Saturday, September 26, 2020

Nagadeepa Viharaya, Mahiyanganaya

Not to be confused with Nagadeepa Viharaya in Jaffna

Nagadeepa Stupa, Ridimaliyadda
Nagadeepa Raja Maha Viharaya 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 to 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 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 have been discovered from the site (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 to 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 (Anuradhapura Period: 377 B.C.-1017 A.D.) are still visible beneath the foundation of the modern building. However, the government authorities have taken necessary measurements to demolish that modern building and unearth 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 fulfill 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 26 September 2020
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map


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