Dakkhina Stupa (Anuradhapura)

Dakkhina Stupa
Dakkhina Stupa (also known as Dakkhina Thupa, Dakunu Dagoba, or the Stupa of Southern Monastery; Sinhala: දක්ඛිණ ස්තුපය; Tamil: தக்கின தூபி) is an old brick-built Stupa situated in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Located in the southern part of the city, the Stupa is considered one of the earliest Stupas in the country.

This Stupa had been incorrectly labelled for a long time as the Elara-sohona [the tomb of King Elara (205-161 B.C.)] but was correctly identified as the Dakkhina Stupa by Senarath Paranavitana thanks to a paving stone with a Brahmi Inscription of the 3rd century A.D. found during the excavation in the area between the southern and western Vahalkadas [(frontispieces) Bopearachchi, 2020; Paranavitana, 2001; Wikramagamage, 2004]. The inscription revealed the name of this site as Dakini Vihara which means the Southern Monastery (Bopearachchi, 2020).

The Southern Monastery/ Dakkhina Vihara was situated in the locality of the present Dakkhina Stupa (Wikramagamage, 2004). It is believed to have been built by Uttiya, the army commander of King Valagamba [(103 & c. 89–77 B.C.) Bopearachchi, 2020]. The Mahavamsa states that Uttiya built Dakkhina Vihara to the south of the city of Anuradhapura (Dias, 2001; Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 2001; Rutnam, 1981). A minister named Mula built the Mulavokasa Viharaya in the same place later (Nicholas, 1963).

In the inscription of the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. that was discovered from the pavement of the present Dakkhina Stupa, this monument is called Tisa-maha-ceta (Tissa-maha-cetiya) of the Dakini Vihara [(Dakkhina Viharaya) Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 2001]. In another inscription of the same period, the monastery is called Dakini-Abaya-araba-vihera (Nicholas, 1963).

The Sinadiyagala rock inscription of King Vasabha (67-111 A.D.) records the building of the Uposathaghara in the Dakkhina Vihara and in the Nelugala rock inscription of King Bhatiya Tissa II (140-164 A.D.) the monks residing in the Dakkhina Vihara are mentioned (Dias, 2001; Paranavitana, 1983). The Mahavamsa says that King Kanittha Tissa (167-186 A.D.) enlarged the Stupa by adding a mantling to it (Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 2001). He also built a refectory for the Viharaya (Nicholas, 1963).  King Voharika Tissa is said to have restored the umbrella of the Stupa and built a wall around the temple (Nicholas, 1963). In the 4th regnal year of King Gotabhaya (in 253 A.D.), a group of Buddhist monks who separated from the Dhammaruchi sect of Abhayagiri Viharaya under the leadership of an elder named Ussiliyatissa occupied Dakkhina Vihara and formed the Sagaliya sect (Bopearachchi, 2020; Dias, 2001; Nicholas, 1963). In the 7th century A.D., King Dathopatissa (639-650 A.D.) broke the Stupa and despoiled it (Nicholas, 1963).

Dakkhina Thupa pavement inscription
In 1948, a Brahmi inscription belonging to about the 3rd century A.D. was found engraved on seventeen granite slabs used in the pavement located between the southern and western Vahalkadas (frontispieces) of the Stupa (Fernando, 1990; Paranavitana, 2001). This inscription is considered the longest Brahmi inscription discovered so far in the country (Paranavitana, 2001). It contains the name "Dakini Vihara" (Dakkhina Vihara), which helped in ascertaining the true identity of the Stupa as well as the monastery site (Fernando, 1990).

The inscription records a series of donations made to the Tisa-maha-ceta (Tissa-maha-cetiya ) of Dakini Vihara and to the community of monks at this establishment by a king titled Maparumaka [(His Majesty) Paranavitana, 2001]. It further reveals that the Tissa-maha-cetiya was restored by the great king, the father of Maparumaka (Paranavitana, 2001).  The Mahavamsa states that King Kanittha Tissa (167-186 A.D.) enlarged the Stupa of Dakkhina Vihara by adding a mantling to it (Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 2001). He was the first king to be referred to in an inscription by the title Maparuaka (Paranavitana, 2001). Therefore, according to the view of Paranavitana, the monarch referred to by the title Maparumaka in this inscription could be the son of King Kanittha Tissa (Paranavitana, 2001).

Dakkhina Stupa
The Stupa which was in a state of ruins has been restored to the present state by the Department of Archaeology. H. C. P. Bell, the Commissioner of Archaeology, investigated the dilapidated Stupa mound popularly known at the time as Elara's tomb during the 1896-1900 time period and surmised that this monument could be the Stupa of Dakshinarama (Dakkhina Vihara) built by King Kanittha Tissa (Fernando, 1990; Rutnam, 1981). The ruins of a Bodhighara (Bodhi tree shrine) which is believed to be part of the ancient Dakkhina Vihara were discovered by Bell at a site in the south of the Stupa mound (Rutnam, 1981). The excavation works of the site were again commenced in 1946 by S. Paranavitana and continued up to 1949 (Fernando, 1990; Rutnam, 1981). Excavations carried out during this period unearthed some carved stone slabs, necklaces, and several other artefacts (Jayasuriya, 2016).

At present, only the ruined brick structure of the ancient Stupa remains. Its basal rings and dome have survived but not the upper part. Evidence is there to show that this Stupa had four Vahalkadas (frontispieces) facing the four cardinal points (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004). A carved pillar of the frontispiece to the north is still found on the site (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004). It contains the figure of Vaisravana-Kubera, the god of wealth with a dwarf unfolding coins from a pot (Bopearachchi, 2020; Jayasuriya, 2016).

Tomb of Elara or Dutugemunu ?
Controversies were there about the identity of the Stupa (Rutnam, 1981). This structure was for generations known to the people of the area as Elara-sohona, the tomb of King Elara [(205-161 B.C.) Paranavitana, 2001; Rutnam, 1981; Wikramagamage, 2004]. However, after it was identified as the Dakkhina Vihara, scholars such as S. Paranavitana tended to believe that this Stupa had been built on the cremation site of King Dutugemunu [(161-137 B.C.) Jayasuriya, 2016; Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 2001; Rutnam, 1981; Wikramagamage, 2004]. Presently, scholars have shown adequate reasons to establish that the Dakkhina Stupa was built at the spot where Dutugemunu was cremated (Dias, 2001).

Ashes recovered from the Stupa
Some ashes were recovered from Dakkhina Stupa during excavations in the latter part of the 1940s (Rutnam, 1981). These ashes were deposited in the Archaeological Museum of Anuradhapura till they were taken charge of by the then Secretary of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in 1978 for further scientific examination and identification (Uduwara, 1990). Accordingly, a committee including twelve specialists of relevant fields was appointed in November 1978 to identify the ashes fully on historical and archaeological grounds and necessary arrangements were made for the examination of ashes by scientific agencies (Rutnam, 1981; Uduwara, 1990). After an examination of about 8 months, the committee issued an official report confirming that the ashes could be the ashes of King Dutugemunu (Uduwara, 1990).

Later the ashes were taken in a procession from the National Museum of Colombo to Anuradhapura via Magama in Tissamaharama (Rutnam, 1981; Uduwara, 1990). Presently, these ashes are on the display at the Archaeological Museum of Anuradhapura (Uduwara, 1990).

Location of the tomb of Dutugemunu
The Saddharmalankaraya of the 14th century records a tradition that the Stupa of Dakkhina Vihara was built at a place known as Maha-pulila-maluwa [(the great terrace of the Pulila) Rutnam, 1981]. It is considered that after the death of King Dutugemunu, his body was cremated on the terrace outside the boundary of the Maha Viharaya, most probably at the spot where the Dakkhina Stupa was later built (Ray, 1959). King Saddhatissa (137-119 A.D.), the brother of Dutugemunu, is said to have built this Stupa on the funeral pyre of his brother (Uduwara, 1990).

Location of the tomb of Elara
The Mahavamsa states that King Elara fell in the battle near the southern gate of the Anuradhapura citadel and King Dutugemunu erected a monument near the spot in memory of him (Rutnam, 1981; Uduwara, 1990). As regards the identification of that site, Paranavitana thought that the bungalow of the Medical Superintendent of the old Anuradhapura hospital stood over the spot where Elara fell in the battle (Rutnam, 1981; Uduwara, 1990). Later excavations, that were carried out in this spot exposed the remains of ancient structures (pillared and brick) and evidence of the presence of uprooted pillars (Uduwara, 1990). An inscribed pillar of about the 6th century A.D. was also found on the spot (Uduwara, 1990).

Dakkhina Stupa
1) Dakkhinatupa by Jolle~commonswiki is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
#) LankaPradeepa.com extends its gratitude to Lalith Kekulthotuwage for providing the necessary photographs required for this article. All the photos are published here with the permission of the author.

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This page was last updated on 21 October 2023
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