Thursday, December 27, 2018

Badulla Pillar Inscription

Badulla Pillar Inscription
Badulla Pillar Inscription (also known as Sorabora Pillar Inscription) is a medieval Sinhalese inscription (10th century) found from Badulla in Sri Lanka. It is at present found in the Senerat Paranavitana Public Library in Badulla town. The inscription is historically important as it reveals some information about the socio-economic condition and the nature of the internal trade of Sri Lanka during the tenth century.

A trivial description about this pillar inscription is found in an account given for Sorabora Wewa reservoir in 1857, by Mr. John Bailey, the then Assistant Government Agent for Badulla. He had briefly mentioned about the pillar, its size and inscribed faces (Paranavitana, 1933). According to his account, the pillar had been observed by him at a location situated near to Sorabora Wewa.

After restoring the tank of Sorabora Wewa by the government in 1870, the pillar was removed to Badulla and set up near the junction of the Kandy and Bandarawela roads (Paranavitana, 1933). Thenceforth, the pillar was standing there for over fifty years without receiving any attention from scholars or antiquaries (Paranavitana, 1933). In 1920, the then Government Agent at Badulla, Mr. Codrington brought this inscription into the attention of the Archaeological Commissioner (Paranavitana, 1933).

The quadrilateral pillar is 8 feet 5 inches in height and all the four sides are covered by the inscription (Paranavitana, 1933). It contains about two thousand letters written in two hundred and three lines. The letters are very small and vary in size from half an inch to one.  According to Senarath Paranavitana, this inscription is the longest pillar inscription known by him at the time (Paranavitana, 1933).

This inscription is dated to the second year of the reign of Siri Sang-bo Uda (Paranavitana, 1933) who is identified as King Udaya III or King Udaya IV (de Casparis, 1996; Gunawardana, 2013). It records about several rules enacted for the administration of a village called Hopitigamu in the Sorabora Division (Paranavitana, 1933). These rules have come as a result, after a petition submitted by merchants and householders of Hopitigamu to King Udaya, during his visit to the Mahiyangana Stupa (Gunawardana, 2013). Prominent archaeologist Senarath Paranavitana has left following opinions regarding this inscription;
These are (the rules) in the nature of a charter granted by the king to some mercantile corporations at the place and was the out come of a complaint against the local magistrates made to the king when he visited Mahiyangana.
From this record we also learn that the practice of exacting fines by moral compulsion (by placing in the valakma) which prevailed at the time of  British occupation of the Kandyan Provinces was an old institution dating back at least to the tenth century.
Citation: Paranavitana, S., 1933. Badulla Pillar Inscription. p.74.
A protected monument
The pillar inscription at Badulla Public Library located in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Badulla is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 22 November 2002.
1) de Casparis, J.G., 1996. Sri Lanka and maritime Southeast Asia in ancient times. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 41. pp.229-240.
2) Gunawardana, V.D.N.S., 2013. The role of the traders in monetary transactions in ancient Sri Lanka. Culture, Globalization and the Developing World, 2nd ICSS.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1933. (Edited and translated by Wikramasinghe, D.M.D.Z.; Codrington, H.W.) Badulla Pillar Inscription. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being Lithic and Other Inscriptions of Ceylon :Vol. III. Printed at the Department of Government Printing, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) for the Archeological Department. pp.71-100.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1264. 22 November 2002.

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