Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Galapatha Raja Maha Viharaya

Galapatha Viharaya
Galapatha Viharaya (Photo credit: Kanishka Dilshan, Google Street View)

Galapatha Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: ගලපාත රජ මහා විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated in Kahagalla village near Bentota Ganga river in Galle District, Sri Lanka.

History
Tooth relic of Arhat Maha Kassapa Thera
According to local tradition, the Stupa at Galapatha Viharaya preserves a tooth of Arhat Maha Kassapa Thera, one of the principal disciples of Gautama Buddha (Ayrton, 1920; Paranavitana, 1934). It is mentioned in a Kavya (poem) named Dharmawattaja Jataka that the tooth relic of Arhat Maha Kassapa Thera had reached Sri Lanka from India and was in Anuradhapura until it was brought to Galapatha Viharaya by a certain Arhat (Ayrton, 1920). King Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C.), after hearing about this tooth-relic, sent his brother Saddhatissa (137-119 B.C.) to erect a Stupa for it (Ayrton, 1920). The present Stupa at the site is believed to be the one built by Saddhatissa (Ayrton, 1920). It is also said that King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.) gave offerings to the temple and King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 A.D.) granted a coconut garden reaching from Bentota to Kalu Ganga river to it (Ayrton, 1920).

The chronicle Mahavamsa has mentioned the Galapatha temple by the name Bhimatittha Viharaya of Pancayojana or Pasyodun District (Ayrton, 1920; Nicholas, 1963). It says that King Parakramabahu II (1236-1270 A.D.) celebrated a festival of three days at this temple in honour of the tooth relic of the Arhat Maha Kassapa Thera (Ayrton, 1920; Muller, 1883; Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 1934). Later the king sent his general Devapathiraja to execute some repairs to the temple (Ayrton, 1920). The chronicle Pujavaliya also provides similar information regarding the offerings made to the tooth relic at Galapatha Viharaya (Ayrton, 1920; Paranavitana, 1934).

Destruction & the establishment of the modern temple
As happened to the other Buddhist shrines on the western seaboard, the Galapatha temple is also believed to have been vandalized by the Portuguese who had the control of several coastal areas of the island during the period between 1597-1658 (Paranavitana, 1934; Ranchagoda, 2015). The present temple at the site was established in the 19th century A.D. (Paranavitana, 1934).

Galapatha Viharaya rock inscription
This inscription has been engraved on the rock by the side of the flight of steps leading to the monastic buildings at the temple. It consists of 28 lines of writing and covers an area measuring 11 ft. 9 in. by 5 ft. (Paranavitana, 1934). According to the view of S. Ranawella, the script and the language of this record is Sinhala of the 13th century (Ranawella, 2014).

The inscription is dated in the 13th regnal year of a king styled Sirisangabo Parakramabahu Cakravarti (Paranavitana, 1934; Ranawella, 2014). H.C.P. Bell and S. Ranawella identified this king as Parakramabahu II (1236-1270 A.D.) of Dambadeniya while S. Paranavitana tended to ascribe this record to the reign of King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.) of Polonnaruwa (Paranavitana, 1934; Ranawella, 2014; Ranchagoda, 2015).

As the inscription itself testifies, Galapatha Viharaya is a foundation of the 12th or 13th century (Paranavitana, 1934). It states that a dignitary named Mindal (Mahendra) who held the office of Demala-adhikara and was administering the Pasyodun District founded the Galapatha Viharaya with the royal assent and with the co-operation of his mother, his nephews Kodanavan of Miyangunubim (Mahiyangana) and Vijayanavan of Degalaturubim (Degaldoruwa) and his kinsman Katuvitna Satumba or Devu (Paranavitana, 1934). It also gives a long list of lands and serfs granted to the temple by its founders and ends with the signatures of the donors and of the witnesses to the document (Paranavitana, 1934).

A protected site
The ancient Buddha shrine and Dagoba within the precincts of Galapatha Raja Maha Vihara situated in Kahagalla village in the Bentota Divisional Secretary Division are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government gazette notification published on 6 June 2008. 

Galapatha Viharaya
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References
1) Ayrton, E.R., 1920. Antiquities in the Southern Province. The Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register. Vol: VI. pp.40-43.
2) Muller, E., 1883. Ancient Inscriptions in Ceylon. London. p.71.
3) 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.73.
4) Paranavitana, S., 1934. Galapata Vihara Rock-Inscription. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being Lithic and Other Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. IV. The Archeological Department. pp.196-211.
5) Ranawella, S., 2014. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon: Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. VII. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-9159-62-9. pp.8-13.
6) Ranchagoda, T. O., 2015. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Galla Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-53-4. pp.6-9.
7) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1553. 6 June 2008. p.524.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 30 June 2022

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