Vedukkunaari Malai Archaeological Site

Vedukkunaari Malai Archaeological Site is situated in the woods of Paalamotai Nainamadu Forest Reserve in Olumadu near Nedunkeni in Vavuniya District,
Vedukkunari Malai Archaeological Site

Vedukkunaari Malai Archaeological Site, also known as Vaddamana Parwatha Viharaya or Vaddamana Pabbatha Viharya (Sinhala: වඩ්ඩමාන පබ්බත පුරාවිද්‍යා ස්ථානය), is situated in the woods of Paalamotai Nainamadu Forest Reserve in Olumadu near Nedunkeni in Vavuniya District, Sri Lanka.


The small hill site consists of the ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery belonging to the Anuradhapura Period. There are about a dozen caves with cut drip ledges and all are of very rough workmanship (Bell, 1905). No inscriptions are on the hill, but three Early Brahmi Inscriptions of the period between the 3rd century B.C.-1st century A.D. were discovered in two large caves located 100 yards to the north and they record the donation of the caves to the community of Buddhist monks (Sangha) who were present and absent (Bell, 1905; Medhananda, 2003; Paranavitana, 1970).

Period: 3rd century B.C.-1st century A.D.                   Script: Early Brahmi                  Language: Old Sinhala
I) Transcription: Maha-Shamuda-puta-Gutasha lene shagasha Parumaka-Bamadata-putaha Mahaguta[ha] lene
Translation: The cave of Gutta, son of Maha-Samudda, [is given] to the Sangha. The cave of Maha-Gutta, son of chief Brahmadatta.
II) Transcription: Bata-Cudi-Tishaha lene
Translation: The cave of lord Cula-Tissa.
III) Transcription: Parumaka-Pushamita-puta[ha] mahalene agata-anagata-cadu-[disha]-shagasha
Translation: The great cave of the son of the chief Phussamitta, [is given] to the Sangha of the four quarters, present and absent.
Citation: Paranavitana, 1970. p.27.

Ancient Buddhist Monastery Ruins 

There are small boulders at the foot of the hill on the east and several rock-cut socket holes to hold wooden pillars are found on them (Bell, 1905). Just above this, on the track up the hill, there is a slab with a cut cistern in it (Bell, 1905). The rock beneath which the caves are holloed is the highest in the group and it rises to about 50 ft. from the ground level (Bell, 1905). The brick debris on the top of it shows that there was a Dagoba (Bell, 1905).

Medhananda Thera who visited Vedukkunaari Malai in 1964 and 1973 also records three inscriptions and the Buddhist ruins scattered at the site (Medhananda, 2003). He mentioned about two ruined Dagobas at the site which were destroyed by the vandals who had searched for treasures in their domes (Medhananda, 2003). According to Medhananda Thera, one Dagoba was 11 ft. in height with a circumference of 46 ft. and the other was 21 ft. in circumference and 6 ft. in height (Medhananda, 2003). He further mentions that he observed a Siri Pathul Gala (a carved footprint of the Buddha) at the site during his visit in 1964 but it was missing when he came to visit the site in 1973 (Medhananda, 2003).


The site during the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009)

The Vedukkunaari Malai archaeological site is situated in the middle of a thick jungle and the area was not accessible for archaeologists or devotees since the 1980s due to the presence of the cadres of LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), a militant group designated as a terrorist organization by several countries including Sri Lanka, India, the USA and the EU. After the LTTE was defeated by government forces in 2009, the site was again accessible to visitors.

Re-identification of the site

The place was rediscovered and re-identified by the Department of Archaeology after 2009.

Constructing a modern Hindu shrine: Vedukunaarimalai Aathilingeswarar Temple

After the civil war, the site came to the attention of local people who later established a small place of worship there, by installing some Hindu idols such as images, tridents and Siva Lingas over the ancient ruins. This resulted in some damage to the archaeological site as the Hindu devotees started to alter the original context of the site by removing and dismantling the bricks of the ancient monuments including the ruined Dagoba on the top of the hill where they installed a Siva Linga. The forest around the drip-ledged caves was also cleared by them.

Unrest arose in 2018 when Buddhist parties started to claim the site as a part of their heritage. The Archaeological Department, according to their regulations, stopped the activities of Hindu devotees to cease further damage to the site by reporting the situation to the Nadunkeni Police Station. Also, a written request by the Vavuniya North Divisional Secretary to build a new Hindu shrine near the ruined site was rejected by the Department.


However, with the patronage of local politicians and ignoring the legal status of an archaeological site, local devotees carried out their religious activities there since 2018 altering and damaging the original context of the ruined site. The drip-ledged caves which are found as a common feature of every ancient Buddhist monastery around the country were converted into the shelters of the Hindu idols. In April 2023, the dilapidated Dagoba mound on the top of the hill was flattened by locals to set up a Siva Linga.


1) Bell, H.C,P,. 1905. Annual Report. Archeological Survey of Ceylon: North-Central, Central and Northern Provinces. pp.31-32,49.
2) 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.409-412.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscriptions of Ceylon: Volume I: Early Brahmi Inscriptions. Department of Archaeology Ceylon. p.29.

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This page was last updated on 3 April 2023

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