Monday, February 4, 2019

Mahiyangana Raja Maha Viharaya

The Stupa of Mahiyangana Raja Maha Viharaya
Mahiyangana Raja Maha Viharaya is an early Buddhist site situated on the east bank of Mahaveli Ganga near to present Mahiyanganaya town in Badulla District, Sri Lanka. The site is considered as an important shrine by pilgrims as its history is related with the first arrival of Buddha in Sri Lanka.

Legends
Mahiyanganaya is associated with the story of the first visit of Buddha to Sri Lanka. Therefore the the history of this temple goes as far back as the 6th century B.C. (Wijesekara, 1990). Local chronicles such as Mahavamsa record that at the ninth month of his Buddhahood, on a Duruthu (January) full moon Poya day, Buddha visited the island of Sri Lanka in order to subdue Yakkhas, the inhabitants of Mahiyanganaya area (Priyadarshani & Gunasena, 2017), and send them away to another island (Wijesekara, 1990). Buddha is said to be appeared at Mahanaga garden, the customary meeting place of the Yakkas and dispersed the them (Yakkhas) to Giri Divaina [(the island of Giri) Nicholas, 1963]. Then Buddha preached the Dhamma to the gods who had gathered there and as a result some of the gods attained Margapala. After hearing the Dhamma on the occasion, the prince of Devas, Mahasumana of the Samanthakuta mountain (Sri Pada mountain) asked Buddha for something to worship and received a handful of his hairs (Ward, 1952). He enshrined the hairs at the spot where Buddha had sat and built a Stupa of 7 cubits tall.

About forty four years later (after the death of the Buddha) an Arhant named Sarabhu Thera, a disciple of Arhant Sariputta Thera, had recovered the Greeva Dhathu [the cervical spine (neck bone) relic] of Buddha from the funeral pyre and brought it to Sri Lanka and laid in this Stupa by restructuring it with golden colored stones (Medhawanna Pashana) to a height of 12 cubits (Ward, 1952; Wijesekara, 1990).

According to these legends, Mahiyanganaya Stupa (as well as the Stupa of Girihanduseya in Trincomalee) was built in Sri Lanka during the life time of Buddha (Ray, 1959). Therefore this Stupa could be one of the earliest Buddhist monuments in the world. However, these legends are full with miraculous details and no monument that can be dated to a time before the introduction of Buddhism into Sri Lanka has been identified in the country yet (Ray, 1959). 

History
The Mahiyangana Stupa was renovated from time to time by various Kings. The Prince Uddha Culabhaya, the brother of King Devanampiyatissa (247-207 B.C.) constructed the Stupa to a height of 30 cubits over the earlier Stupa (Nicholas, 1963; Wijesekara, 1990). King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.) had raised the Stupa to a height of 80 cubits. According to chronicles, Dutugemunu had the first battle of his campaign against King Elara at Mahiyanganaya and defeated a local Tamil commander named Chatta (Nicholas, 1963).

Other rulers such as King Voharika Tissa (209-231), Sena II (853-887), Kassapa IV (898-914), Vijayabahu I (1055-1110) and Parakramabahu VI (1410-1468) had carried out donations and maintenance work at the temple (Nicholas, 1963; Wijesekara, 1990). The Sorabora Wewa Pillar Inscription records that King Udaya IV (946-954) had visited the temple, Miyugun Mahaveher (Nicholas, 1963). The Gal Potha inscription of King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196) also reveals that he effected repairs to Miyangunu-mahavehera (Nicholas, 1963).

The reconstruction of the Stupa was finally started in 1940s and ended in 1960s with the completion of a new pinnacle for the Stupa.

Relic chamber paintings
On 4th of January 1951, the Archaeological Survey Department of Ceylon excavated a relic chamber of Mahiyangana Stupa and found a large number of paintings fragments on the floor (Ward, 1952). The chamber/repository was located above the ground at a height of 22 feet and had been covered with three large stone slabs (Wijesekara, 1990). The paintings had been originally drawn on its inside walls but at the time it was discovered most of them had peeled off and fallen to the floor of the vault (Wijesekara, 1990).
Lokapala from Mahiyangana Dagaba relic chamber Buddha enthroned under Bo-tree with chauryi bearers. Mahiyangana Dagaba relic chamber
Lokapala from Mahiyangana Dagaba relic chamber Worshipping group from Mahiyangana Digaba relic chamber
Among the antiquities found inside the relic chamber was a silver coin belonging to the reign of Rajendra Chola [(1014-1044) Wijesekara, 1990]. Depending on this and other findings, the paintings of Mahiyanganaya Stupa has been dated to the 11th century but the style of some paintings are believed to be the work of 8th, 9th or 10th centuries (Ward, 1952; Wijesekara, 1990). 

A protected site
The ancient Stupa and the Saman Devalaya situated in the Mahiyanganaya Raja Maha Vihara premises in the Mahiyanganaya Divisional Secretary’s Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notifications published on 22 November 2002.  
The museum Saman Devalaya
Attribution

References
1) 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.48-49.
2) Priyadarshani, S.A.N.; Gunasena, I.P.P., 2017. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Badulla Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 955-9159-48-8. pp.5-7.
3) Ray, H. C. (Editor in Chief), 1959. University of Ceylon: History of Ceylon (Vol 1, part I). Ceylon University Press. pp.136-137.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1264. 22 November 2002.
5) Ward, W.E., 1952. Recently discovered Mahiyangana paintings. Artibus Asiae, 15(1/2), pp.108-113.
6) Wijesekara, N. (Editor in Chief), 1990. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series: Volume V: Painting. pp.48-49.


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