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Abstracts

New Light on The Decline of Polonnaruwa (1196-1215): The Tamil Pillar Inscription from Rankot Vihara

The Tamil Pillar Inscription at the premises of the Rankot Vihara was discovered during the course of an archaeological survey conducted by the Cultural Triangle in 1981, the presentation made here is based on the author’s examination of the copy of an estampage supplied by Prof. P.L Prematilleke, former Director of the Alahana Parivena Project of the Cultural Triangle, Polonnaruwa.

The text of the inscription is engraved in 10 lines on each side of a square stone pillar. The first half of the text engraved on two faces of the pillar is quite clear and the letters could be identified clearly. The portion of the text on the third face is not as clear as the estampage was not prepared with sufficient care and skill. The letters on the fourth face are completely worn out.

The inscription is not dated in the regional year of any king. On paleographical considerations it could be assigned to the early 13th century. In formation the letters represent a more advanced stage of development than those in the inscription of Parakramabahu I (1153-1186) and Nissankamalla (1187-1196). Dr.A Velupillai made a rather futile attempt at decipherment as evident from the text and translation of the inscription published by him. His failure to identify correctly the expressions in the first 12 lines has led to serious misunderstandings vitiating the importance of the record as a source of historical information.

On the basis of a careful scrutiny of the estampage, the first 12 lines of the text may be reconstructed as follows: “Kumalalapura parameciran kankai – kulottaman kaverivallavan nantikirincatan uttamacolan peral mantalanayakattukku utanpatu velaikkaran olaikkaran matevan ner anatti.

The first three expressions could be identified as epithets of Nandikkirincatan. He was obviously a Cola feudatory claiming descent from a lineage of the Gangas who had connections with Kuvalalapuram, the capital of the Western Gangas. In the 12thand 13th centuries the Gangas of Pankala-natu had these epithets. Besides, the text suggests that he was a Velaikkaranexercising some administrative functions under a king, who was later raised to the dignity of a chieftain of a region (mantalam). He was probably a Cola military leader who had come to Polonnaruwa as an accomplice of Aniganga who is said to have occupied Polonnaruwa with the support of a Cola army. The inscription testifies to the presence of a feudatory chieftain of Ganga lineage in Polonnaruwa as one holding a position of rank and authority during a period of turmoil.

S. Pathmanathan

Department of History, Faculty of Arts, University of Peradeniya

This abstract was first published in the Peradeniya University Research Sessions, 2004, Vol. 9, pp.31.

For more information please visit http://dlib.pdn.ac.lk/handle/123456789/2829

Categories
Archaeological Survey Exploration History

Archaeological Sites around Dimbulagala: Part 02

By Chryshane Mendis

Pulligoda

Pulligoda is a small cave containing paintings of the Anuradhapura period situated on a small rock outcrop several hundred meters from the base of the south face of the Dimbulagala Mountain. To arrive here, one must travel pass the Dimbulagala Rajamaha Viharaya and after passing the tank, take the first large gravel road to the left leading to the area of Millana. About 300 meters down this road one would find a sign board to the left indicating the site. The path from here is motorable for about 100 meters and from then is a small hike up a recently erected paved path. At the end of the path one comes a cross the cave with the stunning paintings, now protected by an iron fence by the Department of Archaeology.

 

 

The paintings are the surviving portion of a once larger painting which would have adorned the cave wall. The surviving paintings, found on the back wall of the cave comprises of a fragmentary figure to the left and five seated figures to the right. The colours are of red ochre, yellow ochre and green earth. The five figures are males seated on lotus cushions; the first four with joint hands and the last holding a flower. They wear crowns on their heads surrounded by a halo and their upper bodies are adorned with jewelry with dresses below the waist. The fragmentary figure to the left is believed to be a female. These are thought to be sages or gods venerating the Buddha. Based on the stylistic elements, various dates have been proposed by scholars, from the 4th century AD, to the 7th century AD and even to the 12th century AD. But it is generally accepted that these belong to the Anuradhapura period. The remarkable preservation of these paintings put them on par with the other few surviving paintings of those times such as Sigiriya.  Just above this cave is found another cave with traces of a Brahmi inscription barely readable.

 

 

Molahetiwelagala

About 100 meters passing the turn off to the Pulligoda caves one needs to take another wide gravel road to the left and once again only a section of this is motorable and from there on is about another 100 meter hike through a clear path to this site. The site of Molahetiwelagala is situated on an open rock outcrop and consists of traces of a building with a perfectly preserved square granite pedestal. According to folklore, this is the site of the building used by the Arahat Maliyadeva to deliver the Ariyawansha sermon. Many other stone works with mortises could be seen scattered about the place. The most important artefacts found here are the four rock inscriptions situated several feel away from these ruins, which fall between the 1st century BC and 2nd century AD (early Anuradhapura period).

 

 

The most notable inscription found here are in effect two inscriptions which are to be read as one, and are incised in four lines of bold deeply carved letters enclosed with an outline frame; on the left at the beginning of the first and fourth lines can be found two Swastikas. The first inscription states the donation of a canal to the monks of the Pilipavatha monastery in the Ataraganga country by a King Abaya along with his genealogy.

“Hail King Abaya, eldest son of King Kutakana and grandson of the great King Devanapiya Tissa, dedicated with the golden vase (i.e. having poured water into the hands of the done with a golden vase), the canal of Gana..taka in the Ataraganga (country) to the monks in the Pilipavata Monastery”

The second reads the “The Great King Naka gave to the community”.

Inscription with the Swastikas.

According to Prof. Senerat Paranavitana, the donation made in the first inscription would have been engraved during the reign of the King in the second inscription. He identifies the monarch Abaya as Bhatika Abaya and his father as Kutakanna Tissa and grandfather as Mahaculika Mahatissa, and the King Naka as Maha Naga, the brother of Bhatika Abaya; all of whom fall into the first century AD. According to him, the ruins at this site are the remains of the Monastery named Pilipavatha as mentioned in the inscription.

Another two inscriptions situated in close proximity to the above are one of the reigns of King Kutakanna Tissa which mentions an offering made by his wife, Queen Anula to Pilipawatha monastery; and the other, a donation by Sena, son of Vasaba (not identified), of the tanks of Katelavasaka and Ahuraviki  and other donations to the Pilipawatha monastery.

This site is in a neglected state and traces of treasure hunting are evident. Further the layers of the rock surface appear to be peeling off, which poses a threat to the valuable inscriptions.

 

Kosgaha Ulpata

Chamber with reclining figure.

The site of Kosgaha Ulpata contains a large cave with the remains of a reclining Buddha as well as another location known as the ‘Vee-atuwa’; this is found at the base of the southern face of the Dimbulagala Mountain. Passing the turn off to Molahetiwelagala on the same road, one must travel about 2km along the narrow gravel road which runs parallel to a stream till one reaches a large Banyan (Nuga) tree. From here one must cross the stream and enter the forest from which is a traceable footpath. The path leads up to an open rock surface and crossing a tiny stream, one needs to turn left from where the footpath takes the form of a stone stairway. Arriving from this stairway one arrives at the large cave. The cave is divided into four chambers with its walls still intact. In the third chamber from the left is the large reclining Buddha made of bricks. The upper portion of the figure has been destroyed with only the left hand and the waist and below in its original form.  An interesting feature found here are the traces of three deity figures on both walls of the chamber. The wall to the right contains shapes of two figures made from the bricks of the wall and with a single figure on the left wall. Several granite artifacts which would have once made up of this ancient image house could be found lined in front of the chamber of the cave.

The right side chamber wall with figures of deities.
The chambers to the left of the chamber with the Buddha figure.

The site known as the ‘Vee-atuwa’ can be reached by taking the path to the right from the cave. Here one needs to climb boulder to boulder along the edge of the large rock which makes up the cave to arrive at this site. One of the most astounding remains found in the Dimbulagala region, this is a chambered drip ledged cave situated high above the ground level and requires a tall ladder to climb. Its walls are well preserved and containing a door and two windows on either side with their wooden frames still intact. Further by the side of the place where the ladder would be placed can be found a Brahmi inscription. Despite its inaccessibility, it has not survived the hands of vandals who have managed to inscribe their names on the plaster.  Its inaccessibility due to its height and the thick jungle in which it is found offers this site a perfect place of refuge in times of distress, thus its function could be thought of something more than just a meditation chamber.

 

 

Blue: Namal Pokuna ruins, Green: Mara Vidiya, Yellow: Pulligoda, Red: Molahetiwelagala and Purple: Kosgaha Ulpatha.

 

 

Information of these sites are based on a field visit by Chandima Ambanwala, Sameera Prasanga, Buddhika Konara, Chamal Senadheera, Kasun Darshitha, Asanga and myself in August 2017 as part of a survey of sites in Polonnaruwa from archaeology.lk

Other references:

Adithiya. L. A., 1986. Dimbulagala Man. JRASSL, New Series Vol. XXXI

de Silva. Raja, 2005. Digging Into the Past.

Geiger. W, 1912. Mahawamsa, The Great Chronicle of Ceylon.

Paranavitana. S, 1933. Epigraphia Zeylanica Vol. III

Paranavitana. S, Inscriptions of Ceylon, Vol. II, Part II

Interview of Chief Incumbent of the Namal Pokuna Viharaya.

Categories
Exploration Field Archaeology

Untapped Archaeological Heritage: Muthugala

By Chryshane Mendis

Muthugala in Polonnaruwa is an enchanting location set amidst rocky outcrops and willus and houses the remains of a forest monastery inclusive of ruined stupas and drip ledged caves for the meditation of monks. This is a hardly known site and came to our light during a recently concluded archaeological survey of the Polonnaruwa District. Our research team comprising of Messrs. Chandima Ambanwala, Sameera Prasanga, Buddhika Konara, Chamal Senadheera, Kasun Darshitha and myself along with our resource person Mr. Attygala visited the site in August; accompanying us as guides were three men from the village including the village headmen. A union of history and nature, this was one adventurous exploration which deserves a deeper investigation.

Location

Muthugala, a quiet dry zone village situated in the Welikanda Divisional Secretariat in the Polonnaruwa District is a paradise of nature where man and wilderness live side by side. This untapped archaeological heritage of the ancient Sinhalese lies in the forests boardering the village and the Flood Plains National Park along the Mahaweli Ganga. To arrive here, one needs to arrive at Sewanapitiya junction which is 18km from Kanduruwela on the Batticaloa road and from there turn left on the road running along the canal, proceeding about a kilometer on this turn left once more along with the branching off of the canal. From there proceed along this for 5km passing lush green fields and home gardens to the village of Muthugala; from there turn left from the school along the bund of a small tank till the road ends at the forest, from there is an off road track which is a 10 minute hike to the site. The remains of the forest monetary is spread throughout that area on the rock outcrops surrounded by willus created by the Mahaweli River.

 

Village background

A description of the village would add a charming note to this enchanting location. The village comprises of 224 families and though ethnically a Tamil village, some of the villages have Sinhalese ge-names; a glimpse of the mixed cultures that once grew here. There is one school in the village and the main economic activity of the villagers is cultivation, though a few individuals have Government jobs. The growing of paddy is the main activity but fishing and milking of cows are other such activities. The villagers say that canes (වේවැල් /weval) can also be harvested from here but no such industry exists. Certain sections of the roads are tarred while the rest are in the golden sands of the dry zone. Away from the bustling roads, this village brings the sereneness of the peaceful days of old into the modern world and an urban-vary soul would be glad to taste its calmness.

Description of the ruins

The visible ruined stupa

Heading with our guides in the late morning, we managed to go half the distance on the off road track in the van and hiked the rest as it was hard to get the van through the tiny path. We were told that this was Elephant country and that to be vigilant although they do not show up during this time of the day. Walking along the sandy road about the scrub forests we came near a large rock outcrop and climbed it by a path to the left. This was the main location, it was quite evident here that there was once human settlement as there were numerous rock cut steps in certain sections of the rock and the top was scattered around with bricks, mortise stones for columns and few stone pillars. But a closer examination with the trained eye revealed much more. Amoung the debris spread over the uneven rock surface was the clear mound of a small stupa. A close examination of this revealed that there were three visible stairways to the stupa from the north, east and the west and that this was erected on two podiums. But sadly the stupa had fallen prey to treasure hunters. An entrance had been effected from the north and dug to almost 10 feet. The inner structure of the brick stupa was quite visible. Right next to it was identified as the remains of another stupa, although no visible mound was there. Finally completely surveying the rock, the traces of another two more stupas were found in close proximity to the first two; and as well as two ponds made from the natural slope of the rock. On this same site towards the south from where one enters is found a cave with a drip ledge and an inscription. The inscription contains an early Brahmi script indicating the sites usage from the early Anuradhapura times. Close to this cave is a smaller cave and in it our resource person on a previous visit noticed small drawings in white; this was looked at by our team and hypothesized to be ancient Vadda paintings. There are about three to four scribbles of some form but one which resembles a figure of a man is quite evident. If this in fact dates to ancient Vaddas, it would take this site to the prehistoric times; but this needs to be clearly verified before any theory is put forward. Assessing the remains on the rock outcrop it was clear that this was indeed a forest monastery. From the top of the rock one could get a clear view of the surroundings, the lush green fields, the open willus with herds of buffaloes, the adjoining hilltops and the endless green of the Flood Plains National Park. Our guides stated that during the rains the entire area surrounding the rock becomes one entire willu under water.

The small cave with the paintings

 

The white figure, the figure to the right resembles a man.

They said that there were more, many caves with inscriptions on the adjoining hillock, so climbing down the rock we headed north east along the edge of the forest line and the open plains.

This hillock composed of a single high rock formation with thick jungle around it and one could easily get lost without prior knowledge; indeed we felt this way once we completed our tour of the site as it left us totally confused of our geography. Climbing through the thick vines and over and under rocks we explored here a total of 11 caves spread throughout the area. Out of the 11 caves with drip ledges, seven caves contained early Brahmi rock inscriptions just below the drip ledge. All the inscriptions found here mention the names of donors gifting the caves to the clergy. Near the cave on the highest elevation here was found the remaining materials of a small modern shelter, this the villagers explained that some time back they had brought a monk here to stay but was asked to leave by the Wildlife department. The cave here contained an inscription as well as a symbol; this was not a completely closed one for there was about a 5 foot high gap allowing access to the other side and within this were the ruins of large sleeping Buddha statue, the traces of which were hard to identify as it had been vandalized in antiquity. On the ceiling of this cave can be found the faint traces of paintings as well.

The ruined stupa in the first location, dug by treasure hunters.

Treasure hunting is a major problem here said the villagers who were with us and said that it is people from far away that are behind this and not from the village. The villagers try their best to protect these sites and have repeatedly appealed to the authorities to take action but to no avail. While the horror of the plundered stupa in the first hillock was still in our minds, we were in for yet another shock. Before going to the high cave they said that there was a boulder near another cave below that had been broken recently in the search of treasure, arriving at the said location we were taken aback as we found it completely destroyed and dug out, several feet until the bedrock. This was a fresh dig which appeared to have been dug just the previous night or a maximum of two nights before. All around were pieces of the slab of rock and fine soil from underneath. It was a sad sight in deed. The villagers stated that there is another location close to the Mahaweli River called Anakaluwa which was a large rock in the shape of an elephant drinking water and that there was a crown and a sword carved on it, this too has sadly been blasted away. They also mentioned that there was a large rock inscription in the first location near the ruined stupas which had been destroyed about 40 years ago.

 

The hole cut by treasure hunters in the second location.
The cave in the highest location, within can be found the remains of a statue and traces of paintings.

 

The splendid drip ledged caves, some reaching over a dozen feet in length surrounded by the ever green forests of the dry zone would have given a peaceful setting for the meditating monks of old and it is sad to see that these centuries old dwellings, protected so well by nature have been disturbed in our times due to false fantasies. Beyond the open plains further to the north was another large rock outcrop, this the villagers stated contained a large rock with one vertical surface in white which they believed would have been plaster for paintings. This too we investigated but found the white layer to be a natural phenomenon.  But there could be much more hidden amidst the jungles. Prof. Senerat Paranavitana in the Epigraphia Zeylanica gives details of 17 early Brahmi rock inscriptions from Muthugala but we were able to find only 8. This untapped archaeological site deserves a deeper investigation which would give valuable information on the human settlement of this now seemingly rural area.

The team with the villagers.
Categories
Inscriptions

Velikkara Inscription at Polonnaruwa

 

 

 

 

By Anuradha Piyadasa

Reign – After the death of Vijayabahu
Period – 12th century A.D.
Script – Grantha Tamil and Sinhala
Language – Tamil Mixed with Sanskrit

Introduction

The Velaikkaras rebelled against King Vijayabahu (1055-1110 A.D.) in his 30th year refusing to fight against the Colas and they were punished. It seems that Velaikkaras provided protection to the Temple of Tooth even during the early period of Vijayabahu due to the mention of construction of some buildings by them around the Temple of Tooth. Perhaps after the rebellion, they were removed beings the guards of the Temple of Tooth. After the death of Vijayabahu, there were several internal struggles and it is very likely that Mugalan Thera decided to engage Velaikkara forces again, for the protection of the Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic of the Buddha, during that turbulent period. The purpose of this inscription is to give an assurance by the Velaieckara Soldiers that they would protect the sacred relics and the properties no matter what happened.

Location

This inscription is located just next to the Atadage at Polonnaruwa.

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Contents

Velikkara Inscription – Photo Credit: Anuradha Piyadasa

The Temple of Tooth Relic built by the Commander Nagaragiri Deva on the instructions of King Vijayabahu and the surrounding shrines founded by the Velaikkaras shall be protected by the Velaikkara forces unto the dissolution of the world.

Obeisance to the Buddha! In the prosperous island of King Sirisangabo, Vijayabahu scion of the lineage of Iksavaku of the Solar Race gaining victory over many an enemy, entered Anuradhapura. At the request of the Buddhist monks he put on the crown in order to protect the Buddhist Religion. The king invited monks from Aramana (Myanmar) and purified the three Nikayas. The king who brought Lanka under a single canopy made donations to the three Nikayas three times equivalent to his own weight (coins), reigned 55 years and lived 73 years.

The Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic which was at the Uttaramula of Abhayagiri Vihara was brought to Pulanari or Vijayarajapura and permanently kept at the Temple of Tooth Relic. The first anointment ceremony (of Vijayabahu) was held there (according to the Cullavamsa in the 18th year at Polonnaruva) which also house the colossal Buddha Statue, in which is held annually the ceremony of unloosening of sacred eyes and applying collyrium to them.

Rajaguru Mugalan Thera of Uttaramula, who is virtuous and learned, associating himself with the dignitaries came to the spot, called us and said “The Tooth Relic Temple should be under your custody’.

Closeup of Velikkara Inscription – Photo Credit: Anuradha Piyadasa

Thereupon we convened a meeting along with our elders and named the shrine ‘The great Temple of Tooth Relic belonging to three divisions of Velakkaras’ and decided that it will remain as our charitable institution under our own custody. For the protection of the shrine one servitor from each of the (three divisions) was appointed and one veli of land was allocated for the maintenance of each person, We shall protect the villages, the retainers, and the property belonging to the shrine, as well as those who enter for refuge, even it is detrimental to us. We shall endeavour as long as our lineage exists and even if we suffer deeper than we have suffered already.

To attest this we have delivered over (to Mugala Thora), having had it engraved on the copper plate and also engraved on a stone so that it may last as long as the sun and the moon endure.

Accordingly anyone who infringes (what is stated above) or consent to infringes or tell others to infringe becomes our enemy, who has committed an offence against Matantra, committed five great sins, a great sinner who had appropriated what was offered to gods, committed an offence against the (Triple) gem, who will enter the hell.

 

Extracted from the information panel(Department of Archaeology) near the inscription.