Kuragala Buddhist Heritage and Archaeological Sites Must be Reinstated
Posted on April 10th, 2013

Dilrook Kannangara 

What happens in Kuragala is a national shame. Ancient Buddhist monastery, archaeological sites, Devanagala rock inscription and the historical tunnel have been claimed by a Muslim sect as belonging to Arabs in the past. They argue an Arabic sage lived and died at the location close to a thousand years ago. These claims are silly as there is well documented evidence to say the entire Kuragala surrounds around the Buddhist Stupa belonged to a historically significant Buddhist archaeological site. Muslim devotees have completely defaced the site by putting up Arabic writings and Arabic flags, damaging ancient artefacts, building Arabic and Persian style buildings and even defacing the inscription with acid. This outright plunder of a national treasure must be stopped. Kuragala Buddhist heritage and archaeological sites must be reinstated.

It must be done peacefully. There is no need to cause mayhem over a meritorious act of this nature. Muslims must accept the fact that this was not the place their sage lived and died but this was an archaeological site even before Islam was invented in 622 AD. Apart from the historical Buddhist monastery, Kuragala has other older historical significance. History has it that God Kataragama fought and won a historical battle in this place around 6th century BC. In other words, historical significance of the area predates Islam by over 1,200 years. Displacement of occupying Muslims from Kuragala is not about Buddhist supremacy over Islam as all religions rank equal. It is only about reinstating the ancient archaeological and religious site to its true pristine glory. Archaeology expert Venerable Ellawala Medhananda Thero has stated national Wesak celebrations will be held in Kuragala this year which is a highly meritorious act.

Meanwhile Bodu Bala Sena has issued an order requesting the occupiers to vacate the premises by end of April. This is totally uncalled for as it must come from the government. NGOs cannot issue vacation notices.

Upon vacating the area, Muslims must be provided with a monument to commemorate their beliefs irrespective of the veracity of their claims. It must be done without harming the archaeological site. Value of such a gesture is it will preserve unity and goodwill.

There is an ugly move to takeover others’ shrines through occupation, construction of illegal structures and mythical stories without any historical evidence to back up these moves. These moves must be reversed as they can lead to situations like Ajodhya/Babri Masjid. Muslim shrines have been built in the ancient holy city of Kataragama. Once again it is justified as the place a prominent Arabic Islamic sage lived a few hundred years ago. Mahavamsa mentions the Kataragama shrine circa 175 BC when the young prince Gamunu worshiped the good god praying for war victory. Even older records indicate the presence of this holy shrine. The shrine predates Islam by over 1,200 years and therefore there could not have been an Islamic figure in the vicinity of the shrine.

Sripada legend has also been twisted by some Muslims to be Adam’s Peak where the first biblical man Adam lived. Footprint of Buddha was placed in Sripada around 583 BC which event occurred over 1,200 years before Islam was invented. Although Adam probably lived in prehistory, the legend of Adam was injected to Arabic beliefs with the introduction of Islam based on the Judaism legend. Besides, the Garden of Eden was in Africa according to scientific evidence of human evolution and Judaist, Islamic and Christian beliefs.

Historical Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Sinhala shrines in the east have been demolished and in their place stands Islamic religious sites. A large number of neglected Buddhist shrines have been remodelled throughout the country into kovils, churches and mosques. This practice must be stopped. All ancient shrines must be protected.

It is worthwhile to mention a historical event where Buddhism replaced indigenous religious beliefs and a shrine in Anuradhapura. It was around 140 BC during the reign of King Dutugemunu who did yeoman service to spread Buddhism throughout the island. He built a very large number of Buddhist monasteries and temples. It was the time when Buddhism was spreading very fast as it was just over a hundred years since Buddhism was introduced to the island in 255 BC. The King wanted to build a majestic stupa to invoke piousness of the people. However, in the place he chose to construct the stupa was a local deity by the name Swarnamali or Ruwanmali. As people refused to initiate construction work, the king negotiated with the deity to leave the abode for a Buddhist stupa. In return the king would name the stupa after the deity. The king kept his promise and one of the most magnificent stupas in the world was built. It was a peaceful transition done in good demeanour; a meritorious act done in the true spirit of compassion by all the parties involved.

Hopefully the reinstatement of the ancient Kuragala Buddhist heritage will proceed with benevolence and grace. We all stand to win peace or lose it. Everyone involved must take extreme care not to arouse religious or ethnic sentiments. It is a difficult transition for some and they need help, not ridicule. This meritorious act must conclude meritoriously not in mindless competition or conflict.

 

 

7 Responses to “Kuragala Buddhist Heritage and Archaeological Sites Must be Reinstated”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Fantastic news.

    “Bodu Bala Sena is all set to go international, Executive Committee Member Dilantha Vithanage said today.

    “There is a high demand from abroad for our organisation. It has become essential to extend our organisation and our contribution internationally so as to raise awareness among the international community about our mission,” he said. “We see this as a great opportunity to clear any doubts about the work we do.””

    – dailymirror

    Now we are at the mercy of inefficient dip-low-mats. Al last someone has realized it is better to light a candle than blame the darkness.

    ALL patriotic SL groups like WASP, SPUR, SLUNA, etc. should amalgamate with BBS.

    BBS should also link with other world Buddhist groups. Millions of possibilities.

  2. shenali Says:

    Good article and timely too.

    If there are 42 mosques in Kattankudy alone and 5000 mosques all over the island for 1.6million Muslims – we must wonder whether the municipalities and provincial council authorities were asleep!

    A poor man cant put up anything illegal because they would be at their doorstep … so how has 5000 mosques emerged and 42 in Kattankudy. It is not difficult to imagine how – Corruption, Bribery …

    A ceiling on new mosques must be made without delay and all illegally acquired land etc has to be returned.

    some FR cases should take place

  3. Kit Athul Says:

    Dilrook, thanks for calling Budhu Bala Sena a NGO. It is a Norwegian funded NGO. read the Rasalingham article in Asian Trubine.

  4. Ben Silva Says:

    We have to do our best ton safeguard our heritage and should have the means to defend ourselves.

  5. Voice123 Says:

    Saudi petrodollars.

  6. Universal Citizen Says:

    When it comes to history, it should be handed over to the professionals. ( who are not bias and are objective oriented). The objective being to find the truth and the historical value of such missions. For the findings to have great value and authenticity the team has to be 100% unbiased and perceived to be so by all concern / stakeholders.

    A policy should be established as to how such situations which have historical importance should be dealt with. It should not be limited to a Kuragala event only, but what may be unearthed tomorrow too.

    Believe we have evidence to say that Sri Lanka definitely has more that 2500 years of history. And that history is not Buddhism but Sri lankan. We should also not forget that this history even could contribute to the HUMAN history and to solve many puzzles the historians have.

    The policy should be applied even for places such as Adam’s peak. For me as a Sri Lankan and for any historian it would be a great finding to say that the first human ( believed by all Abrahamic religions) was in today’s Sri lanka..

    If there is a profession to apply the Buddha’s teaching ( Kalama Sutta ) to the fullest it is History..
    And if it is not applied to the fullest it becomes a joke and a crime..

  7. Dilrook Says:

    I agree with “Universal Citizen” that history is best left for the professionals and there are no better professionals in Sri Lankan history than the writers of Mahawamsa, Chulawamsa, Thri Sinhalaye Kadaimpotha, Rajawaliya, etc. These professionals have established beyond all doubt Kuragala to be a Sinhala and Buddhist shrine and not an Islamic shrine.

    Sri Lanka only has a Sinhala history apart from intermittant invasions in 205 BC, 993 AD, 1505 AD, etc. Immigrants converted to Sinhala Buddhism and lived peacefully without trying to live as in their home countries.

    Human history is not Islamic history either. Adam’s Peak is not the place the first human lived. Scientifically first humans lived in Africa. It is not Sri Lankan to claim others’ history as ours. If immigrant minorities thought this way, we would not be talking about Kuragala.

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