Posted on June 20th, 2020


REVISED 20.6.20

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.

 Destroying Buddhist ruins in the East started long ago, said Medhananda. Initially, it was done secretly and cleverly.  Now it has got speeded up and is now done openly on a large scale. At Niyankallugama, the ruins were shot and destroyed, while Medhananda was there, exploring in 1972. Only Buddhist places face this destruction, not the other religions, observed Medhananda. Buddhists are now facing an ‘asarana,  ahinsaka, nivata, niyalu’ situation.

The ruins in Jaffna  and elsewhere are  in danger, said Medhananda speaking  in 2009 during Eelam war IV. Medhananda   wanted the  Department of Archaeology to take control of the Buddhist  ruins in the cleared areas of the Vanni.

Daily Mirror Online reported  in June 2010 that Medhananda had  said 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 there 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.

It is clear, says this writer (Kamalika Pieris) that there is   a well planned, externally directed campaign, to convert the north and east of Sri Lanka to a Hindu/ Muslim territory.

Medhananda found that ruins he had examined earlier had vanished when he went a second time. I found that ruins I had seen in 1966 had disappeared by 1976. What I saw in 1976 had disappeared by 1986” said Medhananda.

Buddhist sites in good condition in Trincomalee   in 1960 had vanished when Medhananda  visited them in 1980. Hindu kovils had been built over many of them. What we saw in 1964 at Veddikinarimalai had disappeared by 1973.  The ruins seen earlier at Veheragama have now vanished, said Medhananda in 2013.

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 .

The inscription at  Veheragala vihara, near Araganvila showed that  kings had worshipped there. All the building, including the stupa have been destroyed, said Medhananda . Veheratenna  which had ruins dated to 5th century  AD  was heavily destroyed. Kurundammalai had over 100 acre of Buddhist ruins including an image house. Sunetra wewa(Tirumangala) area  had Buddhist ruins for 5 acres or so. They have been deliberately destroyed. At Rugam  too, the ruins have been deliberately destroyed. Stone pillars at Pulukunava were broken into pieces. This vandalism is not natural it has been done by persons, said Medhananda .

Jayarampala, a few miles north of Karanda oya had many Buddhist ruins. These have been vandalized. The Viharakadu region close to Dighavapi has been leveled using machinery. In 1972, they were planning to shoot and destroy the Buddhist ruins at Niyankullukama. At Paravankandam  the ruins including stupa were destroyed in April  2002 to convert the area into  a paddy field.

Then there is  the Sri Vardhana Bodhi of Kiliveddi, Mutur. When Medhananda visited in 1952 he   found a large Bodhi tree, with stone pillars, moon stone, step slabs. He saw them again in 1965. Thereafter Tamils living near Tirumangala wewa   moved to Kiliveddi and destroyed its Buddhist ruins , including the  moonstone.

They built a kovil near the Bodhi, continued Medhananda . This kovil was then extended close to the Bodhi. The branches of the Bodhi were cut, supposedly for telephone wires. They were cut in such a way that  so that the trunk was affected. When Medhananda  visited in 1977, the tree and the ruins were gone.  The Bodhi was totally destroyed and a kovil set up.  There are no Buddhist ruins there now, concluded Medhananda .

The plan to eliminate all signs of an ancient  Buddhist civilization  was greatly helped by the fact that most of these ruins are not registered  in the Department of Archaeology as archaeological monuments. Thottama, Manthottama, Pannala oya and Ambalan oya has archaeological  remains that which  are not registered, said Medhananda . Panama pattu  forest range is full of archaeological  ruins. There is no protection for any of it,  he said.  

In the case of archaeological sites for which there are records in the Department, another tactic was  used. The files  vanished, they went missing.  There were 11 cave inscriptions near Kundikudichchi aru. The  Ampara Kachcheri held the file on this. This file is now missing, said Medhananda . 

Files also  vanished when new  kovils are  constructed. There was a hill with a stupa, and eleven cave shrines to the east of the Pannala oya.  Now there is kovil there, said Medhananda . There had been a file at the Ampara Kachcheri describing the Buddhist remains of the area, but with the construction of the kovil those documents   disappeared,  he said.

Rock inscriptions were specifically targeted. They were  sought out and deliberately destroyed. Mundikulammale ruins, Ampara had rows of caves with inscriptions.  These have been extensively  destroyed, said Medhananda . 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 by  Medhananda in 1980. Only two words remained.

Eeratiperiyakulam   vihara ruins had an inscription   discovered by Parker. This inscription had disappeared, when Medhananda looked for it. 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. 

 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. Nilaveli had an inscription saying that the vihara was known as Kanikaravelli vihara. The inscription has been tarred over. A Sanskrit Mahayana inscription at Kucceveli Maha vihara was defaced in 1981, recited Medhananda.

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. Medhananda found a destroyed Buddha statue and moonstone at Oddusuddan.    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 all this, the Buddha statue found Paravankandam was removed to the Police station for safety, and is now in Ampara museum, said Medhananda.

Medhananda    observed that Hindus and Muslims had taken physical possession of lands which were sites of Buddhist worship in earlier times. Once they are on the land, they erase the Buddhist remains and prevent Buddhist coming there, observed Medhananda. There was a Sinhala village at Sakkam wewa near Pannala oya, called Bodhianga. Now   it is no longer Sinhala.

At Mottayakanda the Muslims have bulldozed all the Buddhist ruins. Kombanacci, originally Somawathi vihara, in Kiliveddi, Trincomalee, is now a Muslim area and one part of the ruins is now a ‘goat farm of a Mussalman’.

Ilankaturai, near Seruwila,   earlier Lankapatuna, has been encroached by non-Buddhists and Hindu kovils have come up. At Nelugala buildings were set on fire by non-Sinhalese, and the Sinhala settlers driven away. A Hindu kovil was constructed there.

Inscriptions showed that Linemalai originally had an aramaya known as Sipavata, hosting many monks. One inscription stated that Mahadatika Mahanaga had donated two channels named Dakapunaka and    Girigamaka and its taxes to the vihara. Another inscription indicates that a rate rala from Uva ruled this area. And that Uva province extended to Pottuvil.  A wewa Inscription said the wewa was donated by    danu silpa chalu”. Now Linemalai is Muslim and Tamil. LTTE chased away the few Sinhalese there.

Viharagalkanda had a large flat area thanitalawa with  huge number of  Buddhist   ruins . When we visited, a Tamil man was  living there, farming  bananas.  We explored the site , examined  the ruins and copied the  inscription.

When we visited Gokanna vihara, Trincomalee (Koneswaran) in 1960, we faced much opposition from the Hindus, said Medhananda. Medhananda was able to go to Mundikulammale ruins, Ampara in 1964 and 1999 without any fear. But it is now dangerous for Sinhalese to go there” he said in 2003.  No Sinhalese can go to Rugam now either.   

Rugam-Piyalutana vihara on Badulla-Batticaloa road has a vihara built by king Yatalatissa. In 1972 there was a plan to convert 18  acres to a wewa and settle non Sinhalese on there. There are   Buddhist ruins at Mahaoya, Veheragala, and Dambaliyadde gala. In 1972 it was planned to settle non Sinhalese there. There had been a planned programmed to hinder Buddhists in Sembumalai, observed Medhananda.

Bhikkhus have tried to save these Buddhist ruins by setting up avasa on the premises. They were chased away. When monks try to settle, they are harassed and they run away, observed Medhananda. In my view, says this writer, (Kamalika Pieris) this is due to the fact that these actions were not known or supported by the Nikayas. It these ventures had been supported by a Nikaya, it would not have been easy to dislodge them.

Kohukumbure Revata had lived at Dighavapi In a small hut, under great difficulty. He was killed by a Muslim in 1950. This got great publicity at the time, said Medhananda.  A monk had once treid to live at Budu patum Kande. Monks had set up an avasa at Girikurumbika vihara, but now there is nothing. A monk had taken up abode at a Lena in Niyaguna kanda vihara Ampara and the villagers looked after him, now he is not there said Medhananda in 2003.

Ven, Sri Sobitha tried to rebuild the stupa Bollagama Raja Maha Vihara,Ampara  in                                            1911.     Kekirihene Seelavansa is keeping the temple going today, despite the fact that the vihara has no support, the  villagers  are too poor, reported Medhananda . A monk has settled at Maha kachcha kodiya vihara,  Vavuniya and is struggling to  survive.

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.

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.  

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, they reported. 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.

Kokkadicholai had ruins which showed that there has been an aramaya there, earlier. Guard stones, parts of stupa could be seen.  Villagers had told Medhananda when he visited in 1968 that there had been an inscription too.  Kokkadicholai is now completely Tamil, said Medhananda. They have encroached over most of the 22 acres. Ruins have been destroyed.  A kovil, named Kanakone Ishwara Kovil, has been built over the aramaya. The evidence is still there.  The   Kovil started small and is now enlarged. There is a Pullaiyar kovil too, concluded Medhananda.

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.

The stupa and    arama of Okanda vihara were in good condition in 1978.They have now disappeared.  There is now a Murugan kovil there, said Medhananda. Taravakulam,  Batticaloa  district, had a  Buddhist  vihara which is now converted to Hindu kovil. Sangamon kanda   was a Buddhist religious site,  with two  cave inscriptions  . Now it is a Siva kovil, Medhananda continued.

There are three sets of ruins  between Nelugala and Toppigala. Hindu statues have been set up in them and  Toppigala also now has a Hindu kovil. Nelugala  was once Ruhuna’s Piyangalu vihara. The Buddhist evidence has been destroyed and a kovil set up, added Medhananda .

LTTE  had put  up a Hindu kovil At Oddusuddan. LTTE had also built a kovil at Nilaveli by 1981. Vishnu devale was  coming up in 2003  at Dharmavardanarama in Nikawewa area.

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. ( Continued)


  • Lavatories have been built amidst valuable ruins in the North.
  • At Dighavapi a bulldozer had gone ‘by mistake’ through the temple.
  • Four siripatul from Pulukunawa Maha vihara have been taken away as miris gal.
  • Kalladi puda bima, Seruwila was discovered and protected by the armed forces during the Eelam war.
  • Veheragama has 145 families of which 20 are Tamil. Veheragama has a Raja Maha Vihara   Stupa can be dated to 6-7 AD. Ruins in these areas are being deliberately destroyed. Baddegama Chandavimala is  the viharadhipati since 1971, said Medhananda in 2013.  He is managing with difficulty. He has started a daham pasala.

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