Thursday, February 25, 2021

Akurugoda Pillar Inscription

Akurugoda Pillar Inscription is a lithic record discovered from the urban mound of Akurugoda in Tissamaharama, in Hambantota District, Sri Lanka.

The pillar
The record has been engraved on two faces of an octagonal pillar of granite of 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 had got 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).

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 the 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 a political significance (Abeyawardana, 2004). Nicholas has given a short description about 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.

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