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 ruins 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
The history of Govinda Hela is dated to the end of Polonnaruwa period (Polonnaruwa period: 1056–1232 A.D.). According to 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 A.D.) 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 countries 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).

Archaeological ruins
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.

A large number of ruins of the ancient fortress still can be seen at the summit 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 found at Govinda Hela are seemed to be written with medieval Sinhalese scripts. At one place, a square shaped flat rock plain with horizontal rock cut lines is identified. The horizontal lines on the plain 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 wall made out of thick rock cut stone cubes is identified at the middle part of the mountain (Withanachchi, 2013).
An empty inscriptions at Givindahela Sinhalese inscriptions at Givindahela An effort made to separate a stone pillar, Govinda Hela The ruins of rampart made of thick rock cut stone cubes, Govinda Hela Archaeological signs on the surface of the rock plain, Govinda Hela A rock cut pond at the top of the mountain, Govinda Hela A view of the summit, 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
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 Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-44-5. p. 51.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 14 September 2019


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