BUDDHISM IN PRESENT DAY EASTERN PROVINCE PT 4
Posted on August 10th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Malinda Seneviratne, the respected journalist,   went to Budubava in 2020 and observed that the Buddhist ruins in Eastern Province were getting destroyed. The jungles around Panama are full of Buddhist shrines. There are remains of stupas and monastic complexes. There are hundreds of caves. [They are now being demolished]These were not destroyed by the elements, said Malinda. How else could a place like Budubava have stupas razed to the ground?

The Wildlife Department, the Forest Department, the Special Task Force, the Irrigation Department and the Archaeology Department have jurisdiction over these jungles. Could all these institutions be in the dark about the vandalism that is taking place? All of them, all the time and together? asked Malinda.

Medhananda had plenty to say about the way ruins were getting destroyed in the Eastern Province. Stone pillars at Pulukunava were broken into pieces. This vandalism is not natural it has been done by persons, said Medhananda. Four siripatul from Pulukunawa Maha vihara have been taken away as miris gal.   The Viharakadu region close to Dighavapi has been leveled recently using machinery. At Dighavapi itself, a bulldozer had gone ‘by mistake’ through the temple. In 1972, they were planning to shoot and destroy the Buddhist ruins at Niyankullukama.

Nilaveli has Mahayana Buddhist ruins. the vihara was known as Kanikaravelli vihara. The stupas were there in 1966, they had disappeared by 1978.  The stupa and    arama of Okanda vihara were in good condition in 1978.They have now disappeared. At Rugam too, the ruins have been deliberately destroyed. Jayarampala, a few miles north of Karanda oya consists of many Buddhist ruins. These have been vandalized.

Veheragala vihara near Araganvila is a monastery on a huge rock. All buildings, including stupa have been destroyed. Inscription shows that kings worshipped here. Veheratenna which had ruins dated to 5th century AD was heavily destroyed. Taravakulam ruins have been   damaged.

Galkulama had ruins stretching all the way to Kiliveddi. An Inscription there showed that its name was Girimahalaka Maha vehera and it had been built by Dutugemunu. This place has been completely destroyed, said Medhananda. Its stupa has been destroyed and bricks scattered for miles . Sunetra wewa (Tirumangala)  had Buddhist ruins for 5 acres or so. They have been deliberately destroyed. Kalladi puda bima, in Batticaloa was discovered and protected by the armed forces during the Eelam war.

When Buddhist remains were destroyed, rock inscriptions were specifically targeted. They were sought out and deliberately destroyed. Mundikulammale Ampara had rows of caves with inscriptions. these had been shot and destroyed. The damage done is extensive. Buddhist ruins at Niyankullukama were shot and destroyed, while Medhananda was there, exploring in 1972.

Buddhist ruins at Niyankullukama were shot and destroyed, while Medhananda was there, exploring in 1972. Mahagirilla Savarankeligala had a unique inscription relating to a ‘pase budun’. This was recorded by the Department of Archaeology. Medhananda found the stone containing the inscription smashed to pieces and the inscription destroyed.

Kadolupotana kanda, Eravur had three inscriptions which showed that this area was under Kavantissa. These inscriptions have been destroyed.   Mundikulam malai site in Ampara, had an inscription, discovered by Medhananda, which stated that Vihara Maha Devi lived there after she became a nun. The rock and the inscription had been broken up.

An Inscription at Dimbulagala cave dated to 2 century BC was found mutilated in 1980. Only two words remained. Eeratiperiyakulam   ruined vihara. Parker found an Inscription says that arachchi vila donated to Thihadaya arama. This inscription has disappeared.

Kurundammalai known earlier as Kurathgama had an inscription dated to Mahinda III (801-804) which said that the king had come to settle a problem about water. C.W. Nicholas had seen this inscription. When we went it was not to be seen”, announced Medhananda.  Inscription at Dimbulagala cave letters were mutilated in 1980, only two words remain.  Nilaveli had       a Sanskrit inscription,  a sloka, dated to 6 AD. By 1981 the inscription had been tarred over.

Two inscriptions at Lahugala, the Akuru ketu gala inscription   on Karapavata vihara, and Galhitiode inscription on Ayapavata vihara were destroyed. Thannimuruppu wewa inscription at Kurundammalai is now destroyed. A Sanskrit Mahayana inscription at Kucceveli Maha vihara was defaced in 1981, said Medhananda. Kumachola inscription at Eravur   said that the eastern coast was administered in king Vasabha’s time (67-111 AD) by minister Asigira. some letters in this inscription were erased.

Bodhi trees were also considered religious objects which should be demolished. The Bo tree and shrine room at Sambaltivu in Trincomalee was cut down and destroyed. 

Sri Vardhana Bodhi of Kiliveddi. Is In Muttur is about 150 yards from Kiliveddi ferry. When Medhananda visited in 1952 he   found a large Bodhi tree, with stone pillars, moon stone, step slabs, etc. they were there then I went there again in 1965. When he visited in 1977 the tree and the ruins were gone. Tamils living near Tirumangala wewa moved to Kiliveddy and destroyed its Buddhist ruins and built a kovil near the Bodhi. They  extended this close to the Bodhi, and then cut the branches of the Bodhi, supposedly for telephone wires. Then cut the branches so that the trunk was affected. The moonstone that I saw in 1965 was destroyed by 1977.  Now there are no Buddhist ruins there.

Stupas have been destroyed systematically. The stupa at Nilaveli was there in 1966, it had disappeared by 1978.Medhananda saw a huge stupa, 300 by 33 feet, on the Trincomalee- Kantalai road, near 246 km post. This has been cut in two and bricks scattered all over the teak plantation nearby. Teak has been planted on top of the stupa, as well, reported Medhananda.

Vilankulam stupa was also   huge   150 ft in circum, and 35 in height. This too had been deliberately destroyed and bricks scattered all over. When I saw it in 1978, Sellappa Nalliah and Inamuttusamy had built a house at the top of the stupa, with toilet and well, said Medhananda.

 The stupa near Kinniya wells vanished after the Ceasefire agreement of 2002. The media reported in 2002 that senior monks of Seruwila and Tamankaduwa had said that the bricks unearthed while levelling a mound near the hotwells at Kinniya belong to Anuradhapura era and the mound was a stupa. This has been levelled to put up a Hindu temple. The monks had complained to the authorities.

Buddha statues were also damaged. Statues at Mudu Maha vihara, Panama seen in 1990 have disappeared, said Medhananda.  Kucceveli Maha vihara had Mahayana statues ‘in pleasing form’ when Medhananda visited in 1966. When   Medhananda visited in 1978 the upper parts of most of the statues were destroyed.

The Buddha statues at Daluggala Raja Maha Vihara was damaged and the pilima head taken as a lip galak. At Ridikanda the statues had been dragged down from the hill and destroyed.  Due to this, the Buddha statue found Paravankandam was removed to the Police station for safety, and is now in Ampara museum, said Medhananda. 

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.Many ancient Buddhist buildings have been demolished and devala belonging to various Hindu gods have been built over their ruins.

The Kankon isvarna kovil, at Kokkadicholai , has been built over a Buddhist aramaya and the signs are still there. There are guard stones, parts of stupa. There was an inscription  Medhananda  was told by those living there, in 1968, but it has been destroyed.  Kovil started small and now enlarged. There is a second Pullaiyar kovil too.   Tamils only there now. 

When I visited Sembumalai in 1978, the Buddha statue seen earlier was missing. Many ruins were purposely damaged and a Hindu kovil has been established. The Poosari’s statements that it was built in 1938 cannot be accepted as the materials used for the kovil were   new. There is a kovil at Palamottai with a notice giving its ‘history’ in Tamil.  

Rahatgala had        30 acres of Buddhist ruins including an ancient two storied building.   It is today known as Shanthamalai, it has two kovils. The huge stone ansana and asanaghara at Viharagalkanda has been deposited there.

Kandakudichci aru ruins. There is now a Hindu kovil there. Used the stupa altars, one as a step and the other as an altar. Okanda devale at Panama has been renamed Murugan kovil.  Sangaman kanda,   was a Buddhist  site, with two  cave inscriptions  . Now it is a Siva kovil. 

Ridikanda ruins. Media reported in 1978  that the statues had been pushed off the hill  dragged down and   destroyed. A Shiva devale is set up here, called  Sembir devale .  Tamils said it was set up in 1938. Ruins around the kovil had been destroyed.  

At Tirumangala  the kovil   had a Buddha statue.  Ancient bricks, columns,  stone tiles,  have been used for the kovil .There are Buddhist  ruins for 5 acres or so with moonstone and image stand. Taravakulama  in Batticaloa had a  Buddhist  vihara which is now converted to Hindu kovil. Toppigala also now has a Hindu kovil.

In some kovils the Buddhist link is visible. At Tirumangala the kovil had a Buddha statue.   Kantakonishwaran kovil near Vellavali, built on a   huge, ancient Buddhist monastery, has used the ruins as  altars. the  huge stone ansana and asanaghara at vihara gal kanda   had been taken to Santamalai where a Hindu kovil had been set up on the Buddhist site.

At Kandakudichchi aru  where  the stupa was replaced by a kovil, one  mal asana gala was   placed before the Hindu statue  and the other was used as a step.  Villagers in Veheragoda, Ampara,  said that the stone door frame belonging to the stupa had been taken away to a kovil at Mandur.

There have been knee jerk reactions in Colombo, to this kovil building. The media  reported in 2002  that  All Ceylon Buddhist women’s Congress,  National council of Buddhist women and Success, Colombo jointly appeal to the President, PM and Minister for Buddha Sasana to immediately order an investigation into the alleged destruction of the ancient Samudragiri vihara in Ilankathurai. Our information is that this temple has been torn down and its stone pillars used to build a new Hindu kovil,. However, Medhananda observed in 2003 that stupa and pilimage at Samudragiri vihara, Lankapatuna has been destroyed and the kovil set up. Samudragiri will be completely destroyed very soon, he predicted. ( continued)

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