Akurugoda Pillar Inscription

Akurugoda Pillar Inscription is a lithic record discovered at the urban mound of Akurugoda. It has been engraved on two faces of an octagonal pillar.
Akurugoda Pillar Inscription

Akurugoda Pillar Inscription (Sinhala: අකුරුගොඩ ටැම් ලිපිය) is a lithic record discovered at the urban mound of Akurugoda in Tissamaharama, in Hambantota District, Sri Lanka. It bears a strong resemblance to the column standing upright in the vicinity of the northern porch of Ruwanweliseya (Uduwara, 1990).

The Pillar

The record has been engraved on two faces of an octagonal granite pillar about 30 feet tall (Abeyawardana, 2004; Paranavitana, 2001). It was brought to the attention of scholars for the first time in 1884 by H. Parker and then by E. R. Ayrton (Paranavitana, 2001; Parker, 1884). After Ayrton, the pillar itself was buried again and its exact location remained unknown to archaeologists until 1951 (Paranavitana, 2001). The pillar is said to have been broken into two fragments when it was rediscovered by the Archaeological Department (Abeyawardana, 2004). In 1973, the pillar was retrieved and the base was underpinned with concrete (Uduwara, 1990).

The excavations in 1951 revealed that there was no masonry foundation at the base of the pillar (Uduwara, 1990). Among the other discoveries was an inscribed slab, placed as a wedge to support the pillar in an upright stance (Somadeva, 2006; Uduwara, 1990). That inscription holds significance as it refers to Phussadeva, the grandson of Velusumana, a notable figure among the ten paladins of King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.) of Anuradhapura (Uduwara, 1990).

The Content

The language of the Akurugoda record is Sinhala Prakrit and it is written in Later Brahmi Characters (Abeyawardana, 2004). Scholars have dated this inscription to the 1st century A.D. (Abeyawardana, 2004; Somadeva, 2006).

Transcript: Siddham, Yage dhama sebaye nama Saga-vadama ne nama......>>
Translation: Success!, The sacrifice is, Dharma; it is also to be accepted as the Good,......>>
Notes: The record is composed like a poem, and it mentions the conversion of a viceroy named Naka to the Buddhist faith.
Reference: Paranavitana, 2001. Abeyawardana, 2004.

An inscription containing similar text to the Akurugoda inscription has also been found engraved on a rock at Kirinda Raja Maha Viharaya (Abeyawardana, 2004; Paranavitana, 2001; Somadeva, 2006). According to the view of Paranavitana, the record in Kirinda has been set up by the monks of the monastery at which Prince Naka declared his profession of faith while the record at Akurugoda has been set up by the prince himself at his place of residence (Paranavitana, 2001).

As stated by scholars, these two inscriptions are unique and bear political significance (Abeyawardana, 2004). Nicholas has given a short description of its significance as follows;

"The chronicles give us to understand that from B.C. 246 onwards Buddhism was the firm and only faith of the Sinhalese monarchy and people, and the accuracy of that assertion is not impugned by this solitary instance of one dissident prince professing other beliefs and recanting them in favour of Buddhism. This singular event is not recorded in the Chronicles or Commentaries, but it was apparently of sufficient local importance for the recantation to be publicised by the engraving of two inscriptions, one at the Uvaraja's seat (Mahagama) and the other at the Vihara where the conversion occurred".
Citation: Nicholas, 1963. pp.62-63.


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.123,141-142. 
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). pp.62-63.
3) Paranavitana, S., 2001 (Edited by Dias, M.). Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. II. Part II. Archaeological Survey Department, Sri Lanka. pp.211-214.
4) Parker, H., 1884. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Report on archaeological discoveries at Tissamaharama in the southern province of Ceylon. Vol: VIII. Part: I. No:27. pp.86-87.
5) Somadeva, R., 2006. Urban origins in southern Sri Lanka. Doctoral thesis in Archaeology at Uppsala University. pp.131,429.
6) Uduwara, J., 1990. History of the Department of Archaeology, 1970-1990. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume I: History of the Department of Archaeology. p.165.

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This page was last updated on 16 January 2024

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