Saturday, 12 March 2022

Kuchchaveli Viharaya

Kuchchaveli Viharaya
Ancient Kuchchaveli Stupa (Photo credit: Pasindu Chathurange, Google street view)

Samudragiri Pichchamal Viharaya (also known as Kuchchaveli Viharaya) is a Buddhist temple situated on a rocky cliff by the side of the Kuchchaweli sea in Trincomalee District, Sri Lanka. The Kuchchaveli Police Station is located very close to the temple premises.

History
Excavations done at the site have unearthed the ruins of an image house and several other buildings. A standing Buddha statue made of rock and heads of two Buddha statues were discovered buried in the ground of the image house (Medhananda, 2003). According to the view of Medhananda, these statues display artistic features of the 2nd century A.D. (Medhananda, 2003). A few Roman coins belonging to the 4th century A.D. have also been found around these statues (Medhananda, 2003).
 
A Sanskrit rock inscription discovered from the site has been dated by scholars to the 5-8th centuries A.D. (Dhammaratana, 2000; Paranavitana, 1933).
 
Folklore
Locals link the history of this temple to the reign of King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.). They believe that the Pichchamal flowers used to offer to the Ruwanweliseya Stupa in Anuradhapura have been brought from this place.
 
Kuchchaveli Sanskrit Inscription
At the temple premises, there is a small boulder sloping inwards and in front of it is a second boulder. The area between these two boulders forms a hollow that is now partially filled with sand (Paranavitana, 1933). On the sloping side of the first boulder, an area of about 4 ft. square has been partitioned into 16 compartments of equal proportions and each of them contains a Stupa carved in low relief (Paranavitana, 1933). The Sanskrit inscription has been engraved to the left of this sculpture.

The Kuchchaveli inscription is considered the earliest Sanskrit inscription in Sri Lanka (Dhammaratana, 2000; Paranavitana, 1933). It consists of 8 lines and the characters used in it belong to a script not known from any other document (Paranavitana, 1933). Some of them bear a close resemblance to the corresponding forms of the early Grantha alphabet of South India but the script, as a whole, is by no means identical with any of the known South Indian alphabets (Dhammaratana, 2000; Paranavitana, 1933). The closest parallel to the script of this inscription is found in the votive inscription on the pavement slabs of the Yatala Stupa at Tissamaharama (Paranavitana, 1933).
 
The record states the pious wish of its author that by the merit he acquired (evidently by making the carved Stupa figures on the rock), he may become a Buddha in the future for the deliverance of suffering humanity (Dhammaratana, 2000; Paranavitana, 1933). The author is not mentioned in the inscription. However, the wish shows that the author of this record was a Buddhist attached to the Mahayana sect. (Dhammaratana, 2000; Paranavitana, 1933). Generally, it is the Mahayana Buddhists who aspire for Buddhahood (Dhammaratana, 2000).

Conservation
The Department of Archaeology began conservation works at this site in 1978. In 1984, they took over the modern rest house building located among the ancient monuments. Artifacts discovered from the site had been conserved in a building insitu and it was taken over by the Sri Lanka Navy after the Kucchaveli Police Station was attacked in 1985 by LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), a militant group designated as a terrorist organization by a number of countries including Sri Lanka, India, the USA and the EU.
References
1) Dhammaratana, I., 2000. Sanskrit Inscriptions in Sri Lanka: A thesis submitted to the University of Pune in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sanskrit. Department of Sanskrit & Prakrit Languages, University of Pune, India. pp.179-186.
2) 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.351-355.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1933. Kuccaveli rock inscription. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being Lithic and Other Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. III. Printed at the Department of Government Printing, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) for the Archeological Department. pp.158-161.

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This page was last updated on 12 March 2022
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