Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sinhalese Buddhist Heritage in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka: Part-II

Eastern Province:Part-II
Kōngala Temple

This ancient temple too is located in Ampara District in the Kumbukkan Oya basin.  There is no proper road to reach the place. The Kumana village can be reached from Panama through Ōkanda, Yodalipa, Kuluwana, Bagurekalapuwa, Andarakalapuwa and Atikalapuwa.   When the village Kumana was in existence there was a gravel road to reach the place. The Kōngala ruins comprises of two sites.    
Nelumpath Pokuna (Lotus petals pond)  
The pond is located on the top of a Rock Mountain which is 286 feet toll. There are two large ponds on the top of the rock which has constant flow of water even in the dry season, which has turned into a favorite water hole for wild animals.  The extensive damages caused to the two stupes (pagodas) on the top of the rocks suggest that they have not been spared by the treasure hunters.  The remnants of stone pillars of some buildings, base stones (Padamgal), some remaining parts of brick walls can be seen in the location. Most of the ruins are covered with thick jungle. One of the inscriptions found in the place belongs to the king Kanista Thissa (167-186). As per the inscription the ancient name of the Nelumpath Pokuna (Lotus pond) was Gosagalamahavihara. The inscription says that the Water Revenue collected from the place called Manakaraka has been donated to the temple for its maintenance.   
The ruins of the Kōngala Vihara are located about 1 ½ km south to the Nelumpath Pokuna on a mountain which is about 275 feet toll. There are piles of bricks of about 04 Stupa . The most important archeological ruins found in the place are cave inscriptions and rock inscriptions. There are 14 caves inscriptions and 04 rock inscriptions. The cave inscriptions say that donors belonging to different standings in the society donated the caves to the Maha Sangha. Another inscription mentions a donation of a cave by persons belonging to 08 casts who were from Uthi Nagraya (Uthi city). Another inscription mentions about a donation of gold coins while another says about donation of gold coins for 'Vaharala'. The third inscription mentions about having a place called Mangalachethiya built. This inscription also says about donation of gold coins and paddy lands. The sheer volume of ruins strewn around the area and the inscriptions suggest that the temple had once been a magnificent place of worship for the Buddhists in the island.  

Cave inscriptions- f,ka ,sms
1' W;s k.rsfhk wgl=,y f,fK Y.Y
2' ukY f,fK Y.Y osfk
3' .ym;s Y;l ;sY mq;k ;sKsn;slk f,fK
4' .m;s mqY,s mq;k
   ñ;fYkY mqYY
5' WmYl bo.=YY p WmYsl o;h p f,fK
   Y.Y kshf;
6' n; Y=uk o;Y f,fK Y.Y osfk
7' .ñl ;sY mq;y n; ;sYñ;y f,fK
8' nuK w;su;ly f,fK Y.Y
9' .m;s uKslr ;sYy mq; mreul fjYy f,fK
10' w.; wk.; p;=osY Y.Y osfk
11' ksYsfu
12' mreu; fidKy f,fK
13' n; jYy f,fK
14' .m;s osk mq; bisoy f,fK
    Yl,y fidKh f,fK

Rock Inscriptions- .srs,sms
1' fp;s.fhys jikh khu l,kys nK já
2' h fldgq oi lyjK osk fu lyjKs m,ij
3' i;kg fm;s
1' fp;s.,hys jikh khu l,;ys ^miri&
2' jhk nqhfldgq jähfldgq osks mKi
3' lyj; jyr, fldgqosk iji;fkys
4' m;s

   osmylksy''' mi,sl fnysor;s mys uy.k
   uy,nq 2''' .; k,ynq .rs mj lrsjg ul,
   uá, 3''' 4 ul=, ''' k''' ,klrg 5
   lyl l=nr ''' l=nr uy u,l rc ''' uy ''' r rcq uy j '''
   u., uy fj; lrjh uj ,sm
   7 ''' csk mái;rK p wu; jh ''' 8 '''
   Mqv fldgq osfkjy'
Source: 'Pacheena Passa- Uttara Passa-Nagenahira ha Uturu Palathe Sinhala Bauddha Urumaya ' by Venerable Ellawala Medananda 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sinhalese Buddhist Heritage in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka: Part-01

The overwhelming number of ruined Buddhist Temples, other monuments and massive irrigation systems that lay strewn the length and the breadth of the Northern and Eastern part of the country prove how flourishing Sinhalese Buddhist civilization was in the region in particular and the whole island in general. In the case of most of Buddhist Temples and monuments extensive damages have been caused by the purposeful destruction perpetrated by Tamil and Muslim fundamentalists to erase sings of Sinhalese Buddhist heritage from the region. Other causes for destructions include encroachment of  the places by expanding population of Muslims and Tamils, housing schemes built in and around the places funded by I/NGOs ably supported by racist Tamil and Muslim politicians and government servants, long years of negligence due to war and plundering by the treasure hunters.  In significant number of cases the places have been turned into Kovils and Mosques too. The most prominent examples are Koneshwarm Temple (formally Gokanna Viharaya) and Hot Water wells in Kanniya in Trincomalee district.  A mythical history has been manufactured and associated with those places in order to sustain the defaced physical changes done to the hard evidences of a civilization. In certain cases residential areas or individual houses have been built on the places of ruins or the parts of ruins have been used for construction purposes.                     
Venerable Ellawala Medananda, an erudite scholar, a seasoned archeologist and a historian may be perhaps the only living Sri Lankan who has visited most of those places and done extensive research about them. Despite having had to face numerous difficulties as most of the places are hardly accessible and  distanced areas with thick jungle cover, the undeterred Buddhist monk's laborious efforts in 35 years have yielded a comprehensive book with elaborate account of ruined Sinhalese Buddhist places of worship and other monuments of a once glorious and now dwindled civilization. The bulky book with 536 pages- 'Pacheena Passa- Uttara Passa-Nagenahira ha Uturu Palathe Sinhala Bauddha Urumaya ' is indeed a magnanimous gift offered to Sinhalese. However, the erudite Buddhist monk accepts the fact that there are thousands of such places in the area which are yet to be identified though so far identified number stands at more than 10,000.              
 In the most of the account of the book the history of the places is lengthily described referring chronicles such as Mahavamsa and Deepavamsa. The references from other eminent archeologists like Prof. Paranavithana are too included. The quoted deciphered inscriptions found in the places are also elaborately described. The architectural specialties of the ruins of the buildings/monuments/temples are also lengthily described in relation to the period to which the constructions and renovations belong.        
Rebel intends to publish series of posts with translated versions of the account of the places mentioned in the book. The time constraint and the busy schedule compel Rebel to present the descriptions in a summarized version.                          
Eastern Province- Part-01 
(1)    Bovaththegala Viharaya :  
Bovaththegala Viharaya is located in Panama area in the Ampara district in the' Kumbukkan oya' basin. The temple is a cave temple on a mountain abounded with large boulders.   It comprises of a series of caves that have been carved with drip ledges and the walls built supporting the caves. The inscriptions indicate that the cave temple has been offered   to the Maha Sangha(Buddhist monks) during years of BC. Remains of bricks belonging to early ages are found strewn in the mountain. In some places remains of buildings of monasteries are visible. There are signs of Stupas (Pagodas) built on top of the boulders.    
There are several inscriptions written in Brahami script which are in verge of disappearing. One of the ruined inscription refers about a 'naka amathi'(Naka Minister). Another refers about a 'Puja' (an offering). Two inscriptions refer about 'jetathisa Maharaja'(Jetathisa King) and the king as the son of 'Mahasena Maharaja Apāya'.
The king Jettathissa is credited to have been engaged in many religious activities in Ruhuna as per Mahavamsa and some inscriptions found in different places.  As per one of the inscriptions in Bovaththegala the king has made a 'Puja' in the seventh year of his rule. The part of the inscription mentioning what that 'puja' was is destroyed. The inscription says that the 'puja' was made to make possible preaching of the 'Ariyawansa' sermon. So it proves the fact that Bovaththegala was known to have been a place the Ariyawansa sermon was preached. Ariyawansa sermon was popular in the ancient periods of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.                
 The main inscription describes about a lineage of kings.  The name of the first of them is 'Gamini'. ('Gramini 'or 'Gamini' or 'Gāmini' is a special name given to the kings in the ancient period ).  The first son among ten of his sons was 'Damaraju' whose son was prince 'Mahathisha' who has offered the caves temples to the Maha Sangha.  In a different inscription there is a reference about 'Uthiraja', an another son of Gamini whose son was 'Abhaya' who had a daughter named 'Anuradha' . The lineage of kings found mentioned in the inscriptions are thought to have been the same lineage of ten kings mentioned in Deepawamsa as to have been from Katharagama. Prof. Senarath Paranavithara too holds the same view. Historians believe that this may be the same linage of 'Ksasthriya' kings who were slaughtered by king Gotabhaya as mentioned in 'Mahawamsa'. When analyzing the descriptions mentioned about the kings and queens in the inscriptions found in 'Kotadamuhela' located a little distance from Bovaththegala it can be established that the lineage of Katargama kings had connections with the lineage of the 'Mahanaga' kings.
Prof. Paranawithana believes ,citing references from the 'Kotadamuhela' inscriptions, that 'Viharamaha Devi' , mother of the king 'Dutu Gamunu' and the wife of the king 'Kavanthissa' is a member of this lineage of the 'Mahanaga's. On the other hand the name 'Bovaththegala' has got a historical importance. Chronicles say that 'Kaththiyavara's'  from  'Kacharagama' who received a sapling of 'Sri Maha Bodhi'  ,after attending the Bo- sapling planting ceremony  in Anuradhapura, planted the sapling in 'Kacharagama'. Many believe that the place referred is the present day Katharagama. The name 'Bovaththegala' bears significance in this regard.  Because the 'Galvihara' located in 'watta' with a 'Bodhi' became 'Bovaththegala'. Therefore, this 'Bodhi' should bear specialty as it became prominent in the name-'Bovaththegala'.
The fact that the information about Kataragama 'Ksasthriya' kings is found in 'Bovaththegala' and 'Kotadamuhela' in 'Kumukkan oya' basin and not in present day Katragama give evidences to suggest that 'Ashtapalaruha Bodhiya' was planted in 'Bovaththegala'. Further research on 'Bodhi's in the area would clarify this matter. And also finding evidences about members of the 'Gamini's lineage from the caves in 'Budhupatavun kanda' is a fresh discovery.  
It is clear that the ten sons of 'Gamini' were ruling 'Rohana desha' wielding enormous powers.  If Paranavithan's belief is correct, the blood relationship between Anuradhapura kings and the Rohana kings proves that the East, Anuradhapura and the South were ruled by members of Sinhala kings belonging to single lineage. The Kataragama kings received Bo saplings as gifts when the Buddhism was brought here. It proves that they were Buddhists. The fact that 'Gamini's sons got their names inscribed in 'Bovaththegala' amply proves the existence of Sinhalese Buddhist heritage in the region.                          

Sunday, February 6, 2011

“Mahinda’s regime is still in its Spring ”

Following is a translated extract of an article by Wasanthapriya Ramanayaka appeared in Lankadeepa on 04th. February 2011, the Independence Day  

 Sri Lanka's struggle for independence had never been as massive and deeply rooted as India. It has merely been an attempt to grab power from the British. The thirty year's long terrorism has been the biggest tragedy that country had to face due to an achievement of independence that lacks depth. It was president Rajapaksha who liberated the country from the terrorism. So it is the president Rajapaksha who has got a golden opportunity to offer the second independence to the country. No leader who came to power after the independence has been able to offer something impressive to the people neither has a leader been able to earn similar status. He wields constitutional and executive powers strong enough to pass any law to achieve that end. So the people are waiting until he takes this freed and the beloved land of them to a golden era.
Mahinda has just ended the war and has been able to give a peaceful atmosphere to the country. Only five years have passed to take place all these things. About three and half years had to be spent to end the 30 years' long war. At the same time Mahinda's administration did not neglect the development drive too. As a result of it a rate of 6% economic development has been achieved. The inflation rate, unemployment rate, poverty level are at 6%, 5.5% and 7.5% respectively. This has been an impressive combination of achievements that have never been reported in the post independence history. The Middle Eastern countries affected by popular uprising recently have never had this type of impressive achievements. The unemployment rate in Tunisia is at 14%. But Ben Ali's rule lasted for 30 years in Tunisia. Hosni Mubarak's ascend to power itself was a coup. The democracy and the electoral system in Egypt are in operation to the whims and fancies of Hosni Mubarak. So are the operations of the government institutions, the judiciary and all other bodies. Therefore, what has been happening in Egypt is the independent struggle by the people of that country. What is baffling in the minds of many is the fact that it took 30 long years to witness these turn of events in Mubarak's and Ali's countries  
Comparing these sorts of autocratic rules to the Mahinda Rajapaksha's rule who was democratically elected twice within 5 years is not rational at all. The Opposition even doesn't seem to be patient enough to wait until right time comes.

Lee Kuan Yew, the father of the present Singapore ruled the country for 35 years. Jothy Basu had been the Chief Minister of Western Bengal for 20 years. Even Mahathir Mohamad was in power in Malaysia for 12 years. All of them were able to give prosperity to their respective countries. As a result of it Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad enjoy their retirement peacefully. They were straightforward when taking decisions and at the same time they were honest. During Lee Kuan  's regime even his relations had to languish in prisons for years due to corruption and misappropriations committed by them.  None of them received mercy from Lee Kuan Yew. This underscores the fact that and the secret behind why Lee Kuan Yew remains in his retirement peacefully though he was in power for so long while Tunisia's Ben Ali leaves the country with his wealth deposited in foreign banks being freezed. So what is happening to Ben Ali in Tunisia and to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and what will happen in Jordan in the near future has already happened to  Marcos in Philippines, to Ershad in Bangladesh and to Batista in Cuba. World's history is replete with similar incidents.

Meanwhile, president Rajapaksha has just started his new journey having given the country the second independence. It is too early to jump into conclusions. Mahinda's regime is still in its Spring. He is at the peak of his popularity. However, the manner in which the media behaves can never be accepted. Some media acts just like stupid rural women whose only forte is gossip mongering. Personal attacks and rumors on sicknesses take precedence in web sites. These types of journalism and the violent reactions to them, which are akin to hooliganism, can never be accepted. Everything takes its own time. Failure on the part of the Opposition to practice patience is regrettable. It is politically healthier to the Opposition to smoke out those who are clinging to the positions rather than finding a Ben Ali and a Hosni Mubarak over here.  Strong Opposition is good for the government as well as the country.