rafters at the northern part of the roof contain no single metal pin used and is considered as a special piece of work. Totally, 514 wood carvings (including 128 medial panel carvings, 256 Liyapath Wardana carvings, 64 Pekada Nelum carvings, 30 Balka and 36 Thalada carvings) are found in the Hewisi Mandapaya. 
The soldier on horseback, Embekke, Kandy Pekada carvings, Embekke, Kandy
Madol Kurupawa (Keni Madala), Embekke, Kandy The lion, Embekke, Kandy
The small hall which is entered through the Hewisi Mandapaya is called Sandun Kudama. The entrance door is decorated with a small Makara Thorana (the dragon arch) accompanied with two lion figures. The hall is opened to three directions. The left door directs the visitors to the Palle Devalaya, the right to the Buddha shrine and the straight door to the Antharalaya, Pirith Kiyana Ge and Gharbha chambers.

A seated Buddha image decorated with a Makara Thorana, standing Buddha figures and wall paintings are found in the Buddha shrine. The temple can be entered through three door ways, of them the middle door frame has been highly decorated with nice carvings. To the left side of the Maha Devalaya is the Palle Devalaya. Devatha Bandara who is considered as the Adhikaram of Kataragama Deviyo is worshiped here.

Vee Atuwa (the rice container) and the Muruthengeya (the kitchen) can be seen at left of the entrance. The kitchen consists of a small hall and two rooms. Near to the Vee atuwa is a decorated stone door frame which is said to be placed here by Kiribath Kumbure Basnayaka Rala in 1878 (Rajapakse, 2016).

A protected site
The Embekke Dewale together with the building complex of the same era Gale Ambalama situated in the Grama Niladhari Division of Embekke in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Udunuwara are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 23 January 2009.
The dancing girl, Embekke, Kandy The Makara Thorana, Embekke, Kandy
Attribution
1) Embekka Devalaya 25 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
2) Embekka Devalaya 24 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
3) Embekka Devalaya 17 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
4) Embekka Devalaya 19 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
5) Embekka Devalaya Pillar Tops by Dhammika98 is licensed under CC BY 3.0
6) Madol Kurupawa by Dhammika98 is licensed under CC BY 3.0

References
1) Godakumbura, C. E., 2011. Embekke (Chapter seven). International Scientific Committee: Wood. ICOMOS International Committee on Wood. pp. 52-53.
2) Rajapakse, R., Tokuyama, Y., Marasinghe, A., Miyata, K. and Somadeva, R., 2010. Visualization and haptic rendering of ancient wood carvings in Sri Lanka. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Geometry and Graphics (ICGG’10).
3) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp. 55-56.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1586. 23 January 2009. p. 109.

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Galmaduwa Raja Maha Viharaya, Hingurana

The modern Stupa at Galmaduwa Viharaya, Ampara
Galmaduwa Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple in the village of Galmaduwa in Ampara District, Sri Lanka. The site is located on the Galmadu-Muwangala-Hinguarana road about 6.5 km from Hingurana town.

History
It is believed that the history of Galmaduwa temple is dated back to the early stage of Anuradhapura period [Anuradhapura period - 377 B.C. to 1017 A.D.) Withanachchi, 2013]. A large number of ruins including Sandakada Pahana (moonstones), Korawak Gal (balustrades), stone pillars of ruined structures, Chatra stone, flower altars, remnants of rampart are still found in the Vihara premises.
A circular artifact containing a cobra figure, Galmaduwa temple, Ampara Hidden ruins, probably a flight of steps, Galmaduwa temple, Ampara
A protected site
All archeological evidences including stone pillars and places of ancient buildings at the premises of Galmaduwa Rajamaha Vihara situated in Grama No. 05, Galmaduwa in Grama Niladhari Division No. W/27/H, Galmaduwa in the Divisional Secretary’s Division, Damana are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 26 December 2014.
A Chatra stone, Galmaduwa temple, Ampara The stone pillars are surrounding an earth mound, probable Stupa, Galmaduwa temple, Ampara
A vandalized mound of earth, probably a Stupa mound, Galmaduwa temple, Ampara The Bodhi tree and its wall, Galmaduwa temple, Ampara
References
1) Withanachchi, C. R., 2013. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Ampara Distrikkaya (In Sinhalese). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-44-5. p.31.
2) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1895. 26 December 2014. p. 1148.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya

The cave temple of Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya, KandyHindagala Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple in the village of Hindagala in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. The site can be reached by traveling about 4 km along the Galaha road from Peradeniya town.

History
The history of Hindagala Viharaya is dated back to the Anuradhapura period (377 BC–1017 AD). Although, no historical references are available (Wijesekara, 1945), two rock inscriptions belonging to the 6th and 7th centuries AD and a fragment of rock painting belonging to the same period indicate the early establishment of the temple (Abeywardana, 2004; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). Among the two inscriptions, one gives details about a custodian of a Visumhala (a lodge) called Pataseela Abala and about a Bodhighara (a Bodhi tree shrine).
A rock inscription at Hindagala temple Oldest painting fragment, Hindagala temple
Cave temple
The cave temple of Hindagala is situated at the base of a large rock boulder and can be entered through a doorway decorated with a Makara Thorana [(Dragon arch) De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009]. Above the door frame is a mural representing the lord of Totisabhavana heaven, being fanned by two heavenly females. Inside the cave, a recumbent and a seated Buddha images are visible. The seated Buddha image is believed to be built by queen Henakanda Biso Bandara during the Gampola period [(1341–1408) De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009].
The Makara Thorana (Dragon arch), Hindagala temple The lord of Totisabhavana heaven is being fanned by two heavenly females, Hindagala temple
An old painting fragment
On the surface of the hood of the rock cave, just below the drip ledge, is an old mural depicting two episodes of the life story of Buddha (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). One mural shows about the offering of alms to Buddha, by two trading brothers named Tapassu and Balluka (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). Other mural depicts the worshiping of Buddha by god Indra and others during the Buddha's visit to Indasala cave (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). However, the painting was burnt by a forest fire in the 1960s (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018).

These two paintings show artistic similarities to those of the paintings found in Sigiriya (Rajapakse, 2016; Wijesekara, 1945) and are believed to be belonged to the 7th century AD or probably to a later period (Coomaraswamy, 1927). It has been drawn in the Toluwila style (Wikramagamage & Wijesekara, 1990). The present name of the temple, Hindagala, according to Senarath Paranavithana, has been derived from Indrasala Guha which is depicted in the painting. However due to the environmental weathering, presently, about one tenth of the originally painted surface is remaining (Wijesekara, 1945). This fragment of painting, "Visit of Buddha to Indasala Guha", was copied in 1918 by W. M. Fernando for the Department of National Museums (Abeywardana, 2004; Rambukwella, 2014; Wijesekara, 1945). Another set of figures of Divinities belonging to the 12 century A.D. were copied by Stanley Abeysinghe in 1948 (Rambukwella, 2014).

Four periods
It is evident that the paintings at Hindagala temple are belonged to four major periods. The fragment of mural found just below the drip ledge is belonged to the Anuradhapura era and the paintings inside the cave are belonged to the both Gampola and Kandyan periods (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The outer wall paintings facing the veranda are said to be done in 1917.

Tooth Relic
On 23 April 1815, when the Tooth Relic of Buddha was brought to Kandy from the Pusulpitiya Viharaya in Kotmale, it had been kept in this Hindagala Viharaya for one night. The cave of the temple was restored during the time of Governor Barnes [(1824-1831 A.D.) Wijesekara, 1945]

A protected site
The Drip-ledged cave temple, two drip ledged caves and rock inscriptions belonging to the Hindagala Raja Maha Viharaya Cave Temple in the No. 267, Hindagala Grama Niladhari Division in the Gangawata Korale Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 24 July 2009.  
Outer wall paintings, Hindagala temple A stone lamp, Hindagala temple
References
1) Abeywardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major Natural, Cultural and Historic Sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka.  pp.38-39.
2) Coomaraswamy, A.K., 1927. History of Indian and Indonesian art. London. p.163.
3) 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.72.
4) Prematilaka, L., Hewage, R., 2018. A guide to the National Museum, Colombo: Department of National Museum. ISBN: 978-955-578-035-3. pp.43, 45.
5) Rambukwella, M.W.C.N.K., 2014. Heritage representation in culturally diverse societies: a case study of the Colombo National Museum in Sri Lanka (Doctoral dissertation, School of Museum Studies). pp.362-363.
6) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1612. 24 July 2009. p.1022.
7) Wijesekara, N., 1945. Early Sinhalese Paintings. A thesis submitted for the Ph. D. of the Culcutta University. pp.13-14, 114, 189.
8) Wikramagamage, C.; Wijesekara., N. (editor in chief), 1990. 500-1000 A.D. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series: Volume Four: Sculpture. p.61.

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Uruwala Valagamba Raja Maha Viharaya

The ancient Bodhi tree and its rampart at Uruwala Valagamba temple, Gampaha
Uruwala Valagamba Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple in the village of Buthpitiya (North) in Gampaha District, Sri Lanka. The temple is situated on Wathurugama road about 6 km distance from the Yakkala Junction.

History
According to the folklore, the history of this temple is dated back to the reign of King Valagamba (103 B.C. and c. 89–77 B.C.). The cave temples at Koskandawala, Maligathenna, Warana, Miriswatta and Pilikuththuwa which are situated in the vicinity of Uruwala temple are said to have formed one major cave site during the early Anuradhapura period.

The large drip-ledged cave which houses the temple image house is adorned with a number of paintings and sculptures belonging to the Kandyan style.

A protected site
The old Poya Geya (chapter house), drip ledged caves, the ancient Bodhi tree and its rampart in the Uruwala Walagamba Raja Maha Viharaya situated in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Mahara are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 8 July 2005. 
The cave temple of Uruwala Valagamba Viharaya The Stupa of Uruwala Valagamba Viharaya
References
1) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1401. 8 July 2005.

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This page was last updated on 2 June 2019

Gallengolla Pothgul Raja Maha Viharaya

The three storey image house of Gallengolla Pothgul Raja Maha Viharaya, Kandy
Gallengolla Pothgul Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple located in the village of Urulewatta in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. The site can be reached by traveling along the Manikkawa - Paranapattiya road about 4.5 km distance from Pilimathalawa town.

History
The recent history of Gallengolla Viharaya is dated back to the 19th century. Veligamuwe Buddhadasa Atthadassi Thera who is considered as the founder of Gallengolla temple converted this site as a Buddhist religious place. He pioneered in building a three storey image house as well as other buildings such as Dhamma Sala (preaching hall) and Malasun Geya (Rajapakse, 2016). However, the oldest history of this temple can be dated to the period between 3rd century B.C. to 1st century A.D. as the presence of cave inscriptions written with Brahmi scripts (following photographs).
A Brahmi cave inscription [denoting Barata (an honorific epithet before personal name)] at Gallengolla Raja Maha Viharaya A cave tunnel with an unknown end can be seen in the same cave
This drip-leged cave with Brahmi inscription is located at the backyard of north-eastern wall of the three storied image house. A cave tunnel which is running to an unknown destination (above right photograph) is found in the same cave. Several other caves with drip ledges have also been identified within the temple premises and some of them contain faded remnants of paintings.

A painted rock cave at Gallengolla Viharaya, Kandy
This cave (left photograph) is at a higher ground located south-eastern direction from the image house. The inner wall surface of the cave, below the drip-ledges, is painted with some figures which are difficult to identify.

Image house
The three storied image house which bears the 19th century colonial architectural features was built in 1874 (2418 in Buddhist era) by Veligamuwe Buddhadasa Atthadassi Thera. He is said to be the head of forest living monks in the North-Central, North-West and Central Provinces of the country (Abeywardana, 2004). He also provided leadership for the Ramanna Nikaya and hence in 1867, a higher ordination of this sect was held in the Gallengolla Viharaya, making the temple as the main center for Buddhist monks of Ramanna Nikaya in the Central Province (Abeywardana, 2004).
The wall paintings in the ground floor, Gallengolla Viharaya Wall paintings of the second floor, Gallengolla Viharaya
The first floor of the image house is adorned with a large number of paintings belonging to the Kandyan style. At the entrance to the hall is a stone door frame decorated with various floral diagrams. A large wooden cabinet (Pettagama) which was used to store Ola manuscripts has also been placed in the first floor. The second floor which is used as the relic house today can be reached through a flight of steps made of wood. The paintings and sculptures found in this floor have been completed in 1915 and shows features belonging to the latter period of Kandyan style (Rajapakse, 2016).

The stone doorframe is also adorned with various floral diagrams, Gallengolla Viharaya
Chapter house & Stupa
The Pohoya Geya (chapter house) of the Viharaya is located west from the image house and is considered as one of the oldest constructions in the Central Province (Abeywardana, 2004). The temple Stupa is also an important piece of work as its Pesa Walalu and other aspects have been constructed using the stone slabs (Rajapakse, 2016).

A protected site
Drip-ledged caves, three storied image house, Chaitya (the Stupa), Dhamma Sala (the preaching hall) and ancient flight of steps in the Gallengolla Potgul Vihara premises situated in the Urulewatta Grama Niladhari Division in the Udunuwara Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 27 July 2009.
The Stupa of Gallengolla Raja Maha Viharaya The rock cut flight of steps, Gallengolla Viharaya
References
1) Abeywardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major Natural, Cultural and Historic Sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka.  pp.82-83.
2) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.62-63.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1612. 27 July 2009. p.1022.

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Uda Aludeniya Raja Maha Viharaya

The Stupa at Uda-Aludeniya Viharaya, Gampola
Uda Aludeniya Raja Maha Viharaya is an old Buddhist temple located in the village of Uda Aludeniya in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. The site can be reached by traveling about 750 m distance along Uda Aludeniya - Thalawathura road from the Weligalla Junction. 

History
The history of Uda Aludeniya Viharaya is traced back to the 14th century. It is believed that this temple was constructed or restored by Mayim Bandara during the reign of King Bhuvanekabahu IV [(1341-1351 A.D.) Codrington, 1933; Mudiyanse, 1960; Seneviratna & Polk, 1992]. Presently, the temple has been completely renovated and only few original structures can be identified in the temple premises including a wooden door frame, an inscription and a moonstone (Sandakada Pahana). The wooden door frame is found in the temple image house and called as Ranbewa (Seneviratna & Polk, 1992). This antiquarian door frame is richly carved with floral and vegetable designs with the figures of dancers, musicians and guardians (Seneviratna & Polk, 1992). The door frame carries a great significance as it is considered as one of examples of earliest wooden carvings found in the country (Seneviratna & Polk, 1992).

The rock inscription at Uda-Aludeniya Viharaya, Gampola
Beside the door frame, a small Stupa and an inscription belonging to the 18th century can be seen near to the temple image house. The inscription is believed to be written in 1742 [reign of King Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe (1739–1747)] by a Buddhist monk named Chandrajothi Thera (Rajapakse, 2016).

Excavations & findings
From the excavations done in 2004, a relic casket adorned with a large number of  miniature seated Buddha statues (about 125 images) was discovered within the chamber of a ruinous brick Stupa at Uda Aludeniya temple. These Buddha statues were placed around a silver Stupa covering a gold dome shaped relic container which is said to be contained seven tiny bone fragments wrapped in gold foils (Stadtner, 2015). Another small reliquary with seated bronze Buddha statues was also found (Stadtner, 2015). After conservation of the Stupa, the discovered artifacts were gifted to the National Museum of Colombo by the chief incumbent of the temple, Ven. Gangoda Chandaloka Thera.
Buddha images (Samadhi) - 14th century, Uda Aludeniya Viharaya Reliquary (Uda Aludeniya, Veligalla) - 14th century
Reliquary - Uda Aludeniya (14th Century), Sri Lanka
Reliquary - Uda Aludeniya (14th Century)
This bronze reliquary (left photograph) was discovered from the relic chamber of the Stupa at Uda-Aludeniya Viharaya (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). The large casket contained two concentric tiers of seated Buddha images of miniature sizes. Middle of the casket was a small silver reliquary containing corporeal relics. Several other circles of Buddha images were also found placed around the large enveloping reliquary (above left photograph). These Buddha images are in Samadhi and Bhusparsha-mudra and are seated in Padmasana. It is believed that these images have been imported from South India.

A protected site
The ancient wooden door frame, inscription and Sandakada Pahana situated in the premises of Uda Aludeniya Raja Maha Viharaya in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Udunuwara are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 23 February 1967.

References
1) Codrington, H.W., 1933. The Gampola Period of Ceylon History. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, (86), pp.260-309.
2) Mudiyanse, N., 1960. The art and architecture of the Gampola Period (1341-1415). M. D. Gunasena. p.19.
3) Prematilaka, L., Hewage, R., 2018. A guide to the National Museum, Colombo: Department of National Museum. ISBN: 978-955-578-035-3. pp.1-2.
4) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. p.72.
5) Seneviratna, A. and Polk, B., 1992. Buddhist monastic architecture in Sri Lanka: the woodland shrines. Abhinav Publications. pp.125-126.
6) Stadtner, D.M., 2015. Rajadhiraj’s Rangoon Relics and a Mon Funerary Stupa. Journal of the Siam Society, 103.
7) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 14737. 23 February 1967.

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Embekke Ambalama

Embekke Ambalama, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Embekke Ambalama is an old wayside rest in the village of Embekke in Kandy District, Sri Lanka. It is found on a flat rock plain located in a paddy field near to the famous shrine, Embekke Devalaya

History
The Embekke Ambalama is said to have been constructed during the reign of King Bhuvanekabahu IV (1341-1351 A.D.) prior to the establishment of Embekke Devalaya (Godakumbura, 2011). Due to the closer similarities in the carvings of both Ambalama and Devalaya, these two establishments are believed to be belonged to the same era (Rajapakse, 2016). The Ambalama had been used at that time period as a resting place for the pilgrims who came from Gampola to visit the Buddhist temple, Lankathilaka Viharaya (Rajapakse, 2016).

As today, only pillars are remaining at the site. The monolithic pillars bear stone carvings similar to those on the wooden pillars in Embekke Devalaya (Godakumbura, 2011).

A protected monument
The Embekke Dewale together with the building complex of the same era Gale Ambalama situated in the Grama Niladhari Division of Embekke in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Udunuwara are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 23 January 2009.
Stone carvings of Embekke Ambalama, Kandy Stone carvings of Embekke Ambalama, Kandy
Stone carvings of Embekke Ambalama, Kandy Stone carvings of Embekke Ambalama, Kandy
References
1) Godakumbura, C. E., 2011. Embekke (Chapter seven). International Scientific Committee: Wood. ICOMOS International Committee on Wood. pp. 52-53.
2) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp. 57-58.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1586. 23 January 2009. p. 109.

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This page was last updated on 14 June 2019

Monday, November 5, 2018

Govinda Hela

Govinda Hela, Siyambalanduwa, Sri Lanka
Govinda Hela (also known as Govindu Hela or Westminster Abbey) is a mountain with archaeological values located in Siyambalanduwa in Monaragala District, Sri Lanka. The site can be reached by traveling through the Ampara - Siyambalanduwa highway about 43 km distance from the Ampara town. The mountain is popular among the local tourists as a great place for hiking and camping. 

A stone monument at the top of the mountain
History
The history of Govinda Hela is dated to the end of Polonnaruwa period (Polonnaruwa period: 1056–1232). According to local chronicles, the throne of the Sinhalese monarch of the country after King Nissankamalla (1187–1196) was transitioned to the hands of few rulers who were weak in reigning (Dias et al., 2016). As a result of that, the country's political stability became more poor and the situation was comported for the invasions carried out by several Tamil invaders from South India. Magha (1215–1236) of Kalinga (India) who came with a large army from Malabar (Kerala) invaded Sri Lanka during this period and became the ruler of the country. According to chronicles he was a tyrant ruler who tried to destroy the doctrine of the Budda (Dias et al., 2016). Magha and his soldiers tortured the people and looted their properties and destroyed a large number of Buddhist temples in the country.

While Magha was controlling the Rajarata area, some of the chieftains in Ruhunu and Maya country successfully prevented the invader and his hordes from entering into their territories (Ray, 1960). They had built strongholds in various places in the country. Bhuwanekabahu, the prince (adipada) of Rohana had his stronghold at Govindahela and a military leader called Samkha had his one at Minipe (Ray, 1960). Another military chief named Subha had his stronghold at Subhapabbata [today known as Yapahuwa (Ray, 1960)]. However, these chieftains had no cooperation among them to fight with Magha (Dias et al., 2016; Ray, 1960).
Sinhalese inscriptions at Givindahela Sinhalese inscriptions at Givindahela
An empty inscription at govinda Hela
Archaeological ruins
A large number of ruins of the ancient fortress still can
be seen at the top of the Govindahela  mountain. Rock
cut ponds, stone  pillars, base  stones,  flight  of  steps, 
a   Sandakada    Pahana   (moonstone),  a   stone   slab 
(probably a  flower  altar), a  fragment  of  guard  stone 
(Muragala), rock  cut  pillar  holes  and inscriptions are  
some of  the ruins  scattered  through out the  ridge of
the   mountain.  The   inscriptions   are   seemed  to  be
written  with  medieval  Sinhalese  scripts  and  at  one
place,  a   square   shaped   rock    plane   is   identified 
(left  photograph).   The   horizontal    rock    cut   lines
on    the    plane   suggests   that   it    may    has   been
prepared    for   inscribing   an   inscription    on   it  but
due  to  some  reason  the  author  has  not  started his
writings.

Apart of these ruins, a rampart made of thick rock cut 
stone  cubes  is  identified  at  the  middle  part  of  the 
mountain (Withanachchi, 2013).
Mountain
Govinda Hela is about 500 m tall and covered with a dense forest. At the north part of  the mountain is the Bingoda Aranya Senasanaya, an ancient forest hermitage used by the Buddhist monks. Presently, the trail which runs to the mountain is fallen through the Buddhist temple, Sri Buwanekaba Viharaya.
An effort made to separate a stone pillar, Govinda Hela Archaeological signs on the surface of the rock plain, Govinda Hela
The ruins of rampart made of thick rock cut stone cubes, Govinda Hela Washed off debris at Govinda Hela
A rock cut pond at the top of the mountain, Govinda Hela A view at the site, Govinda Hela
A local tourist is hanging a twig, Govinda Hela Presently, this site has become a fine place for adventurous hiking and camping. The journey usually takes about 30-45 mins to reach the top of the mountain. At the very beginning of the trail is a tree adorned with twigs from elsewhere by visitors. Mostly the people who come to visit the site hang a twig on this tree as a habit to expect no troubles during their journey and indicate others that this is the right way to the mountain. The upper part of the mountain is very steep and ladders have been fixed at such places.

There are a number of archaeological signs and evidences on the surface of the Govinda Hela mountain. However, certain ruins at the site have already been destroyed due to the careless activities of some visitors. The below photograph (left side) shows how the rock surface near to an archaeological monument has been cracked due to the ignorant deeds done by some visitors who camped at the site.
Ignorant deeds done by some visitors, Govinda Hela Ladders have been fixed at some places to climb the rock, Govinda Hela
References
1) Dias, M.; Koralage, S.B.; Asanga, K., 2016. The archaeological heritage of Jaffna peninsula. Department of Archaeology. Colombo. pp.178-179.
2) Ray, H.C. (Editor in chief), 1960. History of Ceylon: Vol. I: Part II. Ceylon University Press. Colombo. p.613.
3) Withanachchi, C. R., 2013. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Ampara Distrikkaya (In Sinhalese). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-44-5. p. 51.

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