Bowattegala Caves (Kumana)

Bowattegala Caves
Bowattegala Len Viharaya (Sinhala: බෝවත්තේගල නටඹුන් ලෙන් විහාරය) is an abandoned Buddhist monastery site (a cave temple) situated within the woods of Kumana National Park in Ampara District, Sri Lanka.

As evident by the cave and rock inscriptions in-situ, Bowattegala was an important Buddhist monastery site for centuries before it falling into ruins (Paranavitana, 1983). A number of caves, mostly with drip-ledges and inscriptions, are found scattered in the site. Some of the caves have the remains of walls.

Inscriptions that have been discovered from the site are belonging to the pre-Christian era as well as to the reigns of King Bhatiya Tissa II (140-164 A.D.) and Jettatissa II [(331-340 A.D.) Dias, 1991; Hettiarachchi, 1990; Paranavitana, 1970; Paranavitana, 1983]. Among them, the inscription of King Jettatissa II helped historians to ascertain that he was a son of King Mahasena [(277-304 A.D.) Dias, 1991].

Later inscriptions at this site indicate that the monastery was in a flourishing condition up to the 7th century A.D. (Nicholas, 1963).

A number of cave and rock inscriptions ranging from the pre-Christian era to the 6th century A.D. have been discovered from the site (Dias, 1991; Paranavitana, 1970; Paranavitana, 1983). Of them, three inscriptions with the distinctive emblem of a fish [Paranavitana, 1970. (IC. Nos. 549, 550, 551)] reveals detail about ten brother kings and their associated lineage (Nicholas, 1963; Sirisoma, 1990).

Bovattegala inscriptions of ten brother kings
Script: Early Brahmi                   Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: Gamani-puta dasha-batikana jhete Shava-jhetuha puta Damarajha Damarajhaha-pute Mahatisha-aye karite ima len[e] Mahashudashane shagasha dine
Translation: The son of Gamani was the eldest of the ten brothers. The son of the eldest of all [the ten brothers] was Dhammaraja. This cave named Mahasudassana which prince Mahatissa, son of Dhammaraja, caused to be established, is given to the Sangha.
Citation: Paranavitana, 1970. No. 549. p.42.

According to scholars such as Sirisoma and Medhananda, the aforesaid inscription (No. 549) refers to ten brother kings who were the sons of a "Gamini" and the eldest of them had son Dammaraja whose son was Mahatissa (Medhananda, 2003; Sirisoma, 1990). The second inscription (No. 550) reveals the name "Uti rajha" (King Uttiya) who was also one of the ten brother kings (Medhananda, 2003; Sirisoma, 1990). According to that inscription, Gamani was the father of Uti and Abhaya was his son (Medhananda, 2003; Sirisoma, 1990). Anuradhi (Anuradha) was the daughter of Abhaya (Medhananda, 2003; Sirisoma, 1990). The third inscription (No. 551) again refers to Mahatissa, the son of Dhammaraja (Paranavitana, 1970). These three inscriptions mention the names of two of the ten brother kings (Sirisoma, 1990). However, the identity of this lineage of rules remains uncertain to date (Medhananda, 2003).

A contemporary inscription in Mottayakallu in Ampara District, mentions a person named Uparaja Naga who was the Javaka leader of the ten brother kings (Paranavitana, 1970). The only reference to ten brother kings in literature is found in Dhatuvamsa and according to that, the ten brother kings are Ksatriyas from Kataragama (or a regal line related to them) and they were put to death by Gotabhaya [(3rd century B.C.) Sirisoma, 1990]. 

1) Dias, M., 1991. Epigraphical notes (Nos 1 -18). Colombo: Department of Archaeology. pp.91,93.
2) Hettiarachchi, A.S., 1990. Investigation of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century inscriptions. [Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)]. Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume II: Inscriptions. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). pp.69,73-74.
3) Medhananda, Ven. Ellawala, 2003. Pacheena passa - Uttara passa: Negenahira palata ha uturu palate Sinhala bauddha urumaya (In Sinhala). Dayawansa Jayakody & Company. Colombo. ISBN: 978-955-686-112-9. pp.85-90.
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). p.21. 
5) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). Department of Archaeology Ceylon. pp.37, 42-43.
6) Paranavitana, S., 1983. Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. II. Part I. Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka. p.123.
7) Sirisoma, M.H., 1990. Brahmi inscription of Sri Lanka from 3rd century B.C. to 65 A.D. [Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)]. Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume II: Inscriptions. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.22.

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This page was last updated on 18 January 2023

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