Posted on June 9th, 2020


Revised . 27.6.20

The inscriptions found by Medhananda have helped to confirm known historical facts and also advance our knowledge of the Sinhala Buddhist civilization of ancient and medieval Sri Lanka.    

The inscriptions Medhananda   found refer to a wide range of Sinhala kings. This indicates the extent of Medhananda‘s explorations. Here is a list. Galkiriyagama kande vihara, Vavuniya inscription show that queen of king Uththiya built a Buddhist structure here. King Uththiya reigned in Anuradhapura right after Devanampiyatissa.

 Nagapabbata vihara inscription says the vihara developed under Kutakanna Tissa (44-22BC). Linemalai  has an  inscription of  Bhatika abhaya,(22Bc-47AD). Galkiriyagama kande vihara. Vavuniya also has an inscription  dated to Bhatika abhaya. Muvangala temple, near Hingurana sugar factory has an inscription by king Subha (60-7).  

 Kanitta Tissa (167-86) was son of Mahallaka Naga said an inscription. Bovattegala inscription was issued in the 8th regnal year of king Jettatissa (263-73). Bilivana vihara inscription says Sirimeghavarna (301-328) donated a cave. Namalu vihara inscription also refers to king Sirimeghavarna.

An inscription found near Allai wewa speaks of a donation to Kavudulu vehera by Dappula IV (924-35)    Paranadu Amuna pillar inscription, Ampara refers to king Udaya IV  (946-54). Veheragala Raja Maha Vihara Tammankaduwa has an inscription where Nissanka Malla (1187-96) advises   the people of Ruhuna not to eat bulat. Kanichchigala in Beerihorowwa division also has an inscription by Nissanka Malla.

Medhananda has found a lot of inscriptions relating to Mahadatika Mahanaga (7-19 AD).   Pasana pabbata Vihara inscription says Mahadatikabuilt the vihara, then purchased and donated 20 paddy fields, free of tax. He also gave the water tax from Naga Ela for maintenance of the vihara. Another inscription says Mahadatika Mahanaga built Maninaga Pabbata vihara at Panam pattu. 

Mahasilu Mahatis’s grandson and Kutakanna Tissa’s son Mahadatika Maha Naga had gifted lands to Sastravela vihara, said yet  another inscription.     Medhananda also found inscriptions of cave donations which showed that Rabaya, a minister under Mahadatika Mahanaga, had functioned in both Toppigala and Seruwila.

There were inscriptions about Vasabha (67-111) too. There has been an administrative division of the Eastern province   known as Pajinikara. According on one inscription, Pajinikara was administered by Sona, the son of the minister Bhojaka. Sona had obtained permission from Vasabha and built a huge stupa in present day Kasimottai. This shows the region was under Vasabha, said Medhananda. Otherwise why ask for permission.  An Inscription at Eravur   showed that Pajinikara area was also administered   in Vasabha’s time by minister Asigira.

Medhananda has found inscriptions which  seem to indicate that the ancient Eastern province did have an international perspective. The inscription at Kandegama kande len vihara, Tamankaduwa  spoke of Supparaka”. Supparaka port, located close to present day Bombay, was an important  port in the international trade route  of the time.

Medhananda also observed that there were  many inscriptions with  the word ‘bharatha’ . ‘Bharatha’ is found in inscriptions from Mulgirigala len vihara, Puttalam and  Vanni Hatpattuwa.   Another  inscription said bharatha gothra Shavita’s son Rakshita”. India is now thinking of changing its name from India to Bharat adds this writer, Kamalika Pieris

There was also information on the local  social structure. Henangala inscription  speaks of five   villages,  Giritissa gama,  Karajinitissa gama,  Vilagama, Kasyapa nagara, Malagama,  and Nokapika gama.  In  Ganekanda vihara inscription there is a reference to Gokani grama which must mean Trincomalee, said Medhananda .

Nimala vana Senasuna inscription  speaks of the paddy fields in Mayalisara, Paharakara, Lagamasara, and Dohatana. It also mentions the irrigation  channel Kana DIgana yala”. Girikumbara vihara  lists Mahagala ketha,  Seethakala ketha, Kakalaha ketha,  Hakala ketha, Maha raja ela,   Abalaketha ela, Marachiya ela.   

Buddanehela  Raja Maha Vihara gives names of  gardens, Asunbada watte, Bowatte,  Pardevi nama watte,  Endihi nama watte,     Nanadalisatha nama watte, Nenanile watte. Girikumbara vihara, Ampara lists names of wewa, Maragama wewa, Abalaketha wewa, Maradagama wewa,  Baramanaka wewa, Marachiya wewa.  Galkiriyagama kande vihara, Vavuniya refers to Pahata wewa, Manikara wewa and Naga wewa.

The inscriptions found by Medhananda, provided   interesting information on temples and Sangha. Ganekanda vihara Kurunegala speaks of a donation to Sudamma chetiya. It is rarely that stupa get names, except for Ruvanveli, observed Medhananda .

.An inscription from Mullikulam malai referred to    ‘stupa, vihara, and cave’  in a single inscription. Danurdhara had built a stupa and vihara and had donated them to the Sangha together with a cave,” said the inscription. Medhananda says this is the first time he has seen these three structures mentioned in a single inscription.

Inscriptions have provided useful information on the Sangha. Lahugala wewa rock inscription refers to Galaturumula parapura. An inscription found in Ampara spoke of a diga majjima banaka’, a bhanaka who had studied the Diga Nikaya and Majjima Nikaya.

Piyangalle vihara, Eravur inscription said that Piyangalle was not only for Maha Vihara but also for Pansakulika, Abhayagiri and Dakkina vihara monks. Halbe Raja Maha Vihara  pillar inscription had a  complicated set of instructions as to who could enter  the temple.

Buddanehela Raja Maha Vihara pillar inscription said that all trees, paddy fields and so on within the boundary, should be shared in turn by the monks living in Sagiriya and Nagiriya. The inscription also showed how this was to be managed. 

Inscriptions spoke of donations to temples.   Gal len vihara, Giribawa, Kurunegala  inscription had a simultaneous  donation  of a cave, pittaniyak, kumburak, and  part of an amuna.  In Kongala inscription  the donation was kahavanu.

At Ganekanda vihara/ Mandalaramaya, Kurunegala one  cave has been donated by  the head  and deputy head of a trading  concern (velenda samagamak) . Nimala vana Senasuna inscription said a cave was donated by the cloth weavers society.

At   Padikemgala  all donations were by monks. Medhananda thought this most unusual.  In the Magul Maha vihara, Kirinda inscription donations were from village leaders,      upasika, doctor,  householders, elite and Sangha,  but  none  by royalty,   observed Medhananda .

Cave donations   showed  the many official designations and occupations in the island.  Karandahela inscription spoke of  a  swami,  an acharya and a  kumbalkara. Inscription at  Habutagala vihara  said one donor was a  ‘potter’. This shows that   a potter was not considered  to be a person of inferior rank, argued Medhananda . Malayadi kanda vihara  inscription speaks of a  donation by a government nurse.  In another inscription , the donor was an intelligence or secret service officer.

From  a feminist perspective, cave  inscriptions  indicated the  status of women.  Medhananda had found Inscriptions  which said  Cave of Chitra daughter of chief minister Utara”, donation of      Sachini, daughter of educationist Shata” and  Cave of  female devotee Yasashini. An inscription  saying , ‘Selabe, daughter of Paravata Kala constructed this flight of steps,’ was found at Bandara vava on Ampara –Mahaoya .

Inscriptions found by Medhananda yielded valuable information on  commerce and finance in Ruhuna. Himidurawa inscription  speaks of a cave  donated by an accountant ( ganaka) named Tisha. Other inscriptions said cave of Vahali, chief accountant and daughter of Asha”  and  cave of   accountant Suriya.

Tonigala  and Punnyadi/Kalladi  inscriptions  went further. One inscription, dated to Anuradhapura period, spoke of a market town called Kalahumanika . Kalahumanika   had a bank  where a minister called Pahejasiva  had deposited grain. A second inscription indicated that there were two large trading towns, Tambavita and  Tubavatiya  in Seruwila having banks which did international transactions.(sic) A third inscription  spoke of  yet another trading town called Kadavita. There was a banking centre there called Manarama. It states that king Mahasen had deposited the paddy from a field owned by him in Seruwila area, to a bank there  and the interest was to go to the temple.

Inscriptions  also yielded information on ownership and use of money. Samangala forest hermitage had an inscription which refers to the ownership of a forest. Ganekanda vihara, Kurunegala inscription said  that a king gave one lakh for the labour  needed to build a wall to obtain water for Tarapa gama. This is probably an amuna, said Medhananda .

  Kondawattawana inscription, Gal Oya, dated to 10th century ,spoke of  the taxes on paddy fields and the law regarding it. Another inscription  spoke of a tax called  Patta.Nelumpath inscription, Kumana    said a water tax called Mahanakaraka had to be paid to this vihara.

Udayagiri Raja Maha Vihara, Ampara yielded  an inscription   which said that in the time of Udaya I, the Senapathi Udaya and Abhaya  exempted the lands owned by the vihara from the Veletti tax. This was the first time we hear of Veletti tax. May be a  grain tax, said Medhananda .  ( continued)

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