Samalankulama Archaeological Site

Samalankulama Archaeological Site
Samalankulama: The modern Hindu shrine (left), the conserved Stupa mound [(right) Photo credit: Google Street View]

Samalankulama Archaeological Site (Sinhala: සමලන්කුලම පුරාවිද්‍යා ස්ථානය) is a ruined Buddhist monastery site situated near Samalankulama Wewa in Vavuniya District, Sri Lanka. Presently, a modern Hindu shrine has been set up at the site.

The site contains the remains of two Stupa mounds and an image house belonging to the Anuradhapura Period (Mathew, 1983). The Department of Archaeology recovered a bronze statue of Avalokiteshwara Bodhisattva and a fragment of a Buddha statue during the process of excavation and conservation of the image house at the site (Haramoto et al., 2015; Mathew, 1983; Schroeder, 1990). The Bodhisattva statue is presently preserved at the Vavuniya Archaeological Museum (Haramoto et al., 2015).

The archaeological excavations carried out at the site revealed that the monastery contains structures belonging to two periods (Mathew, 1983). The remains of the Stupa show an octagonal and hexagonal lower structure on a square platform that is rarely found elsewhere in the country (Haramoto et al., 2015).

The illegal occupation and construction of a Hindu shrine
Although this is an ancient Buddhist monastery site, a modern Kovil (Hindu shrine) named Samalamkulam Pillaiyar Kovil has been erected over the ruins by locals (Haramoto et al., 2015). Cyril Mathew [the Minister of Industries & Scientific Affairs (1977-1984)] who made an appeal to UNESCO in 1983 regarding the destruction and unlawful occupation of cultural sites in the country recorded in his report the situation of the Samalankulama site (Mathew, 1983). Besides mentioning the new Hindu shrine that was being constructed at Samalankulama, he also recorded the wanton damage that had been done to the site by locals and about obstacles in conducting archaeological works (Mathew, 1983). The report has the following documents;

#) The letter of the Government Agent Vavuniya that was sent to the Commissioner of Archaeology on 10 October 1978. It mentions the construction of a new Hindu shrine over the ruined structure of the Samalankulama Buddhist monastery.
#) The police report and inquiry notes dated 17 November 1978 about the building of the new Hindu shrine and damaging the ancient remains at the site.

In 2018 unrest occurred when the Kovil authority started to renovate and expand its structures by removing ancient ruins after receiving funds from local Tamil politicians.

Samalankulama Archaeological Site
1) 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. p.65.
2) Mathew, C.C., 1983. An Appeal to UNESCO to Safeguard and Preserve the Cultural Property in Sri Lanka Endangered by Racial Prejudice, Unlawful Occupation, Or Wilful Destruction. p.xviii.
3) Schroeder, U.V., 1990. Buddhist Sculptures of Sri Lanka. Visual Dharma Publications Ltd., Hong Kong, 1992. p.264.

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This page was last updated on 18 April 2023

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