Posted on November 17th, 2023


REVISED 18.11.23

The Sarasavi publication Kurundi vihara vamsaya” (2023) provides a systematic account of the difficulties faced by Kurundi in the present period. The account is often in the first person, from the experience of the chief priest of Kurundi, Ven. Galgamuwe Santhabodhi.

 In this book, Ven. Santhabodhi relates his experience in trying to revitalize Kurundi. When he was residing at Sapumalgastenne aramaya at Weli Oya, he had met a team from the Department of Archaeology who had come to report on the destruction of Buddhist ruins in the area. They had gifted Santhabodhi three booklets prepared by the Department of Archaeology, Vavuniya Regional office, on the Buddhist ruins at Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu.

Santhabodhi also read Ellawela Medhananda’s writings on the subject. He had received a copy of Cyril Matthew’s report from Kosala Pattinige as well.

Santhabodhi and others were thinking of creating a pilgrim site at Weli Oya, which would attract the pilgrims who came to Anuradhapura.  He realized that at Kurundi, there was a very significant Buddhist monument that could be converted to a valuable place of worship. This would also help develop the area around it.

He   informed the Regional director of Archaeology at Vavuniya of his idea and said he wished to visit Kurundi.  He visited Kurundi in 16th May 2018 accompanied by officials of the Department of Archaeology and one other monk. There was no clear access to Kurundi, he recalled. They had to follow animal tracks up the hill. The hillside was thick with trees and undergrowth. There were huge holes dug all over the place at Kurundi.    Photographs of this first visit are given in Kurundi vihara vamsaya” on p 323.

 On 17. May 2018, Ven. Santhabodhi wrote to the Director, Department of Archaeology, to Director, Forest Department and to the President of Sri Lanka saying that he would like to restore Kurundi.

Santhabodhi went to Dubai in May 2018 for a religious event and there too, he discussed the matter with interested Buddhist devotees who assured him of their support.  He also spoke to Raj Somadeva whom he met there.

On 8th   May 2018 Santhabodhi wrote again to Director, Department of Archaeology   and met him too. The result was positive.  On 2018.8.9 the Vavuniya Regional office of the Department of Archaeology was instructed to help Ven. Santhabodhi’ in his work at Kurundi. Vavuniya asked Mullaitivu police, army, and Forest department, to provide security to Santhabodhi.

 On 2018.8.15 there was a discussion on Kurundi at the home of Dharmasiri Perera in Maharagama. The group decided to form an association for the restoration of Kurundi,’ Kurundashoka vihara   Sanrakshana Sangamaya. Mahanayaka of the Amarapura Sri Kalyanawansa order would be its Patron, with Ven. Santhabodhi as advisor,  SMP Kumarasiri  as President , LB Dayananda as  Vice President   Nimal K Pathirana, Secretary  MVD Henry, Assistant secretary  , GP Perera   Treasurer  and  Varuna Chamikara as organizer.

 Santhabodhi wished to set up a   residence for the Sangha at Kurundi which would also be a religious centre. (Senasanayak).He planned to use the cabinet approval given in Cyril Mathew’s time for setting up such a residence at Kurundi. He went to Colombo many times to get permission, also to Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi offices.   Mullaitivu authorities agreed but Kilinochchi did not give permission so I forgot this and turned my attention to the restoration of the Kurundi archaeology site”, said Santhabodhi.

Matugama Seneviruvan gave him many relevant documents on Kurundi including a speech by ELB Hurulle in Hansard. This referred to the 1933 Gazette on Kurundi. Santhabodhi then went to the National Archives and got a copy of the Gazette.  He also went to the Survey Department and obtained the survey plans listed in the Gazette. He got certified copies of all these and gave them to Department of Archaeology.  Until then the Department had not known about any of this.

The first discussion on the conservation of Kurundi was held on 30.9.2020. The Secretary, Buddha Sasana Ministry, Director of the Department of Archaeology, Jagath Sumathipala and Chandra Wakista were present. It was decided to hand the conservation work to Department of Archaeology, Rajarata University. Rajarata was asked to provide a plan and estimate. Santhabodhi and others went to Rajarata and had had a discussion on 28.10.20.

 Rajarata sent in a plan. A team from Department of Archaeology was also to work on Kurundi with them. The estimate was 10 million. Santhabodhi decided to solicit donations as he thought the Archaeology Department won’t have enough money.

On 23.12.2020 Kurundi was registered as a temple with Santhabodhi as it chief monk. Excavation work was launched at an auspicious time on January 18, 2021. Buddha Sasana Minister Vidura Wickramanayake,  All Ceylon Buddhist Congress President Jagath Sumathipala,   Government Agent, Vavuniya ,  Director, Department of  Archaeology , officers of the  Department of Archaeology ,Commander of the Mullaitivu division of the  Sri Lanka army,  soldiers from that Division, members of   Bauddhaloka Foundation  and  some  Buddhist devotees, including  Ranil Sampath of Kuliyapitiya, participated in the ceremony.

Excavation work of stupa was started on January 26, 2021 and was completed in two months. Conservation started with Seth pirit on 12th May 21.  We constructed an attractive pirit mandapaya, 29 bhikkhus from Gosinha Aramaya came and chanted seth pirit from 6 to 10 pm. The stupa was well lit up recalled Santhabodhi.

The next day they started conservation. There were two teams, one for stupa, and one for pilimage. Santhabodhi got the conservation team at Sapumalgaskada transferred to Kurundi as they were a better team, very keen.

During excavation they found an important inscription which showed   that Kurundi was a Buddhist site. It was the inscription by Udaya VI, seen by Sirimal Ranwella. It further confirmed the status of Kurundi. They found another inscription but it was too faint to be read.  In the pilimage they found many Buddha statues.

Santhabodhi observed that the army and the Archaeology Department    teams had worked with much enthusiasm and dedication at Kurundi, unshaken by obstacles. The Archaeology Department team stayed at Kurundi for a continuous three months. Air force helped with shramadana. Northern Province Department of Road development had helped to keep the approach road in good repair.

Buddhist devotees had also wanted to contribute to the conservation through shramadana. but Director,   Archaeology had    refused   permission. Therefore there was a limited amount of shramadana. Sakyaputra Foundation members did shramadana on several occasions.  In October 2021 the young members of   Sakyaputhra came and did shramadana. They carried sand and bricks up to the stupa.  Ranil Sampath group from Kuliyapitiya also did shramadana.

Kurundi was turned into a place of worship long before the Department of Archaeology     had completed its work. Santhabodhi organized several pinkamas, while the work was going on. One was a Seth pirit attended by Ministers Channa Jayasumana and CB Ratnayake and their group on May   2, 2022.

Santhabodhi said   that even if there is no regular religious service at Kurundi, there is a limited amount of religious observances going on. if Buddhists wish to come on pilgrimage facilities can be made available for about 20 persons in a place near the tank.

 On February 13.2023 they finished consecration of   the stupa. Conservation formally ended on 17th March with a ceremony.  The ceremony was to have taken place in the Prime Minister Office in Colombo with participation of World Buddhist Fellowship, but the   Prime Minister’s office refused to allow this. Minister Vidura Wickramanayake said he couldn’t attend either.  So we had the celebration ourselves at Kurundi on March 17, said Santhabodhi.  

The Tamil Separatist Movement obstructed the public ceremony for the enshrinement of the relics planned for June 12th, 2022. The relics were enshrined in a quiet ceremony later, on 7th August .22. Santhabodhi then went from place to place” regarding the boundary stones. They were set down on 24.August 22.

The work of 5 years came to an end, recalled Santhabodhi, with deep feeling. Santhabodhi said that he has spent hours and hours during those four years hanging around departments and offices, to get this project completed.

However, Ven. Santhabodhi initiative had been recognized. Santhabodhi was invited to the Presidential Buddhist Advisory Committee meeting on 24. July.2020.He took along his plan for conservation of 10 temples in the Vavuniya and Mullaitivu area and a plan for securing the many Buddhist   ruins in the whole of the north.

The Amarapura Kalyanawansa Nikaya also recognized his work. He was made the   Sanganayake of the Kalyanavansa order for the Northern Province. The head of the order visited Kurundi to see for himself . The other two nikayas also supported Santhabodhi .Ven. Medagoda Abayatissa of Siam Nikaya spoke up for Santhabodhi   and his work at Kurundi. . Ven. Mukaleve Wimala of  Ramanna Nikaya  wrote to  the President regarding Kurundi  on 19.10.2022 

The Sangha  recognized Santhabodhi’s work at Kurundi. Various senior monks came to see  Kurundi. Ven. Dodampahala Chandasiri  had written to the President on  22.09.22  regard Kurundi and the difficulties faced by Santhabodhi. Ven.  Kiriibbanwewa Upanitha,  UssapitIye Negroda and  Ussapitiya Assaji  had helped  obtain drone pictures  of Kurundi.

The Sangha has supported Santhabodhi  throughout, realizing that he was young and badly needed such support. They did so individually, not en masse. Santhabodhi  mentions by name and with much appreciation, the  many monks who supported him .I will give just  two arbitrarily selected  names, Ven. Medille Pannaloka  and  the  viharadhipathi of Kiriibbanwewa Pirivena.

A considerable  number of  the    public  were interested in Kurundi and came to see, said Santhabodhi. Supporters set up a Whatsapp group for Kurundi,  also a Face book page Rakimu Mullaitivu Kurundi vihara”’. There was much publicity in the media about Kurundi. Journalist Taranga Ratnavira wrote a widely read    piece in Irida Divaina of  October 10, 2018.  Ama Wanniarachchi  wrote to the English  papers. Bauddhaloka Foundation held a Kurunda loka sambhashanaya on May 23, 2019. 

 On February 3rd, 2021   there was a media presentation via Zoom, with the participation of   Department of Information, Department of Archaeology , and Buddha Sasana Ministry, about the excavations going on at Kurundi. Ellawela Medhananda, Director, Department of  Archaeology and Secretary ,Buddha Sasana Ministry spoke. The false    statements by the Tamil Separatist Movement were exposed, also their howlers. Tamil Separatist Movement has said that the  yupa gala discovered at Kurundi was a Siva lingam.

Ven. Santhabodhi encountered the usual opposition. Secretary, Buddha Sasana Commission had told him that he had been told not to give Santhabodhi prominence in this matter. He had also received letters from other Nikayas telling him not to help Santhabodhi. Ven. Medagoda Abayatissa who was with Santhabodhi at the time replied that there was no Nikaya bedha as popularly supposed. He was from the Siam Nikaya. But if other Nikayas wished, there were another 500 or so Buddhist ruins which they could work on.   

Santhabodhi met both Gotabhaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa when each briefly held the position of President of Sri Lanka.  Santhabodhi had written to Gotabhaya when he became President about the importance of Kurundi.  He subsequently met President Gotabhaya.

 Ven. Santhabodhi had met President Mahinda and shown him his (Santhabodhi’s) plan for protecting Buddhist ruins and his plans for conservation of 10 selected Buddhist ruins in north.  Mahinda Rajapaksa had said that in order to protect a   Buddhist ruin a member of the Sangha must be stationed there.  Wimal Weerawansa    had   spoken to Santhabodhi  and   written to  Tiran Alles. 

Santhabodhi openly said that he did not receive any acknowledgment or assistance from Maitripala Sirisena or Sajith Premadasa.  Sirisena came to Mullaitivu for a meeting and members of ACBC and I tried to meet him but he did not give us an opportunity. Sajith spends millions on temples in south.  But not even one rupee for us, observed Santhabodhi .When Gurukanda chef priest fell ill, I tried to contact them and get their assistance but there was no response.

Bauddhaloka Foundation was the major sponsor for Kurundi. Bauddhaloka Foundation signed an  agreement  with Department of Archaeology on January  13, 2022. Ven. Santhabodhi received considerable financial support from others too. BA Mahipala of Sinhala Veera Vidana gave 3 million.  Central Cultural Fund gave materials for the guard house and it was erected by the army 

Sri Sakyaputra Foundation helped me greatly with   money   and for my writings, said Santhabodhi. They set up a fund for Kurundi. This is the only  Buddhist NGO in the north and east. The head of this NGO, Gayathri Dangampola who lives in UJK, has greatly helped with schools supplies and health equipment at Weli Oya and Bogaswewa as well, added Santhabodhi.

Asiri Perera of Dubai had also helped. Santhabodhi built a temporary guard house with the   4 lakhs sent by Asiri Perera’s group from Dubai. The Helabima Sanvidhanaya based in the Middle East had promised money for 10,000 bricks. The Mallawaratchchi family from Palugashandiya helped. Sasun Ketha Asveddamu group led by Isuru Arendra Jayatilleke helped to improve the shelter at Kurundi. We transported the sand and cement from Weli Oya in Asela mahatha’s   lorry. 

Solar power to light up Kurundi was financed by several groups. They were the dayaka sabha of Ganemulla, a group of devotees led by Dr Gamini Jayaweera of  Central Hospital, Colombo, and the  Tilakawardene group of companies led by Chameera Sampath, HGG Dharmasiri,  AG Ananda,  and Sarath Kumara,

Jagath Sumathipala  saw to the comforts of the Archaeology Department  and army stationed at Kurundi. He roped in his family and friends for this. Matugama Seneviruwan deserves special mention. His has made a valuable contribution to the reviving of  Kurundi. As described earlier, he  provided Santhabodhi with the critical documents regarding Kurundi. He also  went to Mullaitivu courts when the  Kurundi case was heard on Oct 13, 2022 to give support to Santhabodhi .

I do not usually mention names, for obvious reasons, but in this case I thought I would include names to show readers the response Santhabodhi received from the public. I decided to mention the names of lay devotees only and leave out the rest. I trust that I have not made any serious omissions in the above list. The names are taken from Kurundi vihara vamsaya”.

The book Kurundi vihara vamsaya” carries many more names. It is a catalogue of names. The book has a comprehensive list of all those who helped in the Kurundi project. It mentions all those who came from the Department of Archaeology, the Sri Lanka Armed forces, and the relevant ministries, particularly Buddha Sasana and National Heritage. Photographs accompany the names. The various bhikkhus who to came to see Santhabodhi at Kurundi to offer moral support are also gratefully remembered and individually named in the book.    (Continued)

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