Gokanna Viharaya

Gokanna Viharaya
Gõkanna Raja Maha Viharaya (Sinhala: ගෝකන්න රජමහා විහාරය) is a Buddhist temple situated within Fort Fredrick in Trincomalee District, Sri Lanka.

Gõkanna is the ancient name used to identify the present Trincomalee. According to chronicles, the landing place of Panduvasudeva in the 5th century B.C. was Gõkannatittha at the mouth of the Mahakandara River (Nicholas, 1963). On this coast, King Mahasena (274-301 A.D.) built the Gõkanna Viharaya after destroying a Brahmanical temple at the site (De Silva, 2006; Kannangara, 1984; Nicholas, 1963). King Aggabodhi V (718-724 A.D.) erected a practising house at the Gõkanna temple (Nicholas, 1963).

Gokanna Sanskrit Inscription
An inscription written in the Sanskrit language was found on a stone door-frame of the ancient Gõkanna ruins (Medhananda, 2003). Dated on Friday, the 14th of April 1223, it contained a record by Chodagangadeva (Medhananda, 2003; Nicholas, 1963).

Arakan monks in Trincomalee & the destruction of the temple
A connection between Trincomalee and Arakan monks (Burma) is revealed in the records by the 17th-century Portuguese chronicler Fernao de Queyroz where he stated that the state (of Trincomalee) and the maritime areas including the surroundings of the temples (pagodes) were subject to Mahaterunnanse of Arakan and the temples were administered by the Ganezes (Ganinnanse: non-ordained Buddhist monks) of the sect of Budum [(Buddha) De Silva, 2006]. The chief of the Genezes who was Terunnanse was converted by Francis Xavier during his visit to Trincomalee (De Silva, 2006). He further mentions that the Portuguese General Constantino de Sa dismantled and destroyed the temple at Trincomalee where Fort Fredrick stands today (De Silva, 2006).

The events described by Queyroz fall between 1553, when Francis Xavier could have visited Trincomalee, and 1623/4 when Portuguese General Constantino de Sa built Fort Fredrick by using the stonework of demolished temples (De Silva, 2006).

The site
Presently, a modern Stupa and a standing Buddha statue along with a few ancient artefacts are found within the temple premises. Part of a broken standing Buddha image, a pedestal and Siri Pathul Gal (stone-carved footprints of the Buddha) dating to the Anuradhapura Period are found placed against a wall in the site where the Stupa stands (Haramoto et al., 2015). A small hall at the entrance of the temple accommodates a seated Buddha statue presented to the temple from Thailand.

Gokanna Viharaya
1) LankaPradeepa.com would like to thank Vishwa Sri Jayasinghe for providing the necessary photographs required for this article. All the photos are published here with the permission of the author.

1) De Silva, D.G.B., 2006. A Study on Trincomalee in the 16th and 17th centuries with special reference to relations with Arakan as revealed by Portuguese Sources. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 52, pp.175-208.
2) Haramoto, T.; Inouchi, C.; Koizumi, Y.; Fukuyama, Y., 2015. Survey Report on the Protection and Utilisation of Cultural Property in the Northern and Northeastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage. pp.61-62.
3) Kannangara, E.T., 1984. Jaffna and the Sinhala Heritage. ISBN:955-95048-3-5.p.34.
4) Medhananda, E., 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.73,494-495.
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.44.

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This page was last updated on 11 April 2023

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