By Walter Rupesinghe, Former High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Canada,
Attention has been drawn in the issues of The Island (Magazine section) of 27th April, 18th May and 8th June 2002 to three Buddhist shrines in the Trincomalee district namely Thiriyaya, Velgam Vehera and Seruwila respectively which are held in great reverence and affection not only by Buddhists but also by all lovers of Sri Lanka.

There are many other lesser known shrines in this district. The late Mr. Cyril Matthew, a former Minister of Industries, together with the assistance of his friends had identified no less than 74 shrines and depicted them on a map an extract from which is reproduced with this article. As the reader may wish to know a little more about these, some notes made by the Archaeological Department on a few of these shrines are given below:

Galmetiyawa in the Kinniya AGA’s division:
This site lies below the Galmetiyawa reservoir some four miles off the 102nd mile on the Trincomalee road. A Buddha statue sculptured in marble was found here. Although the statue appeared to have been worn out by the action of flowing water it was beautifully sculptured in the Amaravati style. Around the statue were the remains of ancient buildings. Bricks and pieces of pottery were lying around.

Ancient site at Kuchchaveli
The torso of a limestone Buddha statue was found at this site. The statue is a beautiful work in the Amaravati style. Pieces of flat tiles and bricks were found in large quantities. It is possible that there was a monastic establishment of the Anuradhapura period at this site. On a boulder of rock at the foot of a hillock is a sculpture consisting of 16 Dagoba presentations. The Buddha statue was transferred to the Archaeological Museum in Trincomalee.

Ancient site at Kantale: (Tract 13 of Kantale sugar farm)
At this site two broken Buddha statues were found along with guard stones. There were also pieces of bricks and tiles. The Buddha statue depicted as seated under the nine hooded Mucalinda Naga Rajaya (about four feet in height) has been transferred to the Archaeological Museum in Trincomalee.

Ancient site Mahaweli river ford in Koddiyar Pattu:
Here are the remains of a structure with 42 pillars. On one of these pillars is an inscription.

Sri Gajaba Len Vihara:
On an eminence strewn with large boulders at a site on the right bank of the Morawewa colony are several drip ledged caves. In three of these there are Brahmi inscriptions.

Ancient site at Etabendiwewa:
There are remains of a Dagoba built on a square terrace which has been vandalised. On each of the four sides of the terrace is a flight of steps with plain guard stones and a moonstone. West of the Dagoba are the ruins of a building. On a by-road between 87th and 88th mile post on the Horowupothana—Trincomalee road

Ancient site Pulmodai:
About 1 1/2 miles away from the Ilmenite factory is an ancient site where there are a number of caves. In one cave is a Brahmi inscription. Close by is a pillared building with the torso of a Buddha statue.
On one occasion in 1978/79 I met the late Mr. Cyril Matthew at Nilaveli and had the privilege of going along with him to see some of the lesser known Buddhist sites. There was no doubt at all that he had meticulously scoured the area with his friends with the irrepressible zeal of a missionary and found these sites and appointed watchers to look after them. I particularly remember one spot on the road from Kuchchaveli to Thiriyaya where he took me to a lowly Cadjan hut inside which was a beautiful head of the Buddha about 15 kilos in weight and some delicate artefacts. When I inquired from him as to where he found them he took me to a jungle clearing some distance behind the hut where there were remnants of stone pillars and the foundation of a Dagoba. There were several other places which he showed me where once upon a time there had been temples, Dharmasalawas and monasteries around which had been thriving Buddhist communities.

Fort Frederick Trincomalee
Sometime in 1971 when I was functioning as the General Manager of the Ceylon Hotels Corporation, it was decided to add eight more bedrooms to the Trincomalee Tourist Inn which was situated on the summit of a hill in Fort Frederick overlooking the harbour. The Tourist Inn had only two rooms then. When excavation work for the foundations was in progress the workers unearthed several bricks and tiles which were identified as belonging to the Anuradhapura period. According to the records of the Archaeological Department in ancient times Trincomalee had been known as Gokanna. Swami Rock which is the highest point in Fort Frederick is an ancient site where there had been Buddhist and Hindu shrines for a long time. King Mahasena (275-301 AD) had built the Gokanna Vihara. King Agbo V (718-724 AD) had added a preaching hall to the Vihara. These structures had been demolished by the Portuguese to build a fortress.
The evidence that emerges from all this is incontrovertible. There had been several Buddhist shrines in the district during the Anuradhapura period of our history. Around these shrines had been thriving Buddhist communities which maintained these shrines.

It is up to the authorities concerned together with the co-operation of the public to ensure that these holy places are not defaced or obliterated but are preserved for veneration not only by the present generation but also by generations yet unborn.

In my next article I propose to deal with the Buddhist shrines in the Batticaloa and the Ampara districts.

Note: The information given here is taken from a map prepared by the late Mr. Cyril Matthew showing the Buddhist shrines in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

Location of Buddhist Shrines
67 - Iraniya 68 - Madawarichchiya 130 - Pulmodai 131 - Kiulakadawala
132 - Sembimalai 133 - Kallampattuwa 134 - Kuchchaveli 135 - Muduwankulama
136 - near Kuchchaveli 137 - Galmaduwa 138 - Thiriyaya 139 - near Kuchchaveli
140 - Near fifth mile post 141 - Aalankulama 142 - Mailawewa 143 - Rangiri Ulpotha
144 - Puliyankulama 145 - Veherabendi Kanda 146 - Kattakulampattu west
147 - Gomarankadawela 148 - Ridi Kanda 149 - Galmetiyawa 150 - Wilpanakulama
151 - Kumbukwewa 152 - Tamarawewa 153 - Marangwadiya 154 - Kumbukwewa
155 - Morawewa 156 – Kimbulpatiyawa 157 - Mahadiulwewa 158 – Namalwatte
159 - near Morawewa 160 - near Morawewa 161 - Gajaba len Vihara
162 - Parampanjam 163 – Galmetiyawa 164 - near 6th mile post 165 - Velgam Vehera 166 – Tekkewatte 152/13 culverts 168 - Kallampattuwa 170 - Aandakulama
171 - Katsunai 172 - Thambalagamuwa 173 - Sampur 173 A - Lankapatuna
174 - Pattikimbula 175 - Sunethra Wewa 176 - Ruins in Mutur 177 - Mandangiri
178 - Kiliweddi 179 - Neelahelagama 180 - Dehiwatte 181 - Pallewela 182 - Seruwila
183 - Somapura Dhakshinaramaya 184 - Somapura Pashwimaramaya
185 - Arama Kande 186 - Kallar 187 - Pavanei 188 - Serunuwara 189 - Velgam Vehera
190 - Ruins at Keenganga 191 - Wan Ela 192 - Kantale 193 - Kantale
194 - Kantale town 195 - Wellunnaa 196 - Raja Ela
197 - Maithree Wewa 198 - to 200 in vicinity of Kantale

By Walter Rupesinghe, Former High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Canada,  

In an article which appeared in The Island’s magazine section of 6th July 2002 attention was drawn to the 74 ancient Buddhist shrines and archaeological sites in the Trincomalee district. The late Cyril Matthew and his friends in the Archaeological Department have identified 55 such shrines and archaeological sites in the Batticaloa and Ampara districts. A description of a few of these sites culled from the records of the Archaeological Department is given below:

This site at the boundary of the Galoya scheme on the Ampara-Mahiyangana road is on a large forested hill. On the southern scrap of the hill are a large number of drip ledged caves. In many of these caves are pre-Christian inscriptions. In the flat area south of this hill are the remains of a number of structures. Among these are a Dagobas dug into by treasure hunters, some pillared structures and a pond. Buried under the earth is the torso of a Buddhist statue. The structures at the site are girt by a prakara.

Dutch Fort Batticaloa
A Dagoba chattra stone and an asana stone probably belonging to the early centuries of the Christian era were found inside the Fort. These appear to have belonged to a very early Buddhist structure.

In the Vakaneri colony near Valachchenai is an ancient site with a pilfered Dagoba and the remains of three structures. There are also the remains of a pond and a stone prakara around it.

This site is about five miles to the west of the Kohombana junction on the Ampara — Gonagala road. On the eastern escarpment of Samangala hill are found a large number of drip ledged caves bearing pre-Christian Brahmi inscriptions. On a high boulder close to an ancient cave is incised the representation of a Dagoba similar to the stupas at Sanchi.

On the Ampara-Hingurana road there are the remains of a Dagoba mounted on a square platform and of a structure with stone pillars.

See special article on Dighavapi in The Island magazine section of 14th September 2002.

Magul Maha Viharaya
This has been known as the Ruhunu Maha Vihara in ancient times. It was built by King Dhathusena (453-474 A.D.). The structures here had been reconstructed by Vihara Maha Devi wife of Buwanekabahu IV of Gampola and Parakramabahu V of Dedigama in the 14th century. Two inscriptions of this queen are at the site. In an area girt by a prakara of stone slabs are a Bodhighara, an image house, a Dagoba and a Sabbath house.

Moodu Maha Viharaya (Pottuvil)
This site is on the seashore. Much of the remains at the site appear to be covered by sea sand. At an elevated site is a ruined Dagoba. West of the Dagoba are the remains of a pillared structure. There is a torso of a standing Buddha statue. To the south is an image house and a pond. East of the Dagoba are seen stumps of pillars and brick walls. It is believed that buried under a thick layer of sand are other remains of ancient structures.

Ratraveli Viharaya
The remains of a very ancient Dagoba of large dimensions have been found near the 73rd milepost on the Pottuvil-Panama road. At this site are drip ledged caves, remains of ancient structures and Buddha statues of stone. The ancient name of the site was Bahogiri Nama Pavata according to an inscription of Mahadathika-Mahanaga (A.D. 7-19). The Archaeological Department says that there is no doubt that the site is the Maninaga Pabbata Vihara of the Mahawamsa.

Situated on the road from Panama to the Ruhunu National Park, there are a large number of drip ledged caves here some of which bear inscriptions.

Ancient Buddhist
There are traces of paintings which go back to ancient times. On Kudumbigala, the largest rock at the site, are the remains of two small Dagobas.

Nilagiri Dagoba, Lahugala
This Dagoba is a very old one. To the south east of the Nilagiri hill there are several caves with pre-Christian inscriptions. It is said that the Pasanadipika Vihara constructed by Mahadathika Mahanaga (9-21 A.D.) may be this.

Mullikulam Malai
There are two short rock inscriptions of the first century B.C. beside a flight of steps cut on the hill of Mullikulam Malai. Below the drip ledge of a cave is a cave inscription of the 1st century B.C.

Malayadi Kanda
On this hill are many drip ledged caves. About fifteen of them have inscriptions and in one cave there are many paintings.

The above are descriptions of only a few of the sacred sites in the two districts. A description of all the sites would make this article voluminous. There are travel agents in this country who specialise in domestic tourism. I would exhort them to arrange study tours to these sites.

It would be a wonderful experience delving into the past in these remote corners of Sri Lanka which are now accessible to us.

The future of ancient Buddhist shrines and archaeological sites in the northern and eastern provinces:

The late Mr. Cyril Matthew and his friends in the Archaeological Department located a total of 261 ancient Buddhist shrines and archaeological sites in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Of these 132 are in the Northern Province and 129 in the eastern province. What is the future of these ancient shrines and archaeological sites under the proposed interim council? Who will be in control of and administer them? To find the answer to this question we will have to look at the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution under which Provincial Councils were established.

Article 154 G of the Constitution (the Thirteenth Amendment) sets out the powers and functions of provincial councils. This article specifies three lists of subjects. List I of the ninth schedule is the provincial councils list. The reserved list is at List II of the ninth schedule and List III is the concurrent list. Let us now see the relevance of these three lists.

Article 154 G (7) states that a Provincial Council shall have no power to make statues on any matter set out in List II — the reserved list. The relevant entry in this list in regard to the matter we are discussing is as follows:

The Reserved List — List II
"National Archives: Archaeological activities and sites and antiquities declared by or under any law made by parliament to be of national importance.

This would include — Ancient and historical monuments and records and archaeological sites and remains declared by or under any law made by parliament to be of national importance".

The Provincial Councils List: List I
Article 154 G (1) states that every provincial council may, subject to the provisions of the constitution, make statues applicable to its area with respect to any matter set out in List I.

The relevant entry for our purposes reads as follows: "25:2 Ancient and historical monuments and records other than those declared by or under any law made by parliament to be of national importance."

The Concurrent List — List III
Article 154 G (5)(a) states that parliament may make laws in respect of any matter set out in List III after such consultation with all provincial councils as parliament may consider appropriate in the circumstances of each case. The relevant entry in List III reads as follows:

"34: Archaeological sites and remains other than those declared by or under any law made by parliament to be of national importance".

The legislators in their wisdom have used different phraseology in the three lists but to a layman like me this is somewhat puzzling.

I have no doubt that the Archaeological Department would have been consulted on the entries that have been made in the three lists. Could the department therefore explain to the public, the difference between "ancient and historical monuments and records" in the provincial councils list and "archaeological sites and remains" on the concurrent list and also the difference between these two and "archaeological activities and sites and antiquities including ancient and historical monuments and records and archaeological sites and remains" mentioned in the reserved list. To pose the question more specifically — what is the status of places like Nagadvipa, Thiriyaya, Velgam Vehera, Seruwila, Dighavapi, Magul Maha Vihara, Moodu Maha Vihara, Kudumbigala to mention only a few of the important Buddhist shrines and archaeological sites in the two provinces.

It will certainly be in the interest of all concerned if the Archaeological Department will publish a list of the archaeological sites, historical monuments and remains, records and antiquities in the north and east which have been declared by or made by any law by parliament as being of national importance.

Any ambiguities or grey areas in the interpretation of the three lists could cause serious problems to both the central government as well as the provincial council.

Attention must be drawn to another matter of vital importance. How effective is the Antiquities Ordinance No. 9 of 1940? I asked this question because I have seen a draft Concept Plan prepared by the Chairman, Urban Development Authority some time ago for the development of the Dighavapi area which stated as follows:

"A proposal was forwarded to the Chairman Urban Development Authority from the Minister of Religious Affairs for the declaration of the Dighavapi archaeological area under Section 3 of the UDA Act No. 41 of 1978 for development and conservation purposes."

The Chairman, UDA explained the need for this course of action in his Concept Plan. He stated that the Dighavapi archaeological area has 35 ancient sites and the area declared under the Archaeological Department was only 400 yards in radius of each site which left the surrounding areas unprotected under the Antiquities Ordinance No. 9 of 1940 because these areas have not been declared under it. This has lead to illegal excavation and encroachment of those open areas. This has created problems to control sand mining and illegal encroachments. He goes on to say that the UDA Law 41 of 1978 has legal power to control such unauthorised activities.

According to the information available to me no further action had been taken on the matter for reasons best known to the authorities concerned. Similar problems might be existing in the vicinity of other ancient Buddhist shrines and archaeological sites.

It is my view that the relevant ministries should address this problem urgently and concert effective measures to protect our ancient Buddhist shrines and archaeological sites in the northern and eastern provinces.

Note: The information given here is taken from a map prepared by the late Mr. Cyril Matthew showing the Buddhist shrines in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

Batticaloa District
207 — Kaudagala 208 — Pandienathamalai 209 — Akarana 210 — Barandicap
211 — Karavanikulama 212 — Dambaliyaddegala 213 — Maoddidoy 214 — Nelugala
215 — Kopaveli 216 — Kirimuttipola Viharaya 217 — Kota Vehera
218 — Niyankallukulama 219 — Kiragala 220 — Rottei Viharaya 221Lanka Viharaya
222 — Kinnaragala 223 — Mangala Oya 224 — Bambaragastalawa 225 — Pulumalai
226 — Kanthon Kovil 227 — Rajagala 228 — Bakkiella 229 — Samangala
230 — Kandurugoda 231 — Pulukunawa 232 — Paranagama Bakkiella
233 — Gonagolla 234 — Vehera Pudama 

Ampara district
235 — Pallanoya - 236 — Buddangala 237 — Muwangala 238 — Malayadi kanda
239 — Kiulegama 240 — Ganegama Viharaya 241 — Koknagara Colony
242 — Panathgoda Viharaya 243 — Wavinna 244 — Kotavehera 245 — Kanchikudiaru
246 — Mullikulam Malai 247 — Dighavapi 248 — Sengamakanda 249 — Rangama
250 — Hulan Nuge 251 — Kirimetti Aru 252 —Maha Pottuvil Moodu Viharaya
253 — Moodu Maha Viharaya 254 — Ethnama 255 — Jayarampola 256 — Lahugala
257 — Magul Maha Viharaya 258 — Lahugala (additional site) 259 — Nilagiri Seya
260 — Rathrawela Viharaya 261 — Kudumbigala

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