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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Kotmale Mahaweli Maha Seya

Kotmale Mahaweli Maha Seya
Kotmale Mahaweli Maha Seya is a recently built colossal Stupa located near Kotmale Reservoir, in Nuwara Eliya District, Sri Lanka. 

Kotmale Seya Stupa came into existence from an idea of Gamini Dissanayaka, the then Minister of Mahaweli Development Project. It was built in memory of the submerged temples and the people who had to leave their properties when the Kothmale Reservoir was built (The Kotmale Reservoir project is one of five major projects that was undertaken under the Mahaweli Development Scheme. Its dam was constructed in 1979 and water filling of the reservoir was started in 1984).

The construction work of the Kotmale Mahaweli Maha Seya Stupa was commenced in 1983, by then Sri Lanka President, J. R. Jayewardene (1977-1989). However, due to various circumstances, the completion of the Stupa was delayed for 33 years. On 20 June 2016, the completed Stupa was declared open by the then Sri Lanka president, Maithripala Sirisena.

The Stupa is about 87.38 m tall (Abeyawardana, 2004) and has been built following the design of Ruwanweliseya in Anuradhapura. 

Mahaweli Maha Seya Mahaweli Maha Seya
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka.  pp.243-244.

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

St. Xavier's Church, Nuwara Eliya

St. Xavier's Church, Nuwara Eliya
St. Xavier's Church (St. Francis Xavier's Church) is situated in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. It is the first Christian Church established in Nuwara Eliya town (Abeyawardana, 2004).

The church was established on 23 October 1838. It is believed that the church has been built in a land allotted by Governor Torrington (Abeyawardana, 2004). Fr. L. Singolani was the first priest in charge (Abeyawardana, 2004).

St. Xavier's Church, Nuwara Eliya St. Xavier's Church, Nuwara Eliya
1) Nuwara Eliya 2013 11 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY SA 3.0
2) Nuwara Eliya 2013 14 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY SA 3.0
3) Nuwara Eliya 2013 12 by Cherubino is licensed under CC BY SA 3.0

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.215-216.

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Old Town Hall, Pettah

Old Town Hall, Pettah
The Old Town Hall located on Main Street at Gaspaha junction, Pettah was the first town hall of Colombo (Corea, 1988).

The old town hall building was designed and constructed by the government architect J. G. Smither as the Town Hall of Colombo Municipal Council (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). It was declared open in 1873, by Sir William Gregory, the then British Governor of Ceylon (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). In May 1928, the building was given to the Marketing Department as the town hall was shifted to a new building located at Vihara Maha Devi Park in Cinnamon Gardens. The building was then used as a public market.

On the direction of Ranasinghe Premadasa, the then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, the building was renovated in 1979 by the municipal council during the tenure of office of B. Sirisena Cooray, Mayor of Colombo. On 16 December 1984, it was re-established as a municipal museum and a cultural art and trade center and declared open by the then president of Sri Lanka, J.R. Jayawardena.

The two-storied town hall building bears architectural features belonging to the British period (1815 - 1948). The wooden upper floor, pointed arch-shaped doors and windows are some of the elements which depict British architectural influence (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

The building facing to the north direction is entered through a portico which is about 10.3 m in length and about 5.1 m in width (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). The portico gives entrance to a large open verandah of about 17.67 m long and 3.75 m wide (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Several old equipment and items used in the past in the railway transportation and by the Public Work Department are exhibited in an area on the ground floor (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

A protected monument
The old Town Hall building of the Municipal Council located in the Main Street in the Grama Niladhari Division of Pettah (Pitakotuwa) in Colombo 11 is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 16 August 2013.

1) Corea, I., 1988. Glimpses of Colombo. Colombo Municipal Council. p.127.
2) 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.184.
3) Rajapakshe, S.; Bandara, T. M. C.; Vanninayake, R. M. B. T. A. B. (Editors), 2018. Puravidya Sthana Namavaliya: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Vol. I. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 978-955-7457-19-2. p.29.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Extraordinary. No: 1823/73. 16 August 2013. p.6A.

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Kayman's Gate Bell Tower

Kayman's Gate Bell Tower
Kayman's Gate Bell Tower is a historic belfry located in Pettah, Colombo District, Sri Lanka.

According to the account given in John Capper's book titled "Old Ceylon", there were two fortifications in Colombo during the Portuguese period (1505-1656 A.D.) and during the period of the Dutch occupation (1656-1796 A.D.). Among the two, the inner fortress was located at the place where the present Fort (Kotuwa) is situated. The other fortress that had been bounded by an outer rampart made of laterite and lime, had extended as far as the Saint John's River. Its rampart was stretching along the river bank till the sea coast to form the present Pettah (Pita Kotuwa).

The entrance gate and the bell tower located at the eastern approach to the fort was known at the time as Kayman's Gate and from where the wooded hills of Wolfendhal Church and Hulftsdorp could be seen in the distance. The name "Kayman's Gate" has come from the Dutch word Caiman (meaning: crocodile). It is said that the crocodiles in Beira Lake, were coming to this place to eat the garbage thrown out by the city dwellers.

The bell which is hanging in the upper part of the present tower belongs to the 16th century A.D. (Corea, 1988).  It was originally hung at a Portuguese church dedicated to Saint Francis, which once stood in the Royal City of Kotte (Corea, 1988). After taking over Colombo by Dutch, the bell was found amidst the ruins by them and was set up on the belfry at Kayman's Gate.

A protected monument
The old Dutch belfry located at Kayman's Gate in Pettah in the Divisional Secretary Division of Colombo is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 21 January 2000.

1) Corea, I., 1988. Glimpses of Colombo. Colombo Municipal Council. p.127.
2) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1116. 21 January 2000.
3) The notice board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage.

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Nalanda Gedige

Nalanda Gedige
The archaeological site located in the village of Nalanda in Matale district, Sri Lanka is a popular tourist site among the locals due to its unique stone-built Buddha image house known as Nalanda Gedige. The site can be reached by traveling about 1.4 km distant along the Gedige road that commences at Nalanda junction located on the Matale - Dambulla highway.

Situated in a central position almost equidistant from the ancient capitals of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy, Nalanda was a strategic military position during the campaigns of Sinhalese kings and even of British rulers (Prematilleke, 1985). The Great Chronicle, Mahawamsa records that Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.), before his enthronement, had built a fortress at Nalanda during his wars against Gajabahu of Polonnaruwa (1131-1153 A.D.) and Manabharana of Magama (Prematilleke, 1985). As well as British rulers had built a military station at Nalanda during the rebellion of Kandy (1818), but abandoned it in 1841 (Prematilleke, 1985).

However, there is no clear historical or literary evidence that reveals the construction of the monastery at Nalanda (Prematilleke, 1985). Remaining archaeological evidence indicates that the Gedige shrine has belonged to the 8-10th century A.D. (Abeyawardana, 2004, Prematilleke, 1985). A pillar inscription belonging to the 9-10 centuries A.D. has been found from the site (Ranawella, 2005).

A pillar inscription, broken in two, was discovered at a paddy threshing ground located near to the present site (Prematilleke, 1985). The complete interpretation of the inscription has become impossible as a large part of it has got effaced. Paleographically, this inscription has been dated to a time between the 9-10 centuries A.D. (Prematilleke, 1985; Ranawella, 2005).

    Nalanda Gedige Pillar Inscription

    Reign : ?          Period : 9-10 centuries A.D.
    Content : This inscription provides information about the Buddhist temple that existed at Nalanda. It records a code of regulations made for the temple. According to the inscription, temple artisans who misbehave should be expelled from the temple ground and that robbers, murderers, and such persons shouldn't enter the temple premises. It further says all matters that relate to the monastery should be carried out with the consensus of resident monks.
    Reference : Prematilleke, 1985. p.18

The name of the monastery is not found in the preserved portion. However, the inscription is considered important as its date is in conformity with the architectural style of the Gedige shrine.

Image house
Gedige type image house, Nalanda
The image house has been constructed in conformity with the Ganesha-ratha style of Mahabalipuram architecture, South India (Abeyawardana, 2004). It consists of three sections, viz: Gharbha-gruha (shrine room), Mandapa (vestibule), and the entrance porch. The entrance is reached with a flight of steps associated with a Sandakada Pahana (a moonstone) and Korawak Gal [(balustrades) Jayarathne, 2014]. The Sandakada Pahana contains no decorations but Korwak Gal are carved with dragon heads and decorative motifs. Images of the Buddha, Bodhistva Avalokiteshwara, and God Ganesha are found inside the Garbha-gruha (Jayarathne, 2014). Among the various kind of sculptures, the carving depicting an erotic scene between an animal, man, and woman is considered unusual for a Buddhist temple.

Archaeologists believe that the Gedige type image house at Nalanda is an example representing the synthesis between Theravada and Mahayana forms of worship as well as the union of both Buddhist and Hindu architectures (Abeyawardana, 2004; Prematilleke, 1985).

Conservation work of Nalanda was commenced in 1898, under the supervision of H.C.P. Bell, the then Archaeological Commissioner (Abeyawardana, 2004). However, complete restoration of the temple was started in the 1970s.

In the 1970s, the waters of the newly built Bowatenna Reservoir threatened to flood the shrine. Therefore, a decision was taken to shift the monument to a nearby location and reconstruct it on an elevated ground. In 1975, Dr. Prematilleke was appointed as the consultant to replace the shrine (Chandraratne, 2017). Under the supervision of Prematilleke, the edifice was dismantled from its original location and rebuilt at the present site. The conservation work of Nalanda Gedige was completed in 1985 (Chandraratne, 2017).

An erotic scene at Nalanda The Stupa at Nalanda .
1) Nalanda Gedige temple by Bgag is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
2) Nalanda Gedige 01 by Bgag is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
3) Nalanda Gedige - Détail by BluesyPete is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
4) Nalanda Gedige - Le stupa by BluesyPete is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.184,316-317.
2) Chandraratne, R.M.M., 2017. The origin, development and current perspectives on archaeology. Social Affairs: A Journal for the Social Sciences. Vol.1. No.7, pp.56-68
3) Jayarathne, K.G.M.S.K. 2014. බහුසංස්කෘතික ලක්ෂණ විදහාපාන නාලන්දා ගේඩිගේ. Proceedings of the Undergraduate’s Research Conference on Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka. p. 47.
4) Prematilleke, P.L., 1985. Nalanda: A short guide to the Gedige shrine. Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs. Sri Lanka. pp.7-18.
5) Ranawella, S., 2005. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume V, Part III. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 955-91-59-57-7. pp.109-110.

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Kasagala Raja Maha Viharaya, Angunukolapelessa

Ruins at Kasagala Raja Maha Viharaya
Kasagala Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple situated in the village of Angunukolapelessa, Hambantota District, Sri Lanka.

Locals believe that the Kasagala temple was established by Kavan Tissa (205–161 B.C.). It was first restored by Dappula of Rohana (c. 659 A.D.) and again by King Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.) during the 11th century (Abeyawardana, 2004; Nicholas, 1963).

Six rock inscriptions belonging to the 4-5 centuries A.D. have been found inscribed on the surface of the rock where the temple Stupa is located. They all are in the early Sinhala language and written with later-Brahmi scripts. However, a clear and complete interpretation of these inscriptions has become impossible as most of them are now in worn condition. The remaining parts indicate that they are "Vaharala sellipi", the inscriptions that record the grant of liberty from slavery.

The temple has been erected on a raised quadrangle constructed with large granite boulders (Abeyawardana, 2004). The ruins of several buildings including two Stupas are found in the temple premises.

The paintings belonging to the style of the Kandyan period adorn the walls of the Kasagala image house. The ceiling is specially repleted with paintings depicting the style of the maritime provinces of the Kandyan era (Abeyawardana, 2004). The European influence is clearly visible in the paintings.

European influenced Kasagala temple paintings European influenced Kasagala temple paintings
Archaeological Museum
A small site museum of the Archaeological Department is situated in the premises of Kasagala Viharaya. The museum is used to exhibit antiquities recovered from the temple. 

A protected site
The ancient Bhikku residence, Dhamma discourse hall, the Buddha shrine, Dagoba, two inscriptions, and the pathway wall around the shrine of the Kasagala Raja Maha Vihara, situated within the Grama Niladhari Division of Udayala in the Divisional Secretary Division of Angunukolapelassa are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 6 June 2008.

The image house, Kasagala Viharaya Seated Buddha at the entrance of the temple Ruins of a building An inscription
1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Ruhuna: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-073-4. p.118.
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.68.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1553. 6 June 2008. p.522.

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Madunagala Hot Springs

Madunagala Thermal Springs
Madunagala Thermal Springs (or Madunagala hot water springs) site is one of the major geothermal springs areas in Sri Lanka and is located in Sooriyawewa, Hambantota District. The springs are also known as Mahapelessa or Sooriyawewa springs (Nandanee et al., 2016).

Leonard Woolf (1880-1969), the Assistant Government Agent for Hambantota and the author of "The village in the Jungle" is one of the earliest visitors to the site in recent times (Abeyawardana, 2004). However, the site was not known among the people until, the introduction of the Udawalawe reservoir irrigation project (Abeyawardana, 2004). Presently, the site has been developed as a major tourist attraction in the Southern Province.

Hot water springs
Geothermal springs are the natural springs that contain hot water (Piyadasa & Ariyasena, 2011). Commonly, thermal springs in the world are associated with volcanic terrain but the hot springs located in Sri Lanka are not related to volcanic activities as the island is not in an active volcanic or tectonic region (Piyadasa & Ariyasena, 2011; Premasiri et al., 2006). Therefore, the waters can get heat either from subsurface heat sources such as large bodies of hot rocks or through deep percolation under the geochemical gradient of the earth (Adikaram & Dharmagunawardhane, 2013). If these waters find weak structural discontinuities leading upward they rise to the surface and emerge as naturally discharging hot water springs (Piyadasa & Ariyasena, 2011).

Madunagala springs
The Madunagala springs occur in the boundary between Highland Complex (HC) and Vijayan Complex (VC). The boundary is a sub-horizontal ductile thrust zone where a number of geologic features are identified. They include major mineralization occurrences such as magnetite, serpentinite, gold, corundum, and calcite as well as formations of hot water springs (Widanagamage, 2011).

There are six connected hot water wells at the Madunagala springs site. The surface temperatures of water are range from 34 °C to 46 °C and all of them are classified as warm thermal springs (Piyadasa & Ariyasena, 2011) .

1) Madunagala Hot Spring 2012 - panoramio (2) by Pol van den Scheetek… is licensed under CC BY 3.0

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Ruhuna: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-073-4. pp.113-114.
2) Adikaram, A.M.N.M., Dharmagunawardhane, H.A., 2013. Diurnal temperature variations in thermal water springs: A case study at Mahaoya thermal spring cluster, Sri Lanka.
3) Nandanee, G.G.W., Dasanayaka, P.N. and Wijeyaratne, S.C., 2016. Characterization of a bacterial isolate from Madunagala thermal spring in the Hambanthota district, Sri Lanka.
4) Piyadasa, R.U.K. and Ariyasena, P.R.E.R., 2011. Hydrogeological Characteristics in the Geothermal Springs in Sri Lanka (A case study of the Madunagala and Kinniya geothermal springs).
5) Premasiri, H.M.R., Wijeyesekera, D.S., Weerawarnakula, S. and Puswewala, U.G.A., 2006. Formation of Hot Water Springs in Sri Lanka. Engineer: Journal of the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka. p.7.
6) Widanagamage, I.H., 2011. EMPA dating of monazite from high grade metamorphic rocks along the Highland-Vijayan boundary zone, Sri Lanka. MSc thesis, Kent State University. pp.17-18

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Kotmale Reservoir

Kotmale Reservoir
Kotmale Reservoir (or Gamini Dissanayaka Reservoir) is a hydroelectric and irrigation reservoir located in Kotmale, Nuwara Eliya District, Sri Lanka.

Kotmale project is one of five major projects that was undertaken under the Mahaweli Development Scheme (Manatunge & Takesada, 2013). It is also the uppermost reservoir in the reservoir network constructed under that scheme (Abeysinghe, 2005). 

The plan for the construction of Kotmale Dam was initially proposed in 1961, for the purpose of hydro-electric power generation and irrigation water supply (Takesada et al., 2008). The construction work of the dam was started on 2 February 1979 and the water filling of the reservoir was commenced on 17 November 1984. The reservoir flooded nearly a 4000 ha land in the Mahaweli upper catchment and about 3056 families were resettled due to inundation (Manatunge & Takesada, 2013). The dam was commissioned in 1985 (Takesada et al., 2008). The total project was financially assisted by the Government of Sweden (Manatunge & Takesada, 2013).

On 11 April 2003, the reservoir was named as Gamini Dissanayaka Reservoir.

The reservoir has been created by making a rock-fill dam between Kadadora and Thispane mountains. The dam is 600 m long and 87 m tall. Three main tributaries feed the reservoir: Pundalu Oya, Puna Oya, and Kotmale Oya (Abeysinghe, 2005). The reservoir generates 201-megawatt power (by three 67 MW turbines) at its hydroelectric power station located at Atabage (Abeyawardana, 2004; Takesada et al., 2008).

An information center has been established near the reservoir for the benefit of visitors to the site.
General & morphometric characteristics

Catchment area : 563 sq. km
Inflowing rivers (major) : Pundalu Oya,
Puna Oya and Kotmale Oya
Outflowing river : Mahaweli Ganga
Surface area : 6.5 sq. km
Maximum length : 6.8 km
Maximum breadth : 1.41 km
Maximum depth : 90 m
Mean depth : 26.8 m
Shore line : 45 km
Kotmale dam
Kotmale reservoir and Kotmale Maha Seya Ruins of a temple swallowed by the reservoir
1) Abeysinghe, K.G.A.M.C.S., Nandalal, L.K. and Piyasiri, S., 2005. Prediction of thermal stratification of the Kotmale reservoir using a hydrodynamic model. Journal of the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka, 33(1). pp.25-36.
2) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.243.
3) Manatunge, J. and Takesada, N., 2013. Long-term perceptions of project-affected persons: A case study of the Kotmale Dam in Sri Lanka. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 29(1), pp.87-100.
4) Takesada, N., Manatunge, J. and Herath, I.L., 2008. Resettler choices and long‐term consequences of involuntary resettlement caused by construction of Kotmale Dam in Sri Lanka. Lakes & Reservoirs: Research & Management, 13(3), pp.245-254.

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National Museum of Colombo

For artifacts, go through this category : National Museum of Colombo

National Museum of Colombo
National Museum of Colombo is the first Museum Established in Sri Lanka (Embuldeniya & Karunarathna, 2019; Rambukwella, 2014). It is also the largest museum in the country with a comprehensive collection of objects.

The museum was established on 1 January 1877, during the tenure of office of British colonial Governor Sir William Henry Gregory (Embuldeniya & Karunarathna, 2019; Rambukwella, 2014). He was a politician and also the chairman of the British Museum Foundation Committee before his arrival in Sri Lanka (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). When he arrived in Colombo in 1872, one of the first priorities to confront him was to establish a public museum in the country (McEvansoneya, 2017).

During the 1840s, the Ceylon Branch of Royal Asiatic Society (CBRAS) was in an idea to establish a museum in Sri Lanka [(then Ceylon) Rambukwella, 2014]. However, it did not become fruitful until William Henry Gregory assumed responsibilities as the Governor of Ceylon on 4 March 1872 (McEvansoneya, 2017; Rambukwella, 2014). In 1872, the appeals particularly made by the CBRAC and keenness shown by Governor Gregory caused to put a plan forward for establishing a public museum. With much difficulty, it was passed in the next year, 1873, by the country's Legislative Council (Rambukwella, 2014; Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). As a result of these efforts, the first public museum in the country called as Colombo Museum was established in the heart of Colombo town, on 1 January 1877.

In 1915, several improvements were done to the museum by adding more galleries and objects and labeling the displayed objects (Wickramasinghe 2006). A wooden four-poster bed of massive proportion which is believed to have belonged to the last king of Kandy, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe (1798-1815 A.D.), was also among those new additions (Wickramasinghe 2006).

The National Museum Ordinance No. 31 was passed in 1942, forming the Department of National Museums (Rambukwella, 2014). After that, by a treaty, Colombo Museum was declared as the national museum of the country and since then it was begun to call as Colombo National Museum (Rambukwella, 2014). Besides the museum at Colombo, several other museums at the national level were also set up (such as Kandy, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, and Ratnapura) in the following years by the Department of National Museums (Rambukwella, 2014).

A large collection of natural science objects was also displayed at the national museum. The giant skeleton of a whale was special among them and it earned the huge attention of the local people who visited the museum. Due to the enormous size of the skeleton, local people started to call the museum as 'Katuge', the skeleton house (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). In 1972, the Natural Science Section was removed from the national museum and moved to a new building block creating a new museum, the National Museum of Natural History (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018).
Presently, the National Museum has been divided into several divisions, viz: Ethnology, Anthropology, Zoology (Taxidermy), Botany, Geology, Artifact Conservation, Education & Publication, Exhibition Design Unit, and Photography (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018).

The museum library was also established on 1 January 1877 with a collection drawn from the Government Oriental Library (Rambukwella, 2014). Later, the library of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society was integrated into the museum library (Rambukwella, 2014).

The museum building was constructed by James G. Smither, an architect of the Public Works Department, following the Italian architectural style (Embuldeniya & Karunarathna, 2019). Its construction work was completed in 1876 and the museum commenced its functions in the following year.

A protected monument
The National Museum building belonging to the Colombo Municipal Limits in the Grama Niladhari Division of Kurunduwatta in the Divisional Secretariat Division, Thimbirigasyaya is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 18 October 2002. 

1) Embuldeniya, P., Karunarathna, K.G.M., 2019. Significance of developing museums in Sri Lanka as tourist attractions: with special reference to national museums. EPRA International Journal of Research and Development. Vol. IV. Issue 2. pp.14-21.
2) McEvansoneya, P., 2017. Sir William Gregory and the origins and foundation of the Colombo Museum. In Curating empire. Manchester University Press.
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) 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.15-16,48,130,141-142,148.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. 18 October 2002.
6) Wickramasinghe, N., 2006. Sri Lanka in the modern age: A history of contested identities. University of Hawaii Press. pp.105-107.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Gal Viharaya

Polonnaruwa Gal Vihara
Gal Viharaya (ancient name Uttararamaya) is a Buddhist temple located in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. The temple was built by King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186 A.D.).

The site mainly consists of four rock-cut Buddhist sculptures, viz: a standing statue, a reclining statue, two meditating statues. Three of them are of colossal size and lie open to the sky while the fourth statue which is of moderate size, lies sheltered in an excavated cave. Also, an inscription including the Sangha amendments is found inscribed on the rock surface between the standing statue and the cave shrine known as Nisinna-patima Lena. All the monuments are carved on a rock boulder lying south-west to north-east (Fernando, 1960).

The statues are well known among the locals as well as foreigners because of their unique and exquisite workmanship.

The site has been identified as the Uttararamaya built by King Parakramabahu the Great. It is located to the north of the city and hence it is suggested that this temple was called at the ancient time Uttararamaya, the northern monastery (Wickaramsinghe, 1990).

The chronicle, Culawamsa reveals that King Parakramabahu the Great had constructed three caves named Vijjadhara Guha (the cave of the spirit of knowledge), Nisinna-patima Lena (the cave of the sitting image), and Nipanna-patima Guha (the cave of the sleeping image) by digging the rock by employing the skilled workmen (Fernando, 1960; Prematilleke, 1966; Wickaramsinghe, 1990; Wickremasinghe, 1928). It records that the first and last caves as Guha (meaning: caves) and the second one as a Lena (also means cave). By considering the way of the words used in the chronicle, scholars such as Rev. Baddegama Wimalawansa and Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe have identified that the monument which has been carved at the extreme left of the rock boulder as the Vijjadara Guha, to the right of it as the Nisinna-patima Lena and the monument at the extreme right as the Nipanna-patima Guha (Wickaramsinghe, 1990).

In ancient times, all these caves are believed to be repleted with paintings, sculptures, and carvings. The remaining brick foundations indicate that each statue was in separate shrine rooms made of bricks. 

The capital of Sri Lanka was shifted from Polonnaruwa to Dambadeniya in the 13th century, and after that these monuments were forgotten until the beginning of the 19th century. The statues came to the notice of Englishmen during the British rule (Wickaramsinghe, 1990).

Vijjadhara Guha
Meditating Buddha, Vijjadhara Guha
Vijjadhara Guha is the cave located at the extreme left of the rock boulder (Wikramagamage, 2004). A large meditating Buddha statue [15 feet 2.5 inches tall (Devendra, 1956)] surrounded by four other small Buddha figures is found here. The main Buddha is on the ground floor of a three-storied building while the other four Buddhas are in small chambers on the second and third floors (Wikramagamage, 2004).

The statue is in the Dhyana Mudra and seated on a Vajrasana (Fernando, 1960). The base of the seat is adorned with the figures of flowers and lions. Three crossbars are visible on the middle background of the image and their terminals are ending with Makara (dragon) heads (Fernando, 1960). Each of the Makara heads carries lions in their mouths (Wikramagamage, 2004). The top of the seat is arch-shaped and ornamented with open lotuses. Behind the Buddha's head is a beautiful halo.

Nisinna-patima Lena
Meditating Buddha, Nisinna-patima LenaTo the right of the Vijjadhara Guha is another seated Buddha image carved in an excavated cave known as Nisinna-patima Lena. The image is about 4 feet 7 inches tall [(Excluding the seat) Devendra, 1956; Ray, 1960] and has been carved out of the living rock.

The Buddha is in the Dhyana Mudra and accompanied by two standing figures bearing chowries. Figures of Brahma and Visnu are also presenting on either side of the head of the Buddha (Fernando, 1960). Above the Buddha's head is a Chatra of which the underside is visible. The base of the seat of the Buddha is adorned with the figures of flowers and lions. The remaining evidence indicates that the canopy as well as the stone walls of the cave were repleted with paintings. However, presently, only two strips of paintings are found on the two sides of the entrance of the cave (Wickaramsinghe, 1990).

Nisinna-patima Lena is incorrectly called by many as Vijjadhara cave (Wickaramsinghe, 1990).

Gal Vihara paintings
The paintings found in the Nisinna-patima Lena belong to the Pallava-Sri Lanka style (Wickaramsinghe, 1990). According to the opinion of Mrs. Nanda Wickramasinghe, the paintings at Gal Viharaya as well as Thivanka Pilimage can easily be compared with the South Indian paintings found at Sittannavasal in Pudukottai and Patamalai in Arcot South District (Wickaramsinghe, 1990).

Standing image
Standing Buddha, Gal Vihara
The standing statue at Gal Viharaya is said to be not in the original plan of King Parakramabahu the Great (Wickaramsinghe, 1990). Therefore, it could be executed by someone else during the same period (Wikramagamage, 2004).

The statue is 22 feet 9 inches tall (Devendra, 1956). It has been carved out of the living rock in high relief and is standing on a lotus base (Prematilleke, 1966). The hands are crossed on the breast and fingers are lightly resting on the mid-upper arms (Devendra, 1956). The body including the left shoulder is covered with the robe but leaving the right shoulder bare. Hair is arranged in curly knots. The posture of the hands is unusual.

According to popular tradition, this is a statue of Ananda Thera, the attendant disciple of the Buddha (Devendra, 1956). But according to another popular opinion, this is a standing statue depicting the Buddha (Prematilleke, 1966).
Paranavitana believes that the posture of this statue represents the Buddha in Para-dukkha-dukkhita mudra: The Buddha who is sorrowing for the sorrows of the others (Prematilleke, 1966; Ray, 1960). By providing evidence from the Kandyan era temple paintings, Prematilleke suggests that this position of hands could represent the Buddha performing the Animisalochana-puja (Prematilleke, 1966). According to Wikramagamage, there are five suggestions about the posture of this statue, viz: Para-dukkha-dukkhita, Animisalochana, Swastika, Ratanaghara, and Avadhana (Wikramagamage, 2004).

Several statues and paintings with similar posture have been found from other sites in Sri Lanka, such as from Na-Maluwa in Ritigala (North-Central Province), Yatala Vehera in Tissamaharama (Southern Province), Dambulla, Medawala, Gangarama, Lankatilaka, Bambaragala in Central Province, and Yapahuwa in North Western Province (Devendra, 1956; Prematilleke, 1966; Ray, 1960).

Nipanna-patima Guha
Next to the standing statue, at the right, is 46 feet 4 inches long (Devendra, 1956) reclining statue depicting the sleeping Buddha (Wikramagamage, 2004). However, another opinion suggests that this statue depicts the Parinibbana (passing away) of the Buddha. According to that opinion, the standing statue nearby is representing a disciple of Buddha, probably Ananda, who is grieving at the demise of his master (Prematilleke, 1966). If it is true, that the standing statue should be included in the same shrine with the reclining Buddha, but old brick wall basements remaining today suggest that these two statues were in separate shrine rooms.

Therefore, this reclining image is definitely called by many as a Nipanna (recumbent) statue (Devendra, 1956). Prof. Chandra Wikramagamage is also in the opinion that this statue depicts the sleeping posture of Buddha.
Two statues are in two different caves and the standing statue has been identified as that of the Buddha with a smile on his lips. The reason for drawing back one leg was to avoid the pain caused by the ankle-bones coming into contact and undoubtedly that must have been the pose that the Buddha adopted whenever he slept. He must have kept the leg in the same position even on the day he passed away so that cannot be taken as a characteristic feature of the parinibbana. This is the sleeping posture of the Buddha, one of the three postures of the Buddha popular in Sri Lanka.
Citation: Wikramagamage, 2004. p.223.

The sleeping Buddha statue The sleeping Buddha statue .
An inscription known as Katikavata of King Parakramabahu the great is found on the rock face between the standing statue and the cave shrine. It contains the details of the reformation of the Sasana and the code of discipline enforced on the monks. 

  • Polonnaruwa Gal Vihara Ordinance

    Reign : Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.)
    Period : 12th century A.D.
    Script  : Medieval Sinhala
    Language : Medieval Sinhala
    Transcript  : Apa Budun kalpa catasahasradhika ca(tu)r asamkhya ..........>>
    Translation : Our Buddha having fulfilled the exercise of all the thirty ..........>>

    Content : Records about an ordinance for the guidance of Buddhist clergy. It has been drafted after a convocation, headed by Maha Kassapa Thera of Udumbaragiri monastery (present Dimbulagala), with the agreement of assembled Sangha.

    Reference : Wickremasinghe,1928

The inscription contains 51 lines and its content is divided into two parts: the first part is about the historical introduction and the latter part is about the disciplinary injunctions (Wickremasinghe,1928). It reveals some names of the Buddhist monks involved in the ordinance. Maha Kassapa Thera of Udumbaragiri, Nanapala Thera from Anuradhapura, Nagundapalliya Thera, Moggallana Thera, Nanda Thera of Selantarayatana are some of the names found in the inscription (Wickremasinghe,1928).

A protected site
The Gal Viharaya located in the Sri Nissankamallapura village in the Divisional Secretary’s Division, Thamankaduwa is an archaeological protected site, declared by a government gazette notification published on 4 June 2004.

Katikavata of King Parakramabahu Gal Vihara paintings
1) Gal Viharaya polonnoruwa 2017-10-17 (2) by Z thomas is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
2) Sri Lanka Photo054 by Psychoslave is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

1) Devendra, D.T., 1956. An unusual hand position in Ceylon statuary. Artibus Asiae, 19(2), pp.126-136.
2) Fernando, P.E.E., 1960. Tantric Influence on the Sculptures at Gal Vihara, Polonnaruva. University of Ceylon Review, 18(1), pp.50-66.
3) Prematilleke, L., 1966. The identity and significance of the standing figure at the Gal-vihāra, Polonnaruva, Ceylon. Artibus Asiae, 28(1), pp.61-66.
4) Ray, H. C. (Editor in Chief), 1960. University of Ceylon: History of Ceylon (Vol 1, part II). Ceylon University Press. pp.604-605.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1344. 4 June 2004. p.15.
6) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. 
Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites: Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.220-225.
7) Wickremasinghe, D. M. D. Z., 1928. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscriptions of Ceylon (Vol, II). Published for the government of Ceylon by Humphrey Milford. pp.256-283.
8) Wickaramsinghe, N., 1990. (Editor in chief: Wijesekara, N.) Section II: Mural paintings: 900 A.D.-1200 A.D.. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume V: Painting. Commissioner of Archaeology. pp.61-63.

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Avungalla Slab Inscription

Avungalla Slab Inscription
Avungalla Slab Inscription is a Sinhala stone inscription discovered from Kegalle District, Sri Lanka. It is now preserved in the Inscription Gallery of Colombo National Museum.

Discovery of three inscriptions
Three inscriptions identical in content were discovered in Avungalla village in Mavata Pattuwa of the Paranakuru Korale, Kegalle District (Bell, 1904; Ranawella, 2005). However, the size of the letters, their number in each line, and the position of the carved sun and moon are different in each of the inscriptions (Bell, 1904).

Inscription No. 1: This is the inscription now preserved in the Colombo Museum. It has been inscribed on one side of a stone slab of about 2 feet 2 inches tall and 2 feet 5.5 inches wide (Bell, 1904). It was found at the foot of a Bulu-tree in a chena located half a mile from the Kavudugama Raja Maha Viharaya (Bell, 1904). The figures of the sun and moon are at the right of the text.

Inscription No. 2: This record was found on a rock two feet under the mud of a paddy field (Bell, 1904). It covers an area of about 2 feet by 1 foot 6 inches (Bell, 1904). The figures of the sun and moon are engraved above the text.

Inscription No. 3: This record has been cut on a low flat hump of rock at the boundary limit between Avungalla and Divela (Bell, 1904). The figures of the sun and moon are at the beneath of the text.

Fourth inscription? According to Bell, it is probable that a fourth stone, similarly inscribed, existed somewhere in the neighborhood to denote the fourth boundary of the land that, as revealed by the inscriptions, gifted to the Pirivena (Bell, 1904).

The inscription has been dated by scholars to the 12th century A.D. (Ranawella, 2005). It records an endowment of land to a monastery named Mahendra Lanka Adhikara Pirivena (Ranawella, 2005). According to the opinion of Bell, this Pirivena at Avungalla could be one of the monasteries established by Mihindu, a minister of King Parakramabahu I [(1153-1186 A.D.) Bell, 1904].  However, there is no mention of the name of the donor.

  • Avungalla Slab Inscription

    Period : 12th century AD
    Script  : Medieval Sinhala
    Language : Medieval Sinhala
    Transcript : Ahunugalla Mahendra Lamka Adhikara Pirivena kusalana yi
    Translation : This is the land endowed to Mahendra Lanka Adhikari Pirivena in Ahunugalla.
    Reference : Ranawella, 2005

1) Bell, H.C.P., 1904. Report on the Kegalle District of the Province of Sabaragamuwa. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: XIX-1892. Government Press, Sri Lanka. p.76.
2) Ranawella, S. (Ed.), 2005. Sinhala inscriptions in the Colombo National Museum: Spolia Zeylanica. Vol. 42. (2005). Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka. p.92.

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Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee

Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee
Fort Fredrick, popularly known as Trincomalee Fort is an old fort situated in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.

Fort Fredrick, TrincomaleePortuguese were the first Europeans who maintained a garrison at Trincomalee (Esquire & de Silva, 1993). Constantino de Sa, the former captain-general of Ceylon, built a fort at Trincomalee in 1623, by destroying the celebrated Hindu temple known as 'Ten thousand columns' at the Sami Rock (Esquire & de Silva, 1993).

In 1639, the Portuguese were driven out from the fort by a Dutch force led by Admiral Westerword (Elliott, 1995). In 1672, the French attacked the place and captured the fort at Kodiar (Esquire & de Silva, 1993). However, they were expelled by Dutch and the place remained in their possession until 1782 (Esquire & de Silva, 1993).

In 1778, Great Britain declared hostility against France. At the time there was a squadron of French in the Indian Ocean and therefore, the need for a good harbor on the east coast of India (a place such as Trincomalee in Sri Lanka) became a crucial factor (Esquire & de Silva, 1993). In the latter half of 1781, a news reached to India that English had been declared war against Holland. Lord Macartney, the then governor of Madras decided to capture the Dutch settlements especially Negapatam (in India) and Trincomalee [(in Sri Lanka) Esquire & de Silva, 1993]. On 11 November 1781, Britain successfully captured Negapatam under the command of Major General Sir Hector Munro assisted by Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes (Esquire & de Silva, 1993). In January 1782, Trincomalee was also conquered by them.

After conquering the Trincomalee, Hughes returned to Madras and taking the advantage of this French, led by Admiral Suffrein siege the fort (Elliott, 1995). The Dutch again took the control of Trincomalee fort and held it till on 23 August 1795 (Elliott, 1995). After a short siege, the English regained the fort from Dutch.

1623 - Built by the Portuguese.
1639 - (2 May) Captured by the Dutch - Landing at Dutch Bay and breaching the western face.
1640 - Dismantled by the Dutch.
1658 - Expanded (as Pagoda Hill) by the Dutch.
1672 - Unsuccessfully attacked by the French.
1782 - (8 January) Captured by the British 98th, 78th, and 42nd foot, 62 guns, 6 mortars.
1782 - (29 August) Captured by the French.
1783 - Coded by France to British and by Britain to Holland (Treaty of Paris).
1795 - (26-31 August) Captured by the British (71st, 72nd, and 73rd foot) landing at Elizabeth Point.
1800 - (Xmas) Colonel Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) stayed at Wellesley Lodge.
1803 - Named Fort Fredrick (after Commander in Chief the Duke of York).
1842 - St. Stephen's Church reconstructed by Lt. Ogle, R. C. and handed over.
1905 - Defences dismantled.
1916 - Military forces withdrawn.
1923 - Permanent defenses reorganized.
1942 - (9 April) Japanese air raid.
1945 - (August) Inter-services, Parade, and Thanks-giving service.
1946 - Reservoir (1/2 million gallons) completed.

Tamil inscription
A Tamil inscription containing a prophecy is found on the right side of the main entrance to the fort (Codrington, 1927). This epigraph contains the word "Paranki" (Portuguese) signifying the influence of Portuguese in Sri Lanka (Dias et al., 2016).

Depending on its palaeography, the Madras Government epigraphist, H. Krishna Sastri has dated this inscription to the 16th century A.D. (Codrington, 1927). A reconstructed version of this inscription had been tentatively proposed by Mudaliyar C. Rasanayagam and it was published in 1927, by H.W. Codrington in his article as follows;

  • Tamil inscription at Fort Fredrick

    Period : 16th century A.D.
    Script  : Tamil
    Language : Tamil
    Transcript : Munne kulakkodan muddun tirup-paniyaippinne Paranki.........>>

    Translation : O King ! the Portuguese shall later break down the holy edifice built by Kulakkodan in ancient times, and it shall not be rebuilt nor will future Kings think of doing so
    Citation : Codrington, 1927. p. 451.
Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee
1) Codrington, H.W., 1927. The inscription at Fort Frederick, Trincomalee. The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 30(80), pp.448-451.
2) Dias, M.; Koralage, S.B.; Asanga, K., 2016. The archaeological heritage of Jaffna peninsula. Department of Archaeology. Colombo. p.30.
3) Elliott, C.B., 1995. The Real Ceylon. Asian educational services. p.80.
4) Esquire, H.N. and de Silva, D.G.B., 1993. Notes on Military History of Trincomalie. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 38, pp.35-38.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Cullavagga, National Museum of Colombo

Cullavagga, National Museum of Colombo
The Ola-Leaf book known as Cullavagga which is being displayed in the library of Colombo National Museum is of great historical interest as it is believed to be the oldest extant (palm-leaf manuscript) found in Sri Lanka (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). The manuscript consists of 143 palm leaves and is in good preservation.

Cullavagga is a part of the Vinaya Pitaka, one of the three main Buddhist scriptures, written in the Pali language. As mentioned in its colophon, this Pali manuscript had been copied by a Buddhist monk named Medhankara Thera of Beligala under the patronage of King Parakramabahu II [(1236-1271 A.D.) Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018]. It has been written in Sinhala characters of the 13th century.

On the recommendation of scholars, this old manuscript was purchased by the museum in 1937 (Rambukwella, 2014).

1) Prematilaka, L., Hewage, R., 2018. A guide to the National Museum, Colombo: Department of National Museum. ISBN: 978-955-578-035-3. p.27.
2) 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). p.155.

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