Demalamaha Seya

Demalamaha Seya
Demalamaha Seya, also known as Damila Thupa (Sinhala: දෙමළ මහා සෑය, දමිල ස්තූපය), is a gigantic brick-built Stupa situated in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

The smaller Stupa with a square-shaped platform
Demalamaha Seya, according to the description in Mahawamsa, was a Stupa with a size of approximately 1300 cubits (Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018). It is believed that this Stupa was built by King Parakramabahu I (1153–1186 A.D.) in the 12th century with a workforce of Cola labourers who were brought from South India as prisoners (Abeynayake et al., 1993; Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018; Prematileke, 1990).

According to scholars, this Stupa built by King Parakramabahu I was intended to surpass all other monuments of the type in the country (Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018; Ray, 1960). However, due to some reason, the king has not completed the dome of the Stupa and stopped its construction at a height of about 50 feet from the ground, forming an extensive circular plateau at the top (Ray, 1960). In the middle of that plateau, a smaller Stupa with a square-shaped platform has been built.

Carbon dating
A sample of charcoal that was collected from the Stupa platform during the excavations done between 2014-2017, was tested by the authorities for finding its radiocarbon date and it yielded the date as 1155 A.D. (Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018).

The present Stupa covers an area of about 4 acres and it has a perimeter of about 700 m and a height of about 20 m (Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018). It resembles architectural similarities to the Suthighara Stupa at Dedigama (Parakramabahu's birthplace) as well as to the Yudaganawa Stupa (considered to be the place of Parakramabahu's mother's cremation) at Buttala (Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018).

According to the opinion of scholars, this Stupa has been built by enveloping a large existing quartzite rock (Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018; Jayasuriya, 2016; Prematileke, 1990).

Excavation and conservation attempts
The Stupa which remained like a small hill covered with vegetation for a long period was started to investigate several times by the authorities. It was first investigated in 1930 by A.H. Longhurst of the Archaeological Survey of Ceylon (Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018). In March 1983, the excavation and reconstruction of the Stupa were commenced through the UNESCO-Sri Lanka Project of the Cultural Triangle (Abeynayake et al., 1993). After that, more excavations and investigations were done under the direction of the Central Cultural Fund (CCF) during the period between 1983 - 1998 (Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018).

The excavation works of the Stupa were again started on 23 March 2014 by the CCF (Gunawardhana & Perera, 2018)

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

A massive brick structure Excavation pits Demalamaha Seya

1) Abeynayake, K., de Fonseka, R.N., Abeyratne, V. and Sandhya, R., 1993. A Survey of the Vegetation of Damila Mahasǟya in Polonnaruwa. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 38, pp.127-140.
2) Gunawardhana, P.; Perera, N., 2018. Excavations of Demalamahaseya, Polonnaruwa: 2014-2017. Buddha Rashmi Vesak Volume. Central Cultural Fund, Ministry of Education. pp.1-7.
3) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.86.
4) Prematilleke, L., 1990. The architecture of the Polonnaruwa Period B.C. 800 - 1200 A.D. [Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)]. Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.47.
5) Ray, H. C. (Editor in Chief), 1960. University of Ceylon: History of Ceylon (Vol I, part II). Ceylon University Press. pp.594-595.
6) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1344. 4 June 2004. p.15.

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This page was last updated on 2 July 2023
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