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.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Kingdom of Polonnaruwa

The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa (also known as Pulastipura) was the second kingdom of Sri Lanka that flourished on the island from the 11th to the end of the first quarter of the 13th century (from 1017 A.D. to 1236 A.D.).

Early period
Human settlements in Polonnaruwa can be dated back to the 2nd century B.C. (Jayasuriya, 2016). Gopalapabbata, a cave site located within the present Polonnaruwa ancient city furnishes evidence of the early inhabitants of the area. During the period of the Anuradhapura Kingdom (377 B.C.-1017 A.D.), Polonnaruwa was known as Kandavuru-Nuwara (the camp city) as it was situated at a strategic position between the Northern capital Anuradhapura and the Southern sub-capital Mahagama (Jayasuriya, 2016; Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). According to the details given in Culavamsa, King Aggabodhi III (626-641 A.D.) built a Buddhist monastery named Mahapanadipa Viharaya in Polonnaruwa in the 7th century A.D. (Nicholas, 1963). In the same century, King Aggabodhi IV (658-674 A.D.) removed the seat of government from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa and resided there until his death (Nicholas, 1963). Several other rulers in the 8th and 9th centuries A.D. such as King Aggabodhi VII (772-777 A.D.) and Sena I (833-853 A.D.) also resided at Polonnaruwa (Nicholas, 1963). During this era, several reservoirs were built in and around the Polonnaruwa by the Anuradhapura kings (Jayasuriya, 2016).

Foreign invasions caused the wane of the political stability of the Anuradhapura Kingdom and as a result of that, the Sri Lankan rulers were attracted to Polonnaruwa as they found it safer ground than their first capital Anuradhapura. The invasions made by South Indian Cholas since the end of the 10th century resulted in the gradual downfall of the Anuradhapura Kingdom.

Chola period (1017-1070 A.D.)
The Chola conquest of Anuradhapura began with the invasion in 993 A.D. by King Raja Raja I (c. 985-1014 A.D.) who sent a large Chola army to Sri Lanka. In 1017 A.D., during the reign of Rajendra Chola I (c.1014-1044 A.D.), the Anuradhapura Kingdom fell under the rule of the Chola Empire when the invaders took the last king of Anuradhapura, King Mahinda V (982-1017 A.D.) as a captive to India (see: Fort Hammenhiel inscriptions). The Cholas established their rule in Polonnaruwa through a viceroy and renamed the city as Jananatha Mangalam (Jayasuriya, 2016; Nicholas, 1963). They ruled the country for 53 years until King Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.) defeated them and re-established the Sinhalese lineage in 1070 A.D. The Chola hegemony in Polonnaruwa for nearly five decades made a major influence on the culture of the island as well as resulted in the emergence of Polonnaruwa as the second great capital of Sri Lanka.

Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.)
Vijayabahu I expelled the Cholas and established the Sinhalese Kingdom again in the country after the demise of the Anuradhapura Kingdom (Jayasuriya, 2016). He celebrated his coronation as king at Anuradhapura but shortly afterwards transferred the capital to Polonnaruwa (Nicholas, 1963). Therefore, Vijayabahu I is considered the first king to establish Polonnaruwa as the capital (Jayasuriya, 2016; Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). Changes were done in political, social, religious, and economic aspects during this reign. He got down Buddhist monks from Myanmar to revive Buddhism in the country (Jayasuriya, 2016). However, the administrative success of Vijayabahu I was come to a virtual halt soon after his death due to the internal conflicts created by several contenders to the throne (Jayasuriya, 2016). Velaikkara Tamil Inscription gives some details about the Velaikkara revolt that erupted during Vijayabahu's reign and about the problematic period that occurred soon after the death of Vijayabahu I (Wickremasinghe, 1928).

Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.)
Gal Viharaya
Parakramabahu I (or Parakramabahu the Great) emerged as the most successful ruler after King Vijayabahu I. He is considered the greatest and the most reputed ruler of Polonnaruwa who brought the country's economy, culture, and religion to the zenith of the period (Jayasuriya, 2016). His achievements in agriculture and irrigation, trade and foreign relations (see: Nagadeepa inscription), and cultural activities made the Polonnaruwa era one of the most shining and successful periods of Sri Lankan history (Indrapala, 1963; Nicholas, 1963). The unification of the divided communities of Buddhist monks [see: Katikavata inscription of Parakramabahu I  (Gal Vihara Ordinance)], the war against Myanmar (see: Devanagala inscription of Parakramabahu I), and the Sinhalese expedition against the Pandya country (see: Arpakkam inscription) are a few of important events of the Parakramabahu's period (Jayasuriya, 2016; Paranavitana, 1933; Wickremasinghe, 1928).

Nissankamalla (1187-1196 A.D.)
Nissankamalla of the Kalinga Dynasty was able to continue the program of work established by Parakramabahu I (Jayasuriya, 2016; Nicholas, 1963). He is credited with the most number of inscriptions in Polonnaruwa (Jayasuriya, 2016).

The throne of the Polonnaruwa after Nissankamalla was transitioned to the hands of several rulers who were weak in reigning or who engaged in internecine struggles (Dias et al., 2016). As a result of that, the country's political stability became poorer and the situation was comported for the invasions carried out by several Tamil invaders from South India such as Parakrama Pandya (1212-1216 A.D.). Magha of Kalinga (India) who came with a large army from Malabar (Kerala) invaded Sri Lanka during the reign of Parakrama Pandya and became the ruler of the country (Dias et al., 2016). He ruled the island for 21 years until 1236. Due to the invasions that mainly came from South India, Polonnaruwa was abandoned in the first quarter of the 13th century and the seat of government for the Sinhalese kings was moved to Dambadeniya (Jayasuriya, 2016).

Rulers of the Polonnaruwa
The Polonnaruwa lasted a little over two centuries (1017-1236 A.D.). During this period 16 Sinhalese rulers (except the invaders) including two queens held reign. Of them, Queen Lilavati ruled Polonnaruwa three times intermittently. In terms of economic and cultural achievements, three rulers namely Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.), Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.), and Nissankamalla (1187-1196 A.D.) are considered great kings during the Polonnaruwa period (Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018).

Period of Chola rule (1017-1070 A.D.)                          Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.)
Jayabahu I (1110-1111 A.D.)                                          Vikramabahu I (1111-1132 A.D.)
Gajabahu II (1132-1153 A.D.)                                          Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.)
Vijayabahu II (1186-1187 A.D.)                                       Mahinda (1187-1187 A.D.)
Nissankamalla (1187-1196 A.D.)                                   Veerabahu (1196-1196 A.D.)
Vikramabahu II (1196 A.D.)                                             Chodagangadeva (1196-1197)
Queen Lilavathi (1st round: 1197-1200 A.D.)                Sahassamalla (1200-1202 A.D.)
Queen Kalyanavathi (1202-1208 A.D.)                           Darmashokadeva (1208-1209 A.D.)
Commander Anikanga (1209-1209 A.D.)                      Queen Lilavathi (2nd round: 1209-1210 A.D.)
Commander Lokeshwara (1210-1211 A.D.)                 Queen Lilavathi (3rd round: 1211-1212 A.D.)
Parakrama Pandya (1212-1216 A.D.)                             Kalinga Magha (1216-1236 A.D.) 

(After Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.), there were three rulers in the country;  Manabharana in Dakkhinadesa, Siriwallabha in Dolosdahasrata, and Kithirimegha in Atadahaserata).

Sinhala language and Sinhala scripts developed to a great extent during the Polonnaruwa era. Within this period Sinhala scripts became more curve than their previous forms and in the next two or three centuries, they reached the pre-form of the modern Sinhala letters. After gaining independence from Cholas, the literature of the Polonnaruwa period saw a new era of its development.

Notable literary works of the Polonnaruwa period
1) Amavatura             -  Authored by Gurulugomi during the 12th century A.D.
2) Butsarana              -  Authored by Vidyachakravarti
3) Dharmapradipika -  Authored by Gurulugomi during the 12th century A.D.
4) Muvadevudavata  -  Composed during the reign of Vijayabahu I
5) Nimi Jataka           -  The only Sinhalese prose work
6) Sasadawatha        -  A Sinhalese poem composed during the reign of Lilavati in her first period of rule

Pali & Sanskrit works
1) Abhidammttha-sangaha              2) Abhidhanappadipika              3) Dhatavamsa                        
4) Samantapasadika                         5) Sararthadeepani

Polonnaruwa coins
Cholas who ruled the country before Vijayabahu I had issued coins with their names following the model of the gold coins of the Anuradhapura Period. After becoming the king of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom, Vijayabahu I also released coins under his name "Sri Vijayabahu" engraved in Nagari letters. This is considered the first time a Sri Lankan king released coins containing his name of him. 
After Vijayabahu I, no coins are known to have been issued by his successors until King Parakramabahu I with whom the use of precious metal for coins (such as silver) entirely ceased (Ranawella, 2007). King Nissankamalla issued a few coins, some of which were of white metal (Ranawella, 2007). Coins made of copper were released during the reigns of Sahassamalla, Lilavati, Chodaganga and Dharmasokadeva (Ranawella, 2007).

Ruler                                                    Period                                             Legend on the coin
Vijayabahu I                                 1070-1110 A.D                                     Sri Vijayabahu
Parakramabhu                            1153-1186 A.D.                                     Sri Parakramabahu
Nissankamalla                            1187-1196 A.D.                                    Sri Kalinga Lakeja
Chodagangadeva                       1196-1197 A.D.                                    Sri Codagangadeva
Lilavati                                          1197-1200 A.D.                                   Sri Raja Leelavati
Sahassamalla                             1200-1202 A.D.                                    Srimath Sahassamalla
Dharmasokadeva                       1208 A.D.                                              Sri Dharmasokadeva
Polonnaruwa ancient city
The city of Polonnaruwa is extending in an area of about 122 hectares (Jayasuriya, 2016). It stretches about five km from south to north and about three km from east to west (Jayasuriya, 2016). Presently, UNESCO has declared the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa as one of the World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka.

Read the main article: Ancient Polonnaruwa City.
1) Dias, M.; Koralage, S.B.; Asanga, K., 2016. The archaeological heritage of Jaffna peninsula. Department of Archaeology. Colombo. pp.178-179.
2) Indrapala, K., 1963. The Nainativu Tamil Inscription of Parakramabahu I. University of Ceylon Review. Vol. XXI; No, I. University of Ceylon. Peradeniya. pp.63-70.
3) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. pp.67-70.
4) 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). pp.174-180.
5) Paranavitana, S., 1933. (Edited and translated by Wickremasinghe, D.M.D.Z.; Codrington, H.W.) Devanagala rock inscription of Parakramabahu I. 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.312-325.
6) Prematilaka, L., Hewage, R., 2018. A guide to the National Museum, Colombo: Department of National Museum. ISBN: 978-955-578-035-3. p.19.
7) Ranawella, S., 2007. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume VI. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-61-2. pp.l-li.
8) 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.242-255,256-283.

This page was last updated on 14 January 2023

Ridi Viharaya

Ridi Viharaya
Ridi Viharaya (Sinhala: රිදී විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Ridigama in Kurunegala District, Sri Lanka.

Ridi Viharaya
The history of Ridi Viharaya goes back to the early period of the Anuradhapura Era (377 B.C.-1017 A.D.). Early Brahmi inscriptions that have been discovered in the drip-ledged caves located on the premises of Ridi Vihara temple give evidence that the caves were used as the habitats of the forest-dwelling Buddhist monks since the 2nd century B.C. (Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 1970). 
The ancient name of this place was Ambatthakola-lena (Modder, 1896; Muller, 1883). During the reign of King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.), silver ore is said to have been found in the Ambatthakola-lena cave (Nicholas, 1963). In the Pali works such as Mahavamsa, this temple is called Rajata-lena (Sin: Ridi-lena; Eng: Silver-cave) and King Amandagamani Abhaya (22-31 A.D.) is said to have constructed the Rajata-lena Viharaya [(present Ridi Viharaya) Charles, 1990; Modder, 1896; Muller, 1883; Nicholas, 1963]. However, the widely accepted tradition is that this temple was founded by King Dutugemunu (Modder, 1896; Muller, 1883). Several chronicles such as Culavamsa and Ridi Vihara Asna record that King Dutugeunu built the Viharaya after the removal of the silver ore that was discovered from the site (JCBRAS, 1923; Modder, 1896). King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186 A.D.) and King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 A.D.) are said to have visited this temple during the Polonnaruwa Period (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015).

Ridi Viharaya
The temple which was in a state of ruins for a long period of time was repaired and renovated under the patronage of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha [(1747-1782 A.D.) Charles, 1990; Modder, 1896]. The king, according to Culavamsa (this is also identified as a part of Mahavamsa), gave over the charge of the temple to a novice monk named Siddhattha, who accordingly carried out more repairs, improvements, and additions to the temple (Coomaraswamy, 1908; Holt, 1996; Modder, 1896). The Buddhist monk Tibbatuwawe Buddharakshita who was assigned by King Kirti Sri Rajasingha to update the chronicle Culavamsa from its 13th-century state was originally from Ridi Viharaya and therefore, the description of these restoration efforts by King Kirti Sri Rajasingha has been given in Culavamsa in a very detailed manner (Holt, 1996).

Origin of the name & Ridi Vihara legend
Several old texts such as "Ridivihara Satara Mayim Asum" (The narrative of the four boundaries of Ridi Vihara) and "Ridi Vihara Asna" describe how the present name "Ridi Viharaya" originated and they further provide details on the construction of Ridi Viharaya and offering of lands for the endowment of the temple and boundary details of those lands (JCBRAS, 1923). According to the legend, silver ore was discovered in a cave in the township of Emtota (Pali: Ambatthakola) near Deduru Oya by an enterprising trader, at the time King Dutugemunu was about to build Ruwanweliseya in Anuradhapura (JCBRAS, 1923). After being informed by the trader, the king removed the silver ore and constructed a Vihara at the site (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015; JCBRAS, 1923). The name Ridi Viharaya (the Silver Temple) is thought to have originated thereafter (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015).

A number of cave and rock inscriptions dating from the 2nd century to the 7th century A.D. have been discovered at the site (Dias, 1991; Paranavitana, 1970).

Ridi Vihara cave inscriptions
Ridi Vihara cave inscriptions
Period: 2nd-1st centuries B.C.
Script: Early-Brahmi
Language: Old Sinhala
Transcription: Parumaka-Puna-puta Parumaka tishaha lene shagasha
Translation: The cave of chief Tissa, son of the chief Punna [is given] to Sangha (to the Buddhist monks)
Citation: Paranavitana, 1970.

Ridi Vihara rock inscription of Amanda Gamini Abhaya
Reign: Amanda Gamini Abhaya (22-31 A.D.)
Period: 1st century A.D.                    Script: Later Brahmi                    Language: Old Sinhala
Transcription: (1) Devanapiya Tisa Rajaha marumanake Tisa Maha Rajaha marumanake Naka Maha Rajaha puta Gaini Abaya dine Kulagama saha Padagamake (2) sovana kutareke
Translation: The villages Padagaa and Kulagama were donated by Gaini Abhaya, son of the great king Naga, grandson of king Tissa, grandson (also) of the great king Tissa, the friend of the gods by performing the symbolic act of pouring water from the golden vase.
Citation: The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage

Ridi Vihara rock inscription
Ridi Vihara rock inscription 
Period: 2nd-3rd centuries A.D.
Script: Later Brahmi
Language: Old Sinhala
Transcription: vahamala kariyahi (na)va (karihaka kubara...)
Translation: Paddy field of nine karisa (thinly six amunas) at Vahamala Kariya.
Citation: The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage

Ridi Vihara rock inscription 
Period: 5-7th centuries A.D.                    Script: Transitional Brahmi                    Language: Old Sinhala
Transcription: (1) Patagalayaha Samanalaha cidavi vi (2) harala savasanata-pati
Translation: Samanala of Patagala was freed from vaharala and the merit thereof has been conferred on all beings.
References: Dias, 1991; The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage

The temple complex
The temple complex consists of a number of ancient monuments. They include Vahalkada, tomb, old preaching hall, old Awasa-ge, Waraka-velandu Viharaya, old Bodhi tree, Hewisi Mandapaya, Maha Viharaya, Uda Viharaya, Stupa, Serasumgala Stupa, caves, etc.

Maha Viharaya
Maha Viharaya
Maha Viharaya (also known as Pahala Viharaya: the lower shrine) is situated under the shade of a huge rock cave and is the main shrine of the temple (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015). The Ridi Vihara legend says that it was here on this spot that the silver ore for the Ruwanweliseya was found.

Many paintings and sculptures belonging to an older period than the Kandyan Period are found here (Charles, 1990). The sculptures are made out of brick and mortar, sometimes over a wooden core. In the shrine, a number of Buddha statues in various postures are found. They include the gold-plated standing Buddha of Abhaya-mudra, two seated Buddha statues, one reclining statue, the standing Buddha of Varada-mudra, etc (Piyadassi Thera, 2017). Other statues such as the statue of King Dutugemunu, Bodhisattva Maitree, and Ananda Thera are also found inside the shrine (Piyadassi Thera, 2017). The floor on which the reclining Buddha statue is placed is decorated with Dutch-era porcelain floor tiles depicting some scenes from the life of Jesus Christ (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015). The majority of paintings in the old Viharaya have been renovated by Devaragampola Silvattena (an unordained monk) with the assistance of Tilavala Gallada (Charles, 1990).

To the right of the Maha Viharaya is a small Buddha shrine and on the frame of the door leading into which has an elaborately carved ivory panel popularly known as the carving of Panca-nāri-ghaṭa (the pot of five women). This carving is considered an excellent example that depicts the Sinhalese artists' skill in the art of ivory carving. Large fragments of plasters with paintings are also found on the cave roof (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015).

Uda Viharaya
Uda Viharaya
The upper part of the main cave was converted into an image house during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha and is presently known as the Uda Viharaya [(the upper shrine) Coomaraswamy, 1908; Modder, 1896]. There is a flight of stone steps leading to this shrine from the rear part of Maha Viharaya.

A finely preserved collection of murals and sculptures belonging to the Kandyan tradition is found in this shrine. A seated statue of the Buddha under a Makara Thorana (a dragon arch) is the main statue of the shrine. The statue is in the Veerasana posture and its hands depict the Dyana-mudra (Piyadassi Thera, 2017). Two standing Buddha statues depicting Abhaya-mudra and two statues of the god Vishnu and god Saman are also found inside the shrine (Piyadassi Thera, 2017).

The Suvisi-Buddhas (previous 24 Buddhas with Bodhi trees), the Suvisi-vivaranaya (Buddha to be receiving the blessing from 24 previous Buddhas), the Sat-satiya (the first seven weeks after the enlightenment), and the Solosmasthana (sixteen most sacred places in the island) are identified as the main paintings drawn on the walls of the Uda Viharaya (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015). The Narilatha, Nava-nari-kunjaraya (nine entwined maiden figures in the shape of an elephant), Three-Simha (three seated lion figures with one head), Sarabhamurthiya, and Vrsabha-kunjaraya (heads of a bull and an elephant entwined) are also among the other notable paintings found here (Charles, 1990; Piyadassi Thera, 2017).

Waraka-velandu Viharaya
This is referred to as a shrine similar to a Hindu temple in appearance (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015). The building consists of a stone Mandapa in front of a cella situated beneath an overhanging rock. In Sinhala "Waraka-velandu Viharaya" means "the shrine in which jack-fruit partook" (Modder, 1896). According to Ridi Vihara legend, this was the spot where the Arhat named Indra Gupta partook the jackfruit offered by the trader (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015; Modder, 1896).

Serasumgala ruins
The rock to the right of the temple entrance is known as Serasumgala and is believed to be the place where the initial Stupa of the Ridi Viharaya temple had been built (Anuradha & Kumari, 2015). A number of ancient monuments and ruins such as the Serasumgala Stupa, rock inscriptions, rock caves, rock-cut flight of steps, and other artefacts are found here.

A protected site
The rock with the inscription dating from B.C. to the early period of A.D. and the ancient cave temple belonging to the 1100-1800 A.D. period in Ridi Vihara in Rideegama Village in Divisional Secretary’s Division of Ridigama are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 11 August 1967.

Ridi Viharaya Serasumgala .
1) Anuradha, R.K.S.; Kumari, A.S., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kurunegala Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-37-2. pp.52-54.
2) Charles, S.P., 1990. Section III: Painting (1200 A.D.-1400 A.D.). Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series (Vol. V). Painting. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). pp.90-91.
3) Coomaraswamy, A.K., 1908. Mediaeval Sinhalese Art. pp.165,172-173.
4) Dias, M., 1991. Epigraphical notes (Nos 1 -18). Colombo: Department of Archaeology. pp.79-80.
5) Holt, J.C., 1996. The religious world of Kīrti Śrī: Buddhism, art, and politics in late Medieval Sri Lanka. Oxford University Press on Demand. pp.109,112-114.
6) JCBRAS, 1923. Palm leaf manuscripts on Ridi Vihara. The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland 29, No. 76. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43483214. pp.133-144.
7) 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.106.
8) Modder, F.H., 1896. Ancient cities and temples in the Kurunegala District: Ridi Vihare. The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland Vol. XIV. No. 47. pp.118-124.
9) Muller, E., 1883. Ancient Inscriptions in Ceylon. London. p.39.
10) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscriptions of Ceylon: Volume I: Early Brahmi Inscriptions. Department of Archaeology Ceylon. p.69.
11) Piyadassi Thera, H., 2017. Ridi Vihare kathava (In Sinhala). Published by the Aithihasika Ridi Viharaya-Ridigama. ISBN: 978-955-50458-6-5. pp.17-24.
12) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 14761. 11 August 1967.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 14 January 2023

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Nagadeepa Viharaya (Mahiyanganaya)

Not to be confused with Nagadeepa Viharaya (Jaffna)

Nagadeepa Viharaya, Mahiyanganaya
Nagadeepa Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: රිදීමාලියද්ද නාගදීප විහාරය, මහියංගනය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Uraniya village in Rideemaliyadda, Badulla District, Sri Lanka.
According to local tradition, the history of Nagadeepa Viharaya goes far back as the history of nearby Mahiyangana Viharaya. Some believe that this temple was built during the reigns of King Kavantissa (205-161 B.C.) and King Dutugemunu [(161-137 B.C.) Priyadarshani & Gunasena, 2017]. It is also said that Prince Dutugemunu and his army who were advancing to Mahiyanganaya from Mahagama (present Tissamaharama) in the second century B.C. had passed a place named Tungam Kasatapitiya, a place probably located near Uraniya (Nicholas, 1963).
The name: Nagadeepa
Two anecdotes are there that describe how the present name "Nagadeepa" originated (Priyadarshani & Gunasena, 2017). According to one anecdote, the name has come into parlance as a Buddhist monk who arrived from Nagadeepa (present Jaffna Peninsula) had lived in this area. The other anecdote says that the name has come to usage as it is related to the Buddha's second visit to Sri Lanka (Priyadarshani & Gunasena, 2017). According to Sri Lankan chronicles such as Mahavamsa, the Buddha in the fifth year after his enlightenment visited Nagadeepa in Sri Lanka to settle a dispute that arose between two royal kinsmen of the Naga clan Chulodara and Mahodara (nephew and uncle). As the present temple site is located very near Mahiyanganaya (the place to where the Buddha's first arrival happened), locals have tended to believe that this temple is the original Nagadeepa that is mentioned in the chronicles. However, extensive archaeological investigations conducted by scholars have identified the present Jaffna Peninsula as the ancient Nagadeepa (Pieris, 1917; Pieris, 1919).

A few slab and pillar inscriptions belonging to the 6-7th, 9-10th, and 17th centuries A.D. have been discovered from the site. Of them, the slab inscription with the characters of the 6-7th centuries A.D. is almost worn. The inscription of 9-10th centuries A.D. is found engraved on a stone pillar which is now broken into two pieces.
Uraniya Nagadeepa fragmentary pillar inscription

Uraniya Nagadeepa fragmentary pillar inscription

9th-10th centuries A.D
Script: Medieval Sinhala
Language: Medieval Sinhala
Content: This is a Samvata pahan or an edictal pillar put up by the king's officials, having come to an agreement to bestow some privileges to a monastery.
Reference: The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage.

The 17th-century inscription records; "Nagadeepeta Pooja vu pradeepe 1691" (the lamp donated to Nagadeepa 1691). This inscription confirms that this place is known as Nagadeepa since the 17th century. 

The temple
The temple is situated adjoining the Nagadeepa Maha Wewa reservoir that was built by damming the Heppola Oya under an irrigation scheme set up in 1969. With this irrigation scheme, some of the unexplored ruins around the temple premises are said to have gone under the water of the reservoir. During the Mahiyangana Gam Udawa program in 1989, some restoration works were carried out for the development of the temple. On 11 August 2008, the then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited this temple and participated in some religious activities.
A large number of ruins including two Stupas, the ruins of an ancient image house, and a building with stone pillars which is believed to be a Devalaya are found within the temple premises (Priyadarshani & Gunasena, 2017). As evident by this large number of ancient ruins, it is assumed that this temple may have existed as a Vihara complex in the past (Priyadarshani & Gunasena, 2017)

The Kanchuka Stupa
There are two ancient Stupas at the site. Of them, the oldest Stupa which is known as the Kanchuka Stupa is located at the top of a small hillock like a massive overgrown mound of earth. According to the view of some, that mound of earth, in ancient times, was also a massive Stupa built by constructing a bricklayer over it. Locals believe that this Stupa was built by King Kavantissa (205-161 B.C.).

The other Stupa of the temple is located at a lower ground than the largest one and is believed to have been built by King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.). 

Ancient image house
The ancient image house is located near the small Stupa and it presently lays under the foundation of a modern building which was used as the monks' dwelling until the recent past. The dilapidated foundation of the ancient image house and a plain Sandakada Pahana (a moonstone) belonging to the early Anuradhapura Period are still visible beneath the foundation of the modern building. However, the government authorities have taken the necessary measures to demolish that modern building and unearth the ruins of the ancient image house. 

The Bodhi tree
The Bodhi tree in Uraniya Nagadeepa Viharaya is said to be one of the 32 saplings of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura. Locals strictly believe that by doing suitable religious rituals for this Bodhi tree they can fulfil their future hopes and expectations. 

A protected site
The ancient Nagadipa Raja Maha Vihara in Uraniya Village in Divisional Secretary’s Division of Ridimaliyadda is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 19 November 1960.

Ridimaliyadda Nagadeepa Nagadeepa temple, Mahiyangana .
1) 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.50.
2) Pieris, P.E., 1917. Nagadipa and Buddhist remains in Jaffna. The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, (Vol. 26). pp.11-30.
3) Pieris, P.E., 1919. Nagadipa and Buddhist remains in Jaffna: Part II. The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, (Vol. 28). pp.40-67.
4) 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.20-22.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 12230. 19 November 1960.

Location Map

This page was last updated on 14 January 2023

A short note for local school students
මහියංගනය නාගදීප විහාරය

නාගදීප විහාරය ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ බදුල්ල දිස්ත්‍රික්කයේ ඌරණිය ගම්මානයෙහි පිහිටි බෞද්ධ සිද්ධස්ථානයකි.

ප්‍රාදේශිය විශ්වාසයන්ට අනූව, නාගදීප විහාරයේ ඉතිහාසය ඒ ආසන්නයේ පිහිටි මහියංගන විහාරයේ ඉතිහාසය තරම්ම ඈතට විහිදෙයි. මෙම විහාරය ඉදිකරන ලද්දේ කාවන්තිස්ස (ක්‍රි.පූ. 205-161) හා දුටුගැමුණු (ක්‍රි.පූ. 161-137) රාජ්‍ය සමයන්හි බව සමහරෙකුගේ විශ්වාසය වේ. ක්‍රි.පූ. 2වන සියවසේදී මහගම (වත්මන් තිස්සමහාරාම) සිට මහියංගන දක්වා පැමිණෙමින් සිටි දුටුගැමුණු කුමරු සහ ඔහුගේ හමුදාව, ඌරණිය ආසන්නයේ පිහිටියා යැයි සැලකෙන තුන්ගම් කසටපිටිය නම් ස්ථානය පසුකල බව කියැවෙයි.

නාගදීප නාමය
වත්මන් "නාගදීපය" යන නාමය කෙසේ සම්භූත විණිදැයි විස්තර වන කතාන්දර ද්විත්වයක් වෙයි. ඉන් එක් කතාන්දරයකට අනූව, මෙම නාමය ව්‍යවහාරයට පැමිණ ඇත්තේ නාගදීපයේ (වත්මන් යාපනය අර්ධද්වීපය) සිට පැමිණි බෞද්ධ භික්ෂුවක් මෙම ප්‍රදේශයේ වාසය කිරීම හේතුවෙනි. අනෙක් කතාන්දරය පවසන්නේ මෙම නාමය භාවිතයට පැමිණ ඇත්තේ එය බුදුන් වහන්සේගේ දෙවන ලංකාගමනය සමග සම්බන්ධ වන නිසා බවයි. මහාවංසය වැනි ශ්‍රී ලාංකික වංසකථා ප්‍රකාරව, බුදුන්වහන්සේ සිය බුද්ධත්වයෙන් පස්වෙනි වසරේදී චූලෝදර හා මහෝදර (බෑණනුවන් සහ මාමා) යන නාග ගෝත්‍රික නායකයින් දෙදෙනා අතර ඇතිවූ ආරවුලක් සංසිදවීම පිණිස නාගදීපයට වැඩම කොට තිබේ. වත්මන් විහාර භූමිය මහියංගනයට (බුදුන් වහන්සේගේ ප්‍රථම ලංකාගමනය සිදුවූ ස්ථානය) ඉතා ආසන්නව පිහිටා තිබීම හේතුවෙන් ප්‍රාදේශීය වැසියන් මෙම විහාරය වංසකථාහී දැක්වෙන සැබෑම නාගදීපය යැයි විශ්වාස කිරීමට නැඹුරු වී තිබේ. කෙසේවෙතත්, සිදුකර ඇති පුළුල් පුරාවිද්‍යා විමර්ශන මගින් වත්මන් යාපනය අර්ධද්වීපය පුරාණ නාගදීපය වශයෙන් විද්‍යාර්ථීන් විසින් තහවුරු කොටගෙන ඇත.

ක්‍රි.ව. 6-7,9-10, හා 17වන සියවස් වලට අයත් පුවරු ලිපි හා ටැම් ලිපි කිහිපයක් විහාර භූමියෙන් හමුවී තිබේ. මින් 6-7 සියවස් වලට අයත් අක්ශර සහිත පුවරු ලිපිය සම්පූර්ණයෙන්ම පාහේ ගෙවී ගොස් ඇත. ක්‍රි.ව. 9-10 සියවස් සමයට අයත් සෙල්ලිපිය ශිලා ස්ථම්භයක් මත කොටා තිබෙනු හමුවන අතර එයද අද වනවිට කොටස් දෙකකට කැඩී ගොස් ඇත.

ඌරණිය නාගදීප ටැම් ලිපිය
කාලය       : ක්‍රි.ව. 9-10 සියවස්
අක්ෂර       : මධ්‍යකාලීන සිංහල
භාෂාව       : මධ්‍යකාලීන සිංහල
අන්තර්ගතය: ව්‍යවස්ථා ලේඛනයක් ඇතුලත් සම්වතා පහන් නමින් හඳුන්වන මෙම ටැම් ලිපියෙහි රාජ්‍ය නිලධාරීන් විසින් සම්මුතියකට පැමිණ විහාරස්ථානයකට ප්‍රධානය කරන ලද වරප්‍රසාද පිළිබඳව සඳහන් වේ.

මේ අතර 17වන සියවසට අයත් සෙල්ලිපියෙහි "නාගදීපෙට පූජා වූ ප්‍රදීපේ 1691" ලෙස වැකියක් කොටා ඇත. මින් 17වන සියවසේදී මෙම ස්ථානය නාගදීපය වශයෙන් හඳුන්වනු ලැබ ඇති බැව් සනාථ කරයි.

1969 වසරේ පිහිටුවනු ලැබූ වාරි සැළසුමකට අනූව හැප්පොල ඔය හරස් කිරීමෙන් ඉදිකල නාගදීප මහ වැව ආසන්නයේ විහාරය පිහිටා තිබේ. මෙම වාරි සැළස්ම ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීමත් සමග විහාර පරිශ්‍රය අවට ගවේෂණය නොකෙරූ සමහර නටඹුන් ජලාශයට යටවූ බව පැවසෙයි. 1989 වර්ෂයේ ක්‍රියාත්මක වූ ගම් උදාව වැඩසටහන යටතේ විහාරයේ දියුණුව උදෙසා යම් සංවර්ධන කටයුතු ක්‍රියාවට නංවනු ලැබුණි. 2008 අගෝස්තු 11වන දින එවක ජනාධිපති වූ මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂ මහතා මෙම විහාරයේ යම් ආගමික කටයුත්තකට සහභාගී විය.

ස්තූප ද්විත්වයක්, නටඹුන් වූ පුරාණ පිළිම ගෙයක්, හා දේවාලයකට අයත් යැයි විශ්වාස කෙරෙන ගල්කණු සහිත ඉදිකිරීමක් ඇතුළු නටඹුන් රැසක් විහාර පරිශ්‍රයෙන් හමුවේ. මෙලෙස පුරාණ නටඹුන් විශාල ප්‍රමාණයකින් සාකෂ්‍ය වන පරිදි, මෙම විහාරය අතීතයේදී විහාර සංකීර්ණයක් ලෙස පවතින්නට ඇතැයි උපකල්පනය කෙරේ.

පුරාණ ස්තූප ද්විත්වයක් මෙම පරිශ්‍රයෙහි පිහිටයි. ඒ අතුරින් පැරණිතම ස්තූපය ලෙස සැළකෙන කංචුක ස්තූපය වල් වැදීගිය විසල් පස් ගොඩැල්ලක් ලෙස දිස්වන කුඩා කඳු ගැටයක් මත පිහිටයි. සමහරෙකුගේ දැක්ම අනූව, අතීතයේදී මෙම පස් ගොඩැල්ල ඒ වටා ගඩොල් තට්ටුවක් යෙදීමෙන් ඉදිකරනු ලැබූ විශාල ස්තූපයක් වේ. ප්‍රාදේශීයයන් විශ්වාස කරන්නේ මෙම ස්තූපය කාවන්තිස්ස රජු විසින් ඉදිකරන්නට ඇති බවයි.

අනෙක් ස්තූපය කංචුක ස්තූපයට පහළන් වූ මළුවක පිහිටයි. එය දුටුගැමුණු රජු විසින් ඉදිකරන ලද්දක් ලෙස විශ්වාස කෙරේ.

පුරාණ පිළිම ගෙය
භික්ෂු ආවාස ගෙය ලෙස මෑතක් වනතුරු භාවිත කල ගොඩනැගිල්ලේ පාදමට යටවී මෙම පුරාණ පිළිම ගෙය පවතියි. අනුරාධපුර යුගයේ මුල් සමයට අයත් යැයි සැළකෙන සඳකඩ පහනක් හා පුරාණ පිළිම ගෙයි දිරාපත් වූ පාදම් කොටස් තවමත් මෙම නූතන ගොඩනැගිල්ලෙහි පාදමට යටින් දැකගත හැකිවේ. කෙසේනමුදු, බලධාරීන් විසින් මෙම නූතන ගොඩනැගිල්ල කඩාදමා පුරාණ ඉදිකිරීමෙහි නටඹුන් මතුකර ගැනීමට අදාල ක්‍රියාමාර්ග ගෙන ඇත.

අනුරාධපුර ජය ශ්‍රී මහා බෝධියෙහි දෙතිස් අංකුරයන්ගෙන් එකක් ලෙස ඌරණිය නාගදීප විහාරයෙහි පිහිටි බෝධිය සැළකෙයි. මෙම බෝධියට සුදුසු වන්දනාමාන සිදුකිරීමෙන් සිය අනාගත බලාපොරොත්තු හා ප්‍රාර්ථනා සඵල වන බවට ප්‍රාදේශීයයන් අතර දැඩි විශ්වාසයක් පවතී.

පුරාවිද්‍යා ස්මාරක ස්ථානය
රිදීමාලියද්ද ප්‍රාදේශීය ලේකම් කොට්ඨාශයට අයත් ඌරණිය ගම්මානයෙහි පිහිටි නාගදීප රජ මහා විහාරය, 2016 නොවැම්බර් 19 දින ප්‍රකාශයට පත් රජයේ ගැසට් නිවේදනය මගින් ආරක්ෂිත පුරාවිද්‍යා ස්මාරකයක් ලෙස නම් කොට ඇත.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Ampara Veheragala Viharaya

Ampara Veheragala Viharaya
Veheragala Raja Maha Viharaya, also known as Veheragala Sripa Aranya Senasanaya or Purana Deva Raja Viharaya (Sinhala: අම්පාර වෙහෙරගල විහාරය), is a Buddhist temple situated in Dighavapi village in Ampara District, Sri Lanka. Located near the sacred Dighavapi Viharaya, this Veheragala temple can be reached by travelling along the Digavapi temple road about 7 km distance from the Varipathanchena junction.

According to the two rock inscriptions that have been found on the temple premises, the history of this temple can be dated back to the 1st century A.D. Of these two inscriptions, one reveals the ancient name of this temple as "Deva-raja Viharaya".

Inscriptions (see the note below)
Two inscriptions belonging to the 1st century A.D. are found engraved on the rock near the pond.  They have been indited near to each other and visible as one inscription comprising two lines. Some letters of the two inscriptions are in worn condition and are difficult to read.

Inscription I :Sidam..aka(na) gathahi....(de)varaja viharahi mahanaka dine
Context: According to this inscription, this place is known in ancient times as "Deva-raja Viharaya". The name mentioned as "mahanaka" is thought to be King Mahadatika Mahanaga who reigned from 9 to 21 A.D. Several inscriptions that mention the name "mahanaka" have been found in nearby areas and the Vehera-Uda-Male rock inscription of the Eravur Pattu of Batticaloa District is one of them (Paranavitana, 1983).

Inscription II :Sidam gu..(ra)vavika divarajavi(ha) raha bikasagahatavavi
Context: Some letters of this inscription can not be identified due to the worn condition. It is assumed that this inscription records about the bestowal of several tanks to the temple.

Other monuments
Ampara Veheragala
The flight of steps at the entrance
The temple complex, in ancient times, had been constructed on the plateau of the rock. To enter the temple, a rock-cut flight of steps extending from the north to the south has been provided. The length of the flight of steps is about 16 m and it consists of 39 steps. On the summit of the rock plateau is a Stupa constructed in the recent past.

The pond and the flight of steps
The rock plateau extends towards the west as well as to the south from the modern Stupa. On the rock plateau, a stone pond (Gal Kemiya) with a length of 4.2 m and 3.6 m width is found. Near it is a 7 m long flight of steps that extends from south to east.

Ruined buildings
A few sites with the ruins of ancient buildings and structures are found on the rock plateau extending to the west. Remains of stone bases, urinal stones, and scattered brick pieces are also found.

Veheragala cave site
A site with drip-ledged caves is found extending from the area near Dighavapi Sinhala Vidyalaya up to the Veheragala Viharaya. Two caves with drip ledges and one early-Brahmi inscription are found here.

A protected site
Veheragala Viharaya
Rock with rock inscriptions, ruins of buildings and the flight of steps and the pond with stone rampart wall at the base of the said rock at the place called “Veheragala” belonging to Deegawapi Buddhist colony in Grama Niladari Division No. 1, Deegawapi in the Divisional Secretary’s Division, Addalachchenei are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 10 October 2014.
Veheragala cave site
Drip ledged cave complex with Brahmi inscriptions extended from the area near Sinhala College up to archaeological site “Veheragala” belonging to Deegawapi colony village in the Grama Niladari Division No. 1 Deegawapi in the Divisional Secretary’s Division, Addalachchenei is an archaeological protected site, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 10 October 2014. 

Ampara Veheragala Ruined building .
This page contains information extracted from a Sinhala book which was in the possession of the chief monk of the Viharaya. Unluckily, the monk didn't possess the initial pages of that book and therefore we were unable to find out the original author and the year of that publication.

1) Paranavitana, S., 1983. Inscriptions of Ceylon; Late Brahmi inscriptions 2 (part 1). Archaeological Survey of Sri Lanka. pp.42-43.
2) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1884. 10 October 2014. p.920.

Location Map

This page was last updated on 8 May 2023

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Dutch Museum (Colombo)

Colombo Dutch Museum
The Dutch Museum or Museum Voor De Hollandes (Sinhala: කොළඹ ලන්දේසි කෞතුකාගාරය; Tamil: கொழும்பு ஒல்லாந்தர் அருங்காட்சியகம்) is located in Pettah in Colombo District, Sri Lanka. It is one of the Museums Administered by the Department of National Museums. It preserves a collection of items belonging to the Dutch who ruled coastal areas of Sri Lanka from 1658 to 1796 (Mandawala, 2017).

The museum has been established in a two-storied colonial Dutch building. The building is thought to be at the present site since 1708 and it had been used as the house for the Dutch Seminary with an orphanage "Weeskamer" attached to it (Paranavitana, 1982). However, the inscription above the entrance door of the building indicates the year 1780 (Paranavitana, 1982). According to Paranavitana, the date of the establishment of this seminary can not be ascertained and historians are of the opinion that the location of this seminary never changed between 1708 and 1780 (Paranavitana, 1982).

The building later became the official residence of the Governor of Dutch Ceylon Thomas van Rhee (1634 - 1701 A.D.) during his term of office from 1692 to 1697 (Mandawala, 2017; Paranavitana, 1982). During the British Period, the building was used as a hospital for the causalities of the Kandyan military campaign of the British in 1803 (Paranavitana, 1982). It became the headquarters and armoury of the Ceylon Volunteer Corps. in the latter part of the 1800s (Paranavitana, 1982). Later, the building was used as a police training centre and finally as the Pettah post office and telecommunication centre (Mandawala, 2017; Paranavitana, 1982). It was abandoned in January 1973, when a rainstorm damaged the building (Paranavitana, 1982).

The building was then recommended for conversion into a museum to preserve the Dutch heritage of Sri Lanka and after four years of restoration, it was declared open to the public as the first Dutch museum of the country by the then President of Sri Lanka on 10 July 1982 (Paranavitana, 1982; Rambukwella, 2014). This process was supported by different organizations in the Netherlands including the Netherlands-Sri Lanka Foundation in Hague and the Netherlands Alumni Association of Sri Lanka (Paranavitana, 1982; Rambukwella, 2014). Later on, the museum was handed over to the Department of National Museums for maintenance (Rambukwella, 2014).

Antiquities with archaeological and historical value such as old VOC ceramics, Dutch seals, flags, furniture, household items, photographs, coins, and tombstones are exhibited in the museum (Rambukwella, 2014).

A protected building
The Dutch Museum located in Pettah in the Divisional Secretariat Division of Colombo is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 18 June 1999.

Colombo Dutch Museum
1) Dutch Period Museum by Jorge Láscar is licensed under CC BY 2.0
1) Mandawala, P.B., 2017. Heritage Management in Sri Lanka: In legal, administrative and financial perspective over 125 Years. Shared Global Experiences for Protection of Built Heritage, pp.56-68.
2) Paranavitana, K.D., 1982. Dutch Period Museum–Colombo. Itinerario, 6(2), pp.2-4.
3) 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.406.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1085. 18 June 1999.

Location Map

This page was last updated on 10 July 2022

Vijithapura Viharaya

Vijithapura Viharaya
Vijithapura Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: විජිතපුර විහාරය; Tamil: விஜித நகரம் விகாரை) is a Buddhist temple situated in Vijithapura village in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka.

Ancient Vijithapura
Vijithapura is mentioned in Sri Lankan chronicles as one of the earliest townships established in the country (Fernando, 1982). According to Mahavamsa, five townships named Upatissagama, Ujjeni, Uruwela, Anuradhagama, and Vijithapura were established in Sri Lanka after the arrival of Indian Prince Vijaya in the 6th century B.C. (Fernando, 1982; Geiger, 1986). It is said that these townships had been named after the chief generals of Prince Vijaya (Fernando, 1982).

Vijithapura is mentioned again in the chronicles nearly 300 years later as a fort where a major battle between the forces of Prince Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.) and King Elara (205-161 B.C.) took place in the 2nd century B.C. (Fernando, 1982; Mandawala, 2012). After that, there is no more mention of Vijithapura in the ancient chronicles.

The exact location of this place or the ruins of the ancient fort has not been identified yet (Mandawala, 2012). However, a modern village with the same name exists in close proximity of Kala Wewa reservoir, which according to the view of some scholars such as Geiger, may be the location of ancient Vijithapura (Basnayake, 1986; Geiger, 1986). However, some scholars believe that the ancient Vijithapura may possibly be Polonnaruwa or an area in close proximity to it (Basnayake, 1986; Parker, 1909).

Vijithapura Viharaya
It has been long believed by locals that ancient Vijithapura is located near Kala Wewa where the present Vijithapura Viharaya exists. However, some scholars such as Parker do not agree with that local belief;
"Where was the town Wijita, to which these minister proceed from Upatissa, a city north of Anuradhapura, in order to meet the distinguished traveler from Gonagama? It has been long believed that it was at Kala-waewa, in the North-central Province, where a small Buddhist temple, called Wijitapura wihara, exists to the present day. I have examined this place, and failed to find signs of any early works of importance. The best evidence, the dimensions of the bricks, is uncertain. Those accessible in the dagaba at the wihara are all more or less in pieces, and are of two sizes, averaging 2.71 inches in thickness, which it is possible may be pre-Christian, and 2.10 inches. There are also some worn fragments of inscriptions of the fifth or sixth century A.D., cut on the step leading to the temple enclosure. Nothing but this monastery is locally known to have been constructed at this spot"
Citation: Parker, 1909. pp.237-238.
Presently, a large number of ruins of ancient building and structures has been unearthed from the temple premises. Among them, there is a smooth granite stone called "Kadu-Ge-Gala" that, according to locals, have been used by Dutugemunu's soldiers to sharpen their swords before the Vijithapura battle.

A protected site
Vijithapura Viharaya located in Kala Wewa village in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Kala Wewa is archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 31 March 1950.

A ruined building Ruined structures A ruined building .
1) Basnayake, H.T., 1986. Sri Lankan monastic architecture. Orient Book Distributors. p.1.
2) Geiger, W., 1986. The Mahāvaṃsa, or, The Great Chronicle of Ceylon. Asian Educational Services, New Delhi. pp.58-59,171-173. 
3) Fernando, A.D.N., 1982. The ancient hydraulic civilization of Sri Lanka in relation to its natural resources. Sri Lanka Branch, the Royal Asiatic Society. New Series Volume XXVII Special Number. pp.28-29.
4) Mandawala, P.B., 2012. Sri Lanka: Defending the military heritage; legal, administrative and financial challenges. Defending the military heritage; legal, financial and administrative issues. Reports from the Seminar 16 – 17 May, 2011, in Karlskrona, Sweden, organised by ICOMOS International Scientific Committee for Legal, Financial and Administrative Issues (ICLAFI) and the Swedish Fortifications Agency of Sweden. p.98.
5) Parker, H., 1909. Ancient Ceylon: An Account of the Aborigines and of Part of the Early Civilisation. Asian Educational Services, London. pp.237-239.
6) The government gazette notification. No: 10089. 31 March 1950.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 7 July 2022

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Ancient Kotte Fort

Ancient Kotte Fort
The Kotte Fortress (Sinhala: කෝට්ටේ බලකොටුව) is an ancient fort located in Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte in Colombo District, Sri Lanka. 

Kotte was the capital of the Kingdom of Kotte during the 15-16 centuries A.D. Since it existed for nearly 150 years as the capital of the country, a significant amount of preserved ruins of this kingdom could be expected. However, the rapid development and land occupation that was taken place in recent history in this area has caused massive destruction of the ruins including the Kotte fortress. Presently, a few locations where the ruins of this ancient fortress exist has been protected by the government as archaeological sites under the 1940 Archaeological Act no.9.

Construction of Kotte Fortress
According to Nikaya Sangrahaya, the initial step to make Kotte a fortified city was taken by Alagakkonara (Nissanka Alakesvara) during the reign of King Vikramabahu IV of Gampola [(1360-1373 A.D.) Fonseka, 2010; Somaratna, 1969]. It is said that this fort was built as a garrison town to resist the tax collectors who had been appointed by the rulers of Jaffna. The political instability and power struggle that occurred at the end of the 14th century resulted in the giving up of Gampola and the ruling body was then moved to Kotte, the newly established frontier fort. However, Kotte became an official kingdom after the anointing of King Parakramabahu VI (c.1412-1467 A.D.) as the King of Jayawardanapura (Wijewardana et al., 2011).

King Parakramabahu VI
King Parakramabahu VI developed this garrison town into a fortified capital city (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). In addition to the fortification, the king built a three-storied Temple of Tooth, and a five-storied palace for himself, but no traces of these two edifices are found today (Fonseka, 2010; Wijewardana et al., 2011)

European invasions and colonial rule coupled with the uprising named Vijayaba Kollaya (which happened in 1521) caused the destruction of most parts of the Kotte fort (Wijewardana et al., 2011). However, the fortification in Kabok stones (laterite blocks) is still visible at several places in the area.

The fort
The site that was selected for the Kotte fortress is surrounded on three sides by Diyawanna Oya, Kolonnawa Oya and, marshland which provided ideal natural defences for the fort. According to local chronicles such as Nikaya Sangrahaya, and Saddharma Ratnakaraya, the Kotte fortress had been built on earth filled area of about one square mile and it consisted of thick peripheral walls, and wells, water & mud moats, and observation turrets (Wijewardana et al., 2011). 

The fort citadel was bounded by a protective rampart. Two outer and inner moats were constructed to protect the southwestern side of the citadel that was not surrounded by water or marshland. The royal palace, the Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Tooth Relic), the treasury, the mansion of Alakeswara, the royal pleasure gardens and other buildings were inside the fort walls. Also, the fort had four temples dedicated to four guardian deities on the four corners (Wijewardana et al., 2011).

The peripheral wall or the rampart of the fort, according to historical documents, is 8 ft tall and 30 ft wide. A stone-throwing machine named "Idangani" and high watchtowers are said to be on the top of the rampart for the protection of the fort. Entrances were located on all four sides of the rampart and the main entrance (a drawbridge across the moat) to the citadel was located on the south. The Perahera pageant carrying the Tooth Relic of Buddha is said to have been conducted around the periphery of the fort (Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

Peripheral wall
Siri Perakumba Pirivena
Alagakkonara built the Kotte fort with an outer peripheral wall for the safety of the fortress. The wall commences from the southern end of the inner moat and extends about 2376 ft (0.724 km) towards the eastern and then 4620 ft (1.40 km) to the northern direction (Wijewardana et al., 2011). It again stretches to the western direction about 1122 ft (0.341 km) and then 3630 ft (1.10 km) to the southern direction (Wijewardana et al., 2011). The wall comes back to its initial point by stretching about 1716 ft (0.523 km) distance parallel to the inner moat (Wijewardana et al., 2011).

The walls of the fortress have been constructed with Kabok stones of 40x20x20 cm dimensions (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Although it is said in the old texts that the peripheral wall of the Kotte fortress was originally 8 ft tall and 30 ft wide, archaeological investigations have revealed that the wall was about 5 ft tall and 8 ft wide and the total length of it was about 3.5 km (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Also, a few ancient wells known as "Ura Keta Linda" were reported in the outside but immediate vicinity of the peripheral wall of the fort (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). One such well is still can be seen on the premises of Siri Perakumba Pirivena in Kotte.

The government has protected the peripheral wall of the fort and a 10 ft stretch on the outside and 5 ft on the inside as an archaeological monument.

The inner moat
The inner moat of the Kotte fortress is said to have been built alongside the ramparts for the protection of the southern side of the fortress that did not have natural protection from the rivers or marshlands. It is connected to the Kolonnawa Oya on the western side and on the eastern side to the Diyawanna Oya (Wijewardana et al., 2011). The top of the moat was 30 ft wide and the side walls were 20 ft high. The moat had a varying depth and width mainly due to the natural ground contour and prevailing topography.

The outer moat
In addition to the inner moat, Alagakkonara built the outer water moat for the protection of the fortress. Constructed about 1 km south of the inner moat (close to modern Pita Kotte), the outer moat also has a varying depth and width mainly due to the ground contour and topography. A perennial stream that flowed to the west across the Pita Kotte area had been connected to the moat. One of the six entrances to the citadel was built across this moat.

The site is presently located near the Sirikota premises, the headquarters of the United National Party (UNP).

Kotte inner moat Kotte outer moat .
1) Fonseka, P., 2010. The Ancient City of Kōṭṭe and its Fortification. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 56, pp.57-117.
2) 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. pp.1-2.
3) Somaratna, G.P.V., 1969. Political history of the Kingdom of Kotte (c. AD 1400-1521) (Doctoral dissertation, SOAS University of London). pp.79-85,147-188, 456-460.
4) Wijewardana, A., Thilakawardana, A. E. L., Priyangani, S., 2011. Aithihasika Kotte (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 978-955-9159-69-8. pp.1-5,9-14.

This page was last updated on 18 February 2023