Dimbulagala Viharaya

Dimbulagala Viharaya
Dimbulagala Viharaya , ancient Dhumarakkhapabbata, Udumbarapabbata or Udumbarasala-pabbata (Sinhala: දිඹුලාගල රජ මහා විහාරය; Tamil: திம்புலாகலை ரஜ மகா விகாரை), is a Buddhist monastery situated in Dimbulagala mountain site (or Gunner's Quoin hill) in Polonnaruwa District, Sri Lanka. The largest inscription recorded in the country was discovered in July 2023 in the forest of this monastery. It is an Early Brahmi Rock Inscription (45 feet long and 18 feet high) belonging to the beginning of the 2nd century B.C. or earlier.

Early period
As mentioned in chronicles such as Mahavamsa, Pandukabhaya, the first traditional monarch in Sri Lanka is said to have lived at this place for 4 years in the 5th century B.C. and there was a pond named Tumbariyangana at the foot of the mountain (Adithiya, 1986; Nicholas, 1963). It is also said that Jutindhara, a leader of the Yaksa tribe who lived in Dimbulagala cave during the reign of Pandukabhaya was reborn as a deity in the same cave (Wikramagamage, 2004).
Buddhist temple
Although there are no proper details about the establishment of the Buddhist temple at Dimbulagala mountain, the Early Brahmi Inscriptions discovered on the many caves on its slope reveal that there was an ancient Buddhist monastery established in the 3rd or early in the 2nd century B.C. (Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 1970).
Dimbulagala Maravidiya cave inscription of Citta
Period: 3rd-2nd century B.C.                Script: Early Brahmi                Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: Parumaka pusha jhitaya upashika Citaya lene shagasha.
Translation: The cave of the female lay devotee Citta, daughter of the chief Pussa [is given] to the Buddhist monks.
Citation: Paranavitana, 1970. p.22.

The Buddhist temple at Dimbulagala is mentioned in the Tika in which it says that the Lovamahapaya at Anuradhapura was visible from the site (Nicholas, 1963). The monk Kuntagatta Tissa Thera who chaired the Sangha council held at Matale Alu Viharaya is said to have lived in Dimbulagala under the patronage of King Valagamba [(89-77 B.C.) Wikramagamage, 2004]. Arhat Maliyadeva, the last Arhat in Sri Lanka is believed to have lived in Sanda-maha-lena (the great Moon cave) at Dimbulagala Viharaya (Wikramagamage, 2004).
King Mahanama (406-428 A.D.) is said to have built some buildings at Dhumarakkha mountain (Dimbulagala) and bestowed them to the Buddhist monks of Theravada school (Adithiya, 1986; Nicholas, 1963; Wijesekara, 1945). A rock inscription of Sundara-Mahadevi, the chief queen of King Vikramabahu (1111-1132 A.D. and the mother of King Gajabahu II (1132-1153 A.D.) at the site reveals that she caused the construction of a road at Dimbulagala between Sanda-maha-lena (the great Moon cave) and Hiru-maha-lena (the great Sun cave) and paved it with stone (Adithiya, 1986; Ranawella, 2007). She also built cave temples with statues, Stupas and sacred Bo trees (Ranawella, 2007). According to the inscription, the monastery at the time was known as Dumbulagala and 500 monks were in residence there (Nicholas, 1963; Ranawella, 2007).

As revealed by the Gal Vihara Ordinance, in the 12th century A.D., King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.) carried out a purge of the religious order with the help of the Mahathera Kassapa of Udumbaragiri (Dimbulagala) Viharaya (Adithiya, 1986; Nicholas, 1963; Ranawella, 2007). In the reign of King Vijayabahu II (1232-1236 A.D.), a monk named Medhankara Maha Thera from this temple took a leading part in disciplinary reforms of the Sangha (Adithiya, 1986). Again in the following reign of King Parakramabahu II (1236-1270 A.D.) Medhankara Mahasami of Dimbulagala assisted the king to restore order in the Sangha (Adithiya, 1986; Nicholas, 1963).
Dimbulagala was popular during the 12th-15th centuries as a monastery that provided education for the local Buddhist monks and for those from abroad. A historical record in Thailand have mentioned the visit of a Mon monk to Udumbaragiri monastery (Dimbulagala) and his return to establish a new monastery in the Mon state in modern, southern Myanmar (Kittikant, 2012).
Recent History
The ruined temple which was lost in the wilderness for a long period of time was explored in 1897 by H.C.P. Bell, the then Commissioner of Archaeology (Wijesekara, 1945). It saw the light of development when the Buddhist monk named Kitalagama Silalankara Thera arrived at the site in 1954 (Wikramagamage, 2004). 
Buddhist murals
Remains of some Buddhist murals have been found in two caves with white plaster walls known as Maravidiya at Dimbulagala Viharaya (Wijesekara, 1945; Wikramagamage, 2004). They belonged to the 12th century A.D. (Somathilake, 2013). In 1954, a religious fanatic damaged the paintings in Maravidiya caves by applying a liberal coating of cow dung on them (Godakumbura, 1969).
Maravidiya cave no. 1
A fragment of painting is preserved on the sidewall to the right. It shows the Buddha seated on a raised cushioned dias under an arch in the Dyana Mudra. To the left of the Buddha are three figures in an attitude of worship (Wijesekara, 1945). Another large figure of the seated Buddha surrounded by a number of figures is found in the same cave (Wijesekara, 1945). A design of a frieze of geese arranged in a row one behind the other is also found.
Maravidiya cave no. 2
On the sidewall to the right, the final phase of the Sasa Jataka is painted (Wijesekara, 1945). It depicts the God Sakka is portraying on the full moon the image of the hare. In the same cave is another painting showing a figure of a man holding with his left hand on the trunk of an elephant. This possibly depicts a scene from the Vessantara Jataka (Wijesekara, 1945).

Pre-historic painting
A pre-historic cave painting depicting a figure resembling a king has been discovered at the site (Adithiya, 1986; Wikramagamage, 2004). The figure sits on a seat and something like a crown or headdress is found on his head (Adithiya, 1986). A stick with three leaves similar to Bo leaves is held by the left hand of the figure (Adithiya, 1986). Eleven symbols (probably pre-Brahmi scripts) have been drawn around the figure (Adithiya, 1986; Wikramagamage, 2004).

See also

1) Dimbulagala Temple by Astronomyinertia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
1) Adithiya, L.A., 1986. Antiquarian note: Dimbulagala man. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Sri Lanka Branch, 31, pp.155-162.
2) Godakumbura, C. E., 1969. History of archaeology in Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol XIII). Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). p.36.
3) Kittikant, T., 2012. Udumbaragiri and its relationship in Sukothai architecture. Damrong Journal of The Faculty of Archaeology Silpakorn University, 11(2), pp.170-194.
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). pp.40-41.
5) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). Department of Archaeology Ceylon. pp.22-23.
6) Ranawella, S., 2007. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume VI. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-61-2. pp.20-21,30-40.
7) Somathilake, M., 2013. Painted Jataka stories of ancient Sri Lanka. International Journal of Arts and Commerce Vol. 2 No. 6. pp.139-150.
8) Wijesekara, N., 1945. Early Sinhalese Paintings. A thesis submitted for the Ph. D. of the Culcutta University. pp.11-13,120-123.
9) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.249-251.
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This page was last updated on 18 February 2024
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