BUDDHISM IN THE NORTHERN PROVINCE (1990-2019) Part 4
Posted on August 3rd, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The Northern Province was an integral part of the Rajarata of the Anuradhapura kingdom. The Raja rata was divided into uttara passa (north) dakkhina, (south) pacina, (east) and pajjima (west). Uttara passa consisted of today’s Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Mannar, and Jaffna. Each division was ruled by officer appointed by king.  Jambukolapatana in Jaffna was the main port for arrivals and departure to Rajarata. There was a main road from Jambukolapatana in Jaffna to Anuradhapura.

The Northern Province continued under the Sinhala king in the ancient and medieval periods. Periyakulam inscription says that during the time of Devanam Piyatissa, Vavuniya was ruled by ‘Naga’ and ‘Uti’ and Mannar was ruled by ‘Kana’. During the time of the Sinhala attakatha, Nagadipa ruler was under   Sinhala king, as diparaja.

In Vasabha’s time ((67-111 AD) Jaffna was ruled by Vasabha’s Minister Isigiri. Nelugala inscription indicated that a minister, also named, Asgiri administered the north under Bhatiya Tissa II   (143-167) and Kanitta Tissa (167-186). The inscriptions in Ichchalampaththai (date not provided) show that these were Sinhala villages.

Sigiri Gee (5th-8th century) contains   verses written by ‘Uturupasa vasi Samanal bati’ and ‘Uturupasa vasi Agalabati’ . They wrote in Sinhala.  Inscription  of Kassapa IV((898-914) at Kadurugoda said Kassapa was the ruler of the south as well as the north.  Mannar pillar inscription of Kassapa IV  has the  term Mahaputu Laddan, which  denotes officers attached to sea port. Amenities given to some villages are also mentioned .

Mannar was a part of the  Sitawaka kingdom. Kokila sandesaya (15th century) gives a route from Kotte to Jaffna via   Mannar.  During the time of Rajasinha  I, (1581-93)  Manamperi Mohottala administered Mannar. Baldeus (1632-72)  writing during the Dutch occupation, gave a list of places under the Sinhala king. It included Trincomalee, Mannar, Batticaloa,  and Jaffna. 

The Northern Province continued under the Sinhala king. It was a  part of the last  Sinhala kingdom, the Udarata kingdom.  The Northern Province remained within Udarata until the kingdom came to an end in 1815. The Udarata kingdom was huge, about three times the size of the Portuguese and Dutch possessions.

Another way of showing that the  North was ruled by the Sinhala king was by comparing the language and script in northern inscription and those elsewhere, said Medhananda in 2013.  Medhananda  found 2 inscriptions dated to 2 century AD at Kandakudichchi aru ruins. The script and language resembled  inscriptions at  Ritigala, Vessagiriya,  Mihintale.  He found that the language  and script were the same in the Mailagastota ,    Kallampattuva  and  Tunukai  inscriptions   . Mailagastota was in the   south,  Kallampattuva in the east and  Tunukai  in the north of Sri Lanka .  Medhananda  said that inscriptions  of Kassapa IV were found in  south, east and northwest  of the island. The script and language was the same. 

The Northern Province was originally Sinhala and Buddhist. Mannar pillar inscription of Kassapa IV spoke of three Buddhist viharas in the area, Bahaduru Sen Piyangala, Na Vihara and Rakkha vihara. Kannimaduwa inscription found near Kongarayam kulam , Vavuniya   speaks of Salapavu vehera and its villages. The Province still retains evidence of this civilization. Kirivehera at   Atambagaskada, 6 km from Vavuniya, has a Samadhi Buddha statue, which is  far superior to those found in this area. It is 2’ 21/2” high.   The head dress or ketumala is unique. Villagers says it was brought from elsewhere.

A list of Buddhist sites in the north and east were prepared in 1962 by  Assistant Archaeological Commissioner ,M H Sirisoma. Buddhist Times,  in 2007,   provided a list of Buddhist sites in north and east. Jaffna had 21, Mannar had 4, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu had 104.

Ven. Ellawala Medhananda exploring in the 1990s  found  additional  sites which are not in the Sirisoma map.  He found 17 more locations  in Jaffna district, including 4 on the smaller islands, 19  more for Vavuniya and Mullaitivu , and  32  for Mannar, of which 15 are lined along the sea coast.

Medhananda also   named 48 places in  Jaffna   and 90  places in Vavuniya and Mullaitivu  which had Buddhist ruins. He says this list is not complete, there are other unexplored places. There are more than 20 archaeological sites on Dollar Farm alone. Each time I went to  Vavuniya and Mullaitivu  I found new ruins. Most are in private lands. The ruins showed  remains of stupas, foundations of buildings, statues, pada lanjana, bricks,  tiles,  potsherds. 

Medhananda says the North is full of Buddhist remains, every hill, every mound has a Buddhist   building.  Every village had an aramaya.    Medhananda  said that there were over 1500 Buddhist archaeological sites in the districts of Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Mannar. Each time I went to  Vavuniya and Mullaitivu  I found new ruins. He has found foundations of buildings, lived in caves, inscriptions, pada lanjana and bricks. He says there are many more sites. Medhananda  said there are more than 20  archaeological sites on  the small Dollar Farm village alone.

Vavuniya is  full of Buddhist  ruins. There are  hundreds of  Buddhist ruins In Vavuniya there are three sets of ruins in a straight line, at Mahakachca kodiya,    Erupotana,  and  Periyapuliyam kulam malai. Odiamalai, Thadda malai, Kurundam malai had  inscriptions. Kurundammalai ,  originally Kurunvashoka vihara, had a  lot of ruins. Medhananda said that this was the place  where he saw the most ruins. Have not seen so many ruins in any other place I  have gone to.

Vavuniya and Mullaitivu Buddhist  ruins have not been examined  fully by anyone., said Medhananda . Most of these are not  recorded by Department of Archaeology.  ‘We have never explored these areas, said Medhananda . Our archeology only concentrated on Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa   and a few other places.

From Jaffna to Wilpattu, all along the ocean strip, one sees places with over 100 ruins. No explorations have been done in this area. These sites were never examined carefully, other than presenting a random report.

In his book Pacina passsa, uttara passa, nagenahira palata  ha  uturu palate Sinhala Bauddha Urumaya” Medhananda  gives a list of Buddhist ruins seen by him  in the Northern Province. The viharas seen by Medhananda in his northern explorations include Atambagaskada kiri vihara , Buddhanehela Raja Maha Vihara , Galgiriyagama kanda vihara ,  Iratperiyakulam vihara ,  Kadurugoda vihara ,  Kurundammalai vihara ,  Madukande Dalada vihara , Mahakachcha kodiya vihara,   Mangana vihara . Piyagukatissa vihara , Paribhoga chaitya, Salavana vihara ,  Tonigala vihara ,   Valli vihara, Vedikinarimalai Vaddamana parvata vihara . 

Medhananda  gives  48 places  in Jaffna where he has seen Buddhist ruins He says there are others as well. the places listed are Algiriya, Anai kottai, Analativu,Ariyalai,  Atchuveli, Buddhatottam, Buddhawalawwa,  Chakaveli,  Changanai, Chulipuram,  Chunnakam, Delft,  Elavativu, Gotamalu watte,  Karaitivu,Kodiyavatte Mahiyapiddy,  Mallakam, Manipai, Marattamadam,Mavaddipuram,  Nagachcha kovil precincts,   Nagarkovil, Nainativu,Nallur, Neelavarai, Pinwatte, Ponnalai, Poonaryn,  Pukuditivu, Puloli, Puttur,Sambaturai,Tellipilai,  Tennavali, Tiruadanilai,    Tisamalai,   Tunukai, Udupiddy, Uduvil,  Uratota,Uraturai, Vadukkodai, Valikamam and Valvettiturai. Medhananda says these ruins show bricks, tiles, statues, potsherds, inscriptions.   Most are in private lands, Medhananda observed.

In Vavuniya and Mullaitivu Medhananda has explored the following places: Ariyamadu,Atambagaskada,  Bogaswewa, Buddha kovil,  Bumaya, Chelliyar villu, Chenkal veddi kulam,Chenmadu, Dollar farm, Eeratperiyakulam, Erupothana,    Iluppu kulam,  Iranai illupun kulam, Iranamadu, Irasattiram kulam,Iruvil,Kachchilamadu, Kallaru, Kalnattan kulam, Kalukundammaduwa, Kanagarayam kulam, Kanchiramuddai,  Karadikulam,  Karavil kulam,   Karidikkulam, Kokkavelliya, Kongaraya kulam,  Kontaka karnakulam, Kovil puliyan kulam,Kumbakarna malai,Kurum puliyan kulam, Madukanda, Mahakachchkodiya,Mahamailan kulam, Mamaduwa Manikai,  Maniyar kulam,Mankalkeni,Mannan kadal,Manthri vihara,  Maradamadu,Maratamadu, Menik farm, Mohonnan kulam, Molliyavela,  Mudaliyakulam,Namban kulam, Navagama Kirivehera,  Nayaru,Nedunkerni, Nelukkulam, Nochchiya moddai,Oddusuddan,  Odiyamalai,  Olumaduva, Omandan, Paddikudiirippu, Padivettukulam, Palamoddai, Panaiyan kulam,Panangama,   Patta kattuveli,  Pavattakulam,  Periyakulam,  Periyamar iluppai,Periyauttukai, Pokkaravanni  tunukai, Pudukudi iruppukulam,Puleliya, Pumaduva,   Puravasan kulam,  Puvarasankulam, Ruvanmadu, Samalankulama, Sirappanmaduva,Tachcankulam,Tadikkulam,  Tambankulama, Tapassavellliya,  Tiranamadu,  Tiraviyamalai,Tonigala,Tukkumarattadi, Tuntimuruppu wewa, Udavelikulam, Ulakkulam,Unjaral kaddi, Vadamarachhci, Variyakuddiuru, Veherabanda  wewa, Vettilkulam,  Vettiyakulam and   Yakumadu yaya.

In Mannar  Ven. Medhananda has visited Arippu , Cholayan kaddu,  Compotukki,      Ilukpeyikadachei, Irantivu, Kadappiditti kulam,   Kohala wewa, Kunchi kulam, Magana, Malikai kulam, Mannankulam, Mantota,  Moderagam ara, Mudalikulam, Mukkarayakulam, Mulliyakkulam, Musali, Na vehera,  Olivettikulam, Pachcha addappan wewa,  Paniyankulam,  Pannankamam, Periyanavakkulam, Pesalai, Puliyankulam, Rajakulama, Rajamaduva,Rakkha vihara,  Samadetiya,  Talaimannar, Tiruketiswaram, Ttuvavali,  Valli vihara, Vachinikulam    and Vellantarai. 

Medhananda has given  a detailed description of the sites he has visited. In Vavuniya,  Medhananda   explored Buddanehela  Raja Maha Vihara  . Ruins are fast   deteriorating he said. Galkiriyagama kande vihara, had  remains of a huge stupa , a  Siripatula and ponds. Inscriptions show king Uththiya’s queen had  built   a structure here.

Ven. Ellawala Medhananda has drawn attention to the damage done by ‘non-Buddhists’ (Hindus and Muslims), to the Buddhist monasteries, hermitages and ancient ruins in the north and east. Medhananda says that more than five hundred sites with ancient Buddhist ruins are either destroyed or are being destroyed in the north and east. Lavatories have been built amidst Buddhist ruins in north, he said. Medhananda found a destroyed Buddha statue and moonstone at Oddusuddan.    Others found that ruins at Etambagaskanda and  Kandikulam  had been destroyed. Kantarodai was a large area, now it is reduced to a small area, they said.

 The ruins in Jaffna  and elsewhere are  in danger, said Medhananda speaking  in 2009 during Eelam war IV.  In 2009 Medhananda   wanted the  Department of Archaeology to take control of the Buddhist  ruins in the cleared areas of the Vanni. He said that there were over 1500 such sites in the districts of Vanni, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Mannar.

In 2010 that Medhananda had   told Daily Mirror that  more than 50 sites of archeological importance in the Mullaitivu district have been desecrated by the LTTE and used as bunkers and fortifications. A total of 1633 sites have been desecrated in the Anuradhapura, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts and that they should be preserved from further damage. Ellawala Medhananda requested the President to take steps to hand over the control of these archeological sites to the Department of Archaeology for preservation.  Monuments like moon stones and ancient fortresses belonging to 11th century have been severely affected.

The main strategy used to suppress Buddhism in the north and east, was to promptly substitute Hindu kovils for the destroyed Buddhist ruins. Hindu kovils have been built over many of the Buddhist shrines, said Medhananda. LTTE  had put  up a Hindu kovil At Oddusuddan.

Archaeological officers in Vavuniya  complained to the Omanthai police about  a kovil being built in Maligai area, Omanthai  in an  area which has ruins  dated to the Anuradhapura period. Buddhist ruins including ancient ‘stupa’ bases, Sri Pada , bases of buildings, stone pillars, bricks and tiles had been bulldozed and replaced by  statues of Hindu gods. The area, seven acres in extent, has been enclosed as private land and arrangements have been made to build a Kovil there, the report concluded.  ( date not provided).

A Fundamental Rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court in 2019 seeking an order directing the authorities to take immediate action to investigate the imminent danger to the Buddhist religious sites and archaeological sites situated in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This petition has been filed by attorney-at-Law Dharshana Weraduwage. The petitioner states that he was shocked and dismayed to hear the news that a certain group had bulldozed an area in Maligai, Omanthai, Vavuniya, which had contained archaeological memorials and ruins that belonged to the Anuradhapura period.

The petitioner also states that he came to know that Mullaitivu Police had removed the CCTV system which was installed to the protection of the Mullaitivu Gurukanda Temple. The petitioner further sought an order declaring that fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution under Articles 10, 11, 12 (1), 12(2), 14(1)(e) and 14(1)(f) have been violated by the respondents owing to their inaction.

There is now a impressive large Hindu kovil at Nagadipa. According to Wikipedia, theNainativu  Nagapoosani Amman Temple  is a historic Hindu temple.It has been mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature, such as Manimekalai and Kundalakesi. it is one of the prominent 64 Shakti Peethams of Hinduism  and was identified as such in the  9th century  by Adi Shankaracharya,  a Hindu philosopher of Tamilnadu .The present structure was built during 1720 to 1790, concluded Wikipedia.

This is  all nonsense. This kovil was not there in the 1950s when I visited Nagadipa with my parents. It was probably built during the Eelam wars. This  new kovil  is strategically located at the tip of  the island,   facing Jaffna. It has four tall gopurams ranging from 20–25 feet in height, the tallest being the eastern gopuram soaring at 108 feet high.  The  kovil is clearly visible   from  miles away and  gives the impression that Nagadipa is a Hindu island. 

The  annual High Festival of Sri Nagapoosani Amman Temple is supported by the state. The Navy media unit   said in 2019, the annual festival began on July 2 in Nainativu Island. As in previous years, a large number of devotees are arriving for this year’s festival too. Naval personnel of the command provide their assistance in numerous ways for making the festival a success. Naval assistance is extended in a wide range of ways from providing sea transportation for VIPs, coordinating the ferry service between Kurikadduwan and Nainativu, providing drinking water for devotees, arranging safe bathing locations, life-saving assistance for devotees, and providing pier security and security checks. Sri Lanka Navy will assist the annual festival which is scheduled to finish on July 17,assured the navy.

Nagadipa is one of the solosmastana of Buddhist worship. it is the only one  of the  ‘solosmastana’ to be located in the  Northern Province .The new Hindu kovil   is clearly an attempt to wrest this particular solosmastana from Buddhist worship and convert it to Hindu worship.  Buddhists , specially the Maha Sangha , do not seem to mind. When I visited Jaffna last year,  as part of a tour group, those who went to Nagadipa returned speaking admiringly of the Hindu kovil.

However, Nainativu cannot be the Nagadipa mentioned in the Mahavamsa .it is too small. The Jaffna  peninsula is the real Nagadipa. Paul E Pieris has  provided  the necessary evidence. He showed, among other evidence, that Ptolemy called  the Jaffna peninsula   ‘Nagadiboy’.  Vallipuram manuscript of Vasabha called it Nakadiva.   Medhananda, writing in the 1990s, stated his view. Jaffna, Elephant Pass and the islands around it were known originally as Nagadipa, said Medhananda.

Historians find the Mahavamsa reference to  the Chulodara-Mahodara contest at Nagadipa, very useful in reconstructing the settlements of pre-historic Sri Lanka . Historians accept that there was a  community of Nagas  in the Northern province. If so,  this settlement, which had to be a  large one  to accommodate such a fight, could  not have existed on the present Nainativu, which is only two square kilometers in extent. It took place in the Jaffna Peninsula.

Therefore Jaffna must immediately replace Nainativu in the list of   ‘solosmastana’. Facilities must be provided for Buddhists to worship in Jaffna. Buddhists should have asked for this long ago. Jaffna must be  also given back its original name ‘Nagadipa’.( concluded)

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