Friday, February 26, 2021

Crocodile Charm Inscription, Baddegama

Crocodile Charm Inscription
A granite block of stone with a 15th-century crocodile charm and a talisman has been discovered from Gin Ganga river at Baddegama in Galle District, Sri Lanka. It is presently housed in the Hedidemalakanda Dutugemunu Raja Maha Viharaya in Ganegama village (de Silva, 2011; Rohanadeera, 2007).

Discovery
The stone block was discovered from the Gin Ganga River at Baddegama and it was brought to the attention of the Department of Archaeology in the 1950s by a person named A. Vitanachchi (Rohanadeera, 2007). It was deciphered for the first time by Prof. Rohanadeera in 2007 (Rohanadeera, 2007).

The charm and the talisman
The stone block is irregularly hexagonal in shape and approximately 18 inches in length, width, and height (de Silva, 2011; Rohanadeera, 2007). The inscription (the charm) has been engraved on five faces of the block and the remaining face possibly would have reserved to be laid on the river bed (Rohanadeera, 2007). On the first face is a circular figure (the talisman) similar to the sun and in the centre of it is the Sinhala script denoting "HRIM" a sound commonly used in charms, mantras (Rohanadeera, 2007). Three more letters of the same sound are found around the central "HRIM" script within the circle. Another "HRIM" script and a circle containing an unclear figure (probably a figure of a tied crocodile) found outside the circle (Rohanadeera, 2007). Below these figures are two lines of Sinhala writing (Rohanadeera, 2007).

The second face has 10 lines of writing while the third has 14 lines (Rohanadeera, 2007). The fourth and fifth faces have 4 and 8 lines of writing respectively (Rohanadeera, 2007). The charm starts with salutation to the Buddha and ends with a verse that reads "...this is the crocodile charm that tied the crocodiles and she crocodiles" (de Silva, 2011; Rohanadeera, 2007).

On paleographical grounds, scholars have dated this inscription to the late 15th century A.D. (Rohanadeera, 2007). Prof. Rohanadeera has compared the scripts of this inscription with those in the inscriptions at Kitsirimevan Kelaniya (1344 A.D.), Pepiliyana (1459 A.D.), Madavala (1462 A.D.), and Keragala [(1501 A.D.) Rohanadeera, 2007].

To prevent crocodile attacks
Two crocodile species [the Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) and the Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)] are found in aquatic environments in Sri Lanka (de Silva, 2011). Both species are known to attack animals as well as humans (de Silva, 2011). Therefore, to prevent crocodile attacks locals have followed various spiritual practices including placing the stones on the river bed with crocodile charms. However, the Baddegama stone block is the only known example in Sri Lanka that contains a crocodile charm engraved on it.

A work of Rahula Thera?
This crocodile charm and the talisman is believed to be a work of Ven. Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera (1408-1491 A.D.), a Buddhist monk and an eminent scholar who lived his last days in a cave at Ambana (present Ambana Sri Rahula Induru Gallen Viharaya), a locality near Baddegama (de Silva, 2011; Rohanadeera, 2007). Rahula was also reputed throughout the country as being well versed in charms and the occult (de Silva, 2011). The name Ambana is found cited on the forth face of this inscription (Rohanadeera, 2007).

References
1) de Silva, A., 2011. Prevention of crocodile attacks in Sri Lanka: Some traditional methods. Crocodile Specialist Group Newsletter. Vol: 30. No: 1. IUCN - Species Survival Commission. pp.28-31.
2) Rohanadeera, M., 2007. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. VIII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-64-3. pp.58-75.

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