Let us save Kuragala Heritage
Posted on May 17th, 2013

Roshan Aboosally Trustee -DaftherJailaniMohiyadeen Masjid – Kuragala, Thanjatenne, Balangoda

DAFTHER JAILANI MOHIYADEEN MASJIDis a mosque situated at the edge of the Balangoda plateau in KuragalaBalangoda .This place has a long history of Muslims visiting this site from ancient times first as a resting place from their journey from the South of Sri Lanka to Adam’s Peak and then as a holy site where one of Islam’s greatest Saints namely SHEIKH MOHIYADEEN ABDUL QADIR GILANImeditated on a ledge accessible through  a cave known as ” SorangaMalai “ƒ”¹…” or the “ƒ”¹…”Mountain of the Cave’

From the 16th Century when Sri Lanka  was colonized by the Portuguese, this route from the South was disused  and was reclaimed by the jungle until it was rediscovered by a Mowlana from the Lakadive Islands in 1875 (who knew about the visit of the Saint to this site ) and ever since Muslims have been visiting Kuragala and religious observances have been conducted from 1890 to date, a period of 124 years. Thousands of pilgrims visit this site not only from all parts of Sri Lanka but many foreign countries as well .

This site was handed over to the Archaeological Department in 1972 based on a cabinet order. The department erected a signboard stating that this site was of an ancient Buddhist monastery.  A notice was also issued by the said Department that the Muslims using Kuragala as a place of worship will not be affected by any conservation work within the reserve.

Subsequently the Trustees of the Mosque Leased 26 acres of land on the perimeter of the archaeological reserve to build resting places and other amenities for pilgrims visiting this holy site .

During a recent visit to Kuragala, the Defence Secretary, Mr. GotabayaRajapakse, stated that all extraneous buildings in the site should be moved out for conservation work, although the buildings were in existence before the site was handed over to the Archaeological Department. He directed the Director General of the Archaeological Department to form a committee comprising Officials of the Department, the Trustees of the Mosque and the MahaSangha to reach an amicable settlement on the removal of the buildings.  The Defence Secretary assured the Muslims that the Mosque built in 1922 will not be affected, and the Director General too emphasized that the Mosque will not be harmed under any circumstance and that the Muslims could continue to conduct religious observances as they have been doing in the past.

On the advice of an Environmental Architect, the Trustees of the Masjid sought the services of a Surveyor to conduct a contour survey of the 26 acres outside the archaeological site.  We informed the Defence Secretary and the Director General that we had commenced work and that we would begin construction in the new location when the Architect submits the building plans and the cost estimates so we could source necessary funds for construction.  The Defence Secretary generously offered to source funding, and we intended the work to commence in July/August 2013.

Regretfully, contrary to the directive given by the Defence Secretary, the Director General on the advice of his legal team commenced demolishing the buildings by employing around 50 youth under the supervision of the Civil Defence Forces without prior notice to the trustees of the mosque.

This action resulted in the contents of the buildings being exposed to the elements. Further, the large number of pilgrims who usually visit in the month of May will not have a resting places nor toilets.  The walls around the well, which afforded privacy to women, have also been demolished.  Some of these buildings were donated by well wishers and it was the intention of the Trustees to inform them of the relocation of the same; however, they were not afforded the opportunity to follow this courtesy.  This callous action demonstrates the lack of respect for the Muslim community and disregard for the directives of the Defence Secretary and the peaceful consensus reached.

The Archaeological Department may have the authority to clear the site for conservation purposes.  However it is only right that proper procedure should have been followed in waiting for relocation to take place within a reasonable time frame .  I urge the Director General to kindly suspend the dismantling of the few remaining buildings temporarily and commence conservation work in areas where it has already been cleared. 

The Director General has recently informed the trustees that the bones of a pre-historic human have been found during their recent excavation. This is yet to be officially confirmed by the Archaeological Department.  He believes that this site is of immense archaeological significance.

In an article on the newspaper “ƒ”¹…”Ada’ of 8th May 2013, the BoduBalaSena  has threatened to bring a large number of  persons to the site and forcibly demolish the existing buildings destroying anything of historical or archaeological value.

I, on behalf of the trustees would kindly appeal to the leaders of the Nation ,the Ven. Sangha, , the open minded and tolerant citizens of the country to find a peaceful solution through discussion and consensus.

I would also like to appeal to the Sangha and people of Balangoda,an electorate made up of 97% Sinhalese who elected a Muslim to represent them in Parliament for 17 years,a man who served his electorate humbly during his term . We who withstood together all the problems that our Country has endured , without any divisions of caste creed ethnicity, religion or even politics .I appeal to you to safeguard the Peace we have in Balangoda  and in our beloved country.

3 Responses to “Let us save Kuragala Heritage”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    If every place a Muslim Holy Man has stayed and meditated can be granted the status of “Holy” then nothing would be left of Buddhist Sri Lanka. The antiquity of this place needs to be investigated properly and scientifically before arriving at conclusions on the true history of this place. If in 1972 Kuragala was designated as a site of a Buddhist Monastery then this fact must be investigated and the sanctity of its environs preserved for all time. We might find more authentic evidence than its ‘rediscovery’ by a Mowlana from Lankadive Island! This type of stories by interested religious groups are dime a dozen in Sri Lanka. So we have to careful for the peaceful existence of all communities and religions.

    If it is the contention that Kuragala is a Buddhist place of worship in the past – Buddhists have now nearly a 2400 year presence in Sri Lanka – that is longer than even Islam was even contemplated – then it would be good for the good muslims to leave the premises and take their place of worship elsewhere. All these must be taken in perspective in relation to the way the Muslims have handled Buddhist places of worship elsewhere in Asia. Marauding Muslim hordes were responsible for the destruction of the largest Buddhist University in Asian – Nalanda and the murder of all its inhabitants!

    Surely we do not want such desecration to happen in Sri Lanka.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Roshan Aboosally:

    I too agree we should have a peaceful resolution. BBS must be kept out of this. However, the Muslim community must accept that this shrine was in existence even before Islam was invented in the 7th century AD. It’s Buddhist heritage dates back to around 2nd century BC. Its pre-Buddhist Sinhala heritage dates to the 6th century BC or earlier. It is a place where God Kataragama fought and won a war against a vicious group. 1922 withers into irrelevance considering the thousands of years old heritage.

    Except a mosque outside the holy area of the Buddhist and pre-Buddhist remains nothing else should be allowed here. It is in the interests of all to remove everything else as soon as possible.

    It should not lead to any threat to peace. Any threat to peace is a military matter and should be dealt with accordingly.

  3. Senevirath Says:

    dear all
    pl .. read — “”MUSLIM BETHI MATHATA PILITHURAK “may 19th 2013 sunday divaina — visheshanga—

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