Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sithulpawwa Viharaya

Sithulpawwa Viharaya
Sithulpawwa Viharaya is a Buddhist temple situated in the Ruhuna National Park in Hambantota District, Sri Lanka.

History
Sithulpawwa Viharaya has been identified as the ancient Cittalapabbata Vihara that is mentioned in local chronicles and commentaries (Abeyawardana, 2004; Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 1983). This is confirmed by an inscription in the temple premises which records the ancient name of this temple as Citalapavata Vihara (Nicholas, 1963). According to the chronicle Mahavamsa, Kavantissa, the ruler of Rohana early in the 2nd century B.C. established the temple (Abeyawardana, 2004; Nicholas, 1963). The Stupa at Maha Situlpawwa rock is believed to have been constructed by Kavantissa (Abeyawardana, 2004).

Phussadeva, Nandhimitta, and Velusumana, three of the ten paladins of King Dutugemunu (161-137 A.D.) have their links to this temple. Phussadeva is said to have come from the village Gavita, near Cittalapabbata and the names of him as well as Nandimitta and Velusumana are mentioned in cave inscriptions in situ, belonging to the 2nd and 1st century B.C. (Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 1970; Ray, 1959). A Stupa called Tissatthera-cetiya which is believed to have been erected on the relics of a Samanera who became Arahant is found in the temple premises (Nicholas, 1963). During the reign of King Valagamba (103 and 89-77 B.C.) there had been 12, 000 Buddhist monks living at this temple (Abeyawardana, 2004). A meditation hall named Ninkaponna-padhanaghara is said to have existed here in the 1st century A.D. (Nicholas, 1963).

King Vasabha (67-111 A.D.) built 10 attendant Stupas in Cittalakuta (Cittalapabbata) Vihara and as recorded in an inscription, King Mahallaka Naga (135-141 A.D.) have endowed land to the temple and constructed a Stupa there (Abeyawardana, 2004; Nicholas, 1963). King Dappula (661-664 A.D.) granted a village named Gonnavitthi to the temple (Nicholas, 1963). Kuravakagalla, where the troops of Parakramabahu I (reigned:1153-1186 A.D.) and Sugala encountered, is probably Korawakgala, one of the hills in the present Sithulpawwa entourage (Nicholas, 1963).

Inscriptions
A large number of inscriptions (cave, rock etc.) have been discovered from the temple premises as well as from the areas located vicinity such as Koravakgala, Dekundara Wewa etc (Dias, 1991; Paranavitana, 1970; Paranavitana, 1983). There are 19 early-Brahmi inscriptions in Situlpawwa, 27 in Koravakgala and 19 in the area near Dekundara Wewa (Paranavitana, 1970). 

In one of the cave inscriptions in Koravakgala, the Senapathi Mita (Mitta) of King Devanapiya Abaya is mentioned (Paranavitana, 1970; Ray, 1959). This Senapathi Mita is said to be Nandimitta, the chief commander of King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.) whose personal name was Abhaya (Paranavitana, 1970; Ray, 1959).
 
Period: 2nd-1st century B.C.                Script: Early Brahmi                Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: Devanapiya-rajha-Abayasha shenapati parumaka Mitasha lene agata-anagata-catu-dish-shagasha dine (a symbol).
Translation: The cave of the chief Mitta, the Commander-in-Chief of King Abhaya, the Friend of the Gods, is given to the Sangha of the four quarters, present and absent.
Citation: Paranavitana, 1970. p.47.

Five rock inscriptions belonging to the period of 5-6th century A.D. have been recorded on a boulder near the pond to the east of Maha Situlpawwa Stupa and one of them contains the ancient name of this temple (Dias, 1991). 

Period: 5-6th century A.D.                Script: Later Brahmi                Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: (1) Siddham (1) ma Citala pavama visitiya kahavana dina (2) ......ralaya pavataya m(e) Citala pavama (3) pala sava satanata.
Translation: Prosperity, Twenty Kahapanas were given for the maintenance of the compulsory service in (this) Citala pava (monastery). May the merit be shared by all beings.
Citation: Dias, 1991. p.92.

Ruins and artefacts
A large number of ancient remains of about 3rd century B.C. to about the 10th century are found scattered on the main hill of Sithulpawwa as well as on and around the adjoining hills of Korawakgala and Dekundara Wewa (Paranavitana, 1983). Caves, ruined Stupas, and stone pillars marking the sites of buildings are found among these ruins.
 
Bodhisattva statue
A Bodhisattva figure, in the round, has been discovered from Situlpawwa Viharaya (Ray, 1959). Carved out of gneiss, the statue is 1.93 in height (Chutiwongs et al., 2011) It has been dated by scholars to a time between the late 8th and early 9th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al., 2011). A statue with similar features has also been reported from Kurukkalmadam in Batticaloa District (Ray, 1959).
 
A fragment of painting
A fragmentary painting belonging to the Anuradhapura Period has been found on the roof of the rock-shelter image house in Situlpawwa (Bandara, 2020). It depicts a scene of a conversation between two monks (Bandara, 2020).

Attribution
1) IMG_5875 by firesock is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

References
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.129-130. 
2) Bandara, J., 2020. Religion in Colors: Buddhist Paintings in Sri Lanka. International Journal of Arts, 10(2). pp.39-42.
3) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2011. Sri Lanka Murthi: Bodhisattva (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Bodhisattva). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural and the Arts. pp.90-91.
4) Dias, M., 1991. Epigraphical notes (Nos 1 -18). Colombo: Department of Archaeology. pp.91-92.
5) 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.63.
6) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). Department of Archaeology Ceylon. pp.lxx-lxxii,46-50,94.
7) Paranavitana, S., 1983. Situlpavu rock-inscription of (Mahana)ga. Inscriptions of Ceylon, Late Brahmi Inscriptions, 2 (part 1). Archaeological Survey of Sri Lanka. pp.51-53. 
8) Ray, H. C. (Editor in Chief), 1959. University of Ceylon: History of Ceylon (Vol 1, part I). Ceylon University Press. pp.155,403.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 11 April 2021
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

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