Saturday, 3 July 2021

Kota Vehera, Deliwala

Deliwala Kota Vehera is an ancient Stupa located in the village of Deliwala in Kegalle District, Sri Lanka. It is considered as one of the earliest Stupas in the country.

This temple is believed to have been constructed during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa [(250-210 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2002]. Bricks with masonry marks in Brahmi letters and some seal-impressed coins discovered from the site have confirmed that the Deliwala temple has a long history extending to the pre-Christian era (Abeyawardana, 2002).

The temple was destroyed during the period of invasions carried out by Magha (1215–1236 A.D.) of Kalinga (Abeyawardana, 2002). It was restored again during the Buddhist renaissance in the Kandyan Period (Abeyawardana, 2002).

The Stupa and findings
The colossal Stupa can be identified as the most interesting monument of the temple. It is a Kota Vehera styled Stupa (a squat Stupa) constructed of solid earth (natural mound of bedrock) thinly faced with brick (Bell, 1904; Borell, 2017; Karunaratne, 1990). As recorded by Bell, the circumference of the Stupa at its base is 213 yards [(194.76 m) Bell, 1904; Karunaratne, 1990].
Between 1972-1978, the Stupa was excavated and conserved by the Archaeological Department (Abeyawardana, 2002). However, some parts of it were collapsed in 1998 compelling the Department to carry out further excavations during the latter part of 2000 (Abeyawardana, 2002).

The golden casket
In 1957, five stone caskets were discovered at the level of the top terrace of the Stupa base just below the dome of the Stupa (Borell, 2017). One of them contained a golden casket of about 7-8 cm tall in the shape of a miniature Stupa as well as two small reliquaries made of rock crystal (Abeyawardana, 2002; Borell, 2017). The golden casket found special attention among scholars and it helped them to understand the shape of the early Stupas in the country (Abeyawardana, 2002; Ray, 1959). The appearance of the casket is similar to the ancient Indian Stupas such as to the well-known monument at Sanchi (Ray, 1959). As seen in the Sanchi Stupa, the casket from Deliwala has a railing encompassing it at the base (Ray, 1959). Scholars have dated it to the 1st century B.C. if not earlier (Borell, 2017).

Meanwhile, the other four stone caskets contained about 165 small reliquaries made of rock crystal, or other stones of the quartz group, or glass [(possibly) Borell, 2017].

The piece of cloth
In the years 2000-2001, the Department of Archaeology carried out excavations on the eastern side of the Stupa mound and found a reliquary deposit within the dome (Borell, 2017). Reliquaries made of gold, rock crystal, and glass were among the findings and the small bronze replica of a Stupa covered with a cloth embossed with beads was of special interest (Borell, 2017). On the invitation of the Department of Archaeology, Judith Cameron from the University of Canberra, Australia analyzed the cloth and the results revealed it as one of the oldest pieces of cloth in the Asian region (Perera, 2011). Scholars dated the ceramic containers found from this deposit to the 2nd century B.C. (Borell, 2017).

A protected site
The Kota Vehera Stupa situated in Deliwala village in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Rambukkana is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 8 July 15 October 1948.

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2002. Heritage of Sabaragamuwa: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Sabaragamuwa Development Bank and The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-077-7. pp.84,134-135.
2)  Bell, H.C.P., 1904. Report on the Kegalle District of the Province of Sabaragamuwa. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: XIX-1892. Government Press, Sri Lanka. pp.18,38.
3) Borell, B. 2017. A Unique Glass Object from a Buddhist Context in Sri Lanka. In: Annales du 20e Congrès de l'Association International pour l'Histoire du Verre, Fribourg 7-11 September 2015. pp. 640-646.
4) Karunaratne, D.W.S., 1990. History of Department: 1890-1910. (Editor in chief: Wijesekara, N.) Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): History of the Department of Archaeology: Vol. 1. Commissioner of Archaeology. p.6.
5) Perera, N., 2011. New Evidence for Indian Ocean Trade based on recent excavations in Sri Lanka. Conference on Ports of the Indian ocean from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Bengal. Archaeological Survey of India in Kolkata.
6) Ray, H. C. (Editor in Chief), 1959. University of Ceylon: History of Ceylon (Vol 1, part I). Ceylon University Press. p.260.
7) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, no: 9912. 15 October 1948.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 27 February 2022
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map


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