Posted on February 22nd, 2024


There is a tug of war going on in the north of Sri Lanka between the Buddhist and non-Buddhists over   Buddhist temples in the north. Neither side is prepared to give in. The Buddhist temples at Navatkuli( Jaffna) and Vadunagala ( Vavuniya) have faced strong opposition.

In 2009 57 Buddhist families were brought in and settled in Navatkuli.  They were Sinhala families that had been driven out of Jaffna in 1984 and 1990. Navatkuli is located 6 km from Jaffna. ‘Kalana Mithuru Daham Sabha’ across the country sponsored the construction of a new temple at Navatkuli. It was named Navatkuliya Sri Samiddhi Sumana Viharaya.  

The Navatkuli vihara was completed in 2013.  It was promptly bombed.   In 2017   the residents wanted to start work on a new stupa. The Chavakachcheri Pradeshiya Sabha refused permission. The Chavakachcheri Pradeshiya Sabha filed a case against the construction of the Chaitya. It was taken up for hearing at the Chavakachcheri Magistrate’s Court.

Chavakachcheri Magistrate S. Chandrasekeran ordered the Chavakachcheri Pradeshiya Sabha to permit the construction of the temple’s stupa without any hindrance. Her verdict was publicly applauded by the Sangha. The Magistrate has said that she respects Buddhism even though she is a Hindu devotee, reported Ven. Sooriyawewa Sumedha.

The enshrinement of sacred relics took place in July 2019, amid a large gathering of devotees and invitees. The chief incumbents of Nagadeepa Rajamaha Viharaya and Navatkuli Sri Samiddhi Sumana Viharaya and Buddhist priests performed  the religious observances. The Commander of the Security Forces ,Jaffna, Deputy Inspector General, Northern Province, Northern Naval Commander, members of the armed forces, representatives of the all island ‘Kalana Mithuru Daham Sabhas’ and  devotees participated in the event.

Tamil Separatist Movement protested. Tamil National Peoples Front (TNPF)  led  the  protest against  the temple.  They  said they were objecting, to the Buddhistization in Navatkuli .”Famous War Criminal” Shavendra Silva was the guest of honor in this Buddhistization event, they said.

Navatkuli is a strategically a very important location,  Eelamists observed.    Two important Jaffna roads, A32 and A9 are intersecting at Navatkuli. These two roads are the only land route between the Jaffna Peninsula and the rest of the island. A Buddhist temple at this location would help the Buddhists  control access to Jaffna.

Vadunagala or Vaddamana pabbatha Vihara  in Vavuniya is an ancient Buddhist monastery that is mentioned extensively in ancient chronicles and inscriptions as a major Buddhist monastery , wrote Ama Vanniarachchi.  Its cave inscriptions dated  3 BC to 1 BC are included   in  Inscriptions of Ceylon.  The Department of archaeology  had gazetted the area as an   archaeological  reserve in 2010.

Vadunagala  has been turned into a Contested Site” by the Tamil Separatist Movement . Tamil Separatist Movement  announced that  Vadunagala is an ancient Hindu site not a  Buddhist one..In 2018 Vavuniya North Divisional Secretary has requested in writing, from the Director General of the Department of Archaeology, permission to build a kovil at this ancient monastic site. The Director General of Archaeology had informed them that no new construction can be allowed at this archaeological site.

As a result, a massive protest was  staged in front of the Vavuniya North Divisional Secretariat on August 22 2018 demanding that the Vadunagala site be taken away from the Department of Archaeology , reported Global Tamil News.

The protestors included Vanni district parliamentarians Sivasakthi Aananthan and Shanthy Sriskandarajah, NPC members Mayilvakanam Thiyakarajah, G.T.Linganathan and Pathmanathan Sathiyalingam, ex-parliamentarians Suresh Premachandran and Vinotharalingam, ex-NPC member Senthilnathan Mayuran, Pradeshya Sabha members, representatives of various political parties and members of All Ceylon Saiva Maha Sabha , administrative body of the temple, village people, and public organizations.

The people of this area have been worshiping in  this place for five generations,  the protestors said.  Archaeology Department has imposed a  ban on our  visiting this ancient  Hindu temple. This ban was temporarily lifted and the people were  allowed to worship,  but told that  they cannot renovate the temple or build new structures there.

A  memorandum addressed to the President was  handed over by the protestors to the Vavuniya North Divisional Secretariat. Then, the protestors has gone to the Vedukkunari temple to worship, concluded Global Tamil News

In September 2019, an organization named Adi Sivan requested permission to fix a speaker to conduct a sound Pooja at Vadunagala.  Using this as a pretext, a flight of stairs has been constructed to climb to the top of the rock .

In September 2020, the Vavuniya North Divisional Secretary  requested permission from the DG Archaeology to conduct a shramadana at the site. The DG Archaeology  informed them that permission cannot be allowed for such activities at an archaeological site.

Undaunted,  Tamil Separatist Movement  continued to take control of Vadunagala. They destroyed the stupa and installed a Hindu image there. A cave with Brahmi inscriptions was filled with soil and levelled. The ketarama was destroyed. The forest reserve around the cave  was also  destroyed and the entire archaeological site was burnt.

In  2020  the Tamil Separatist Movement had built a kovil there  named  Vedukkunarimalai Aadisivan Kovil,. Then they removed the  notice board set up  there by the Department  of Archaeology declaring  it to be an archaeology site.  https://youtu.be/Sz8hEJAg1xk narrated by Ama Vanniarachchi  shows the  changes made to the site. They show two  Hindu statues and a trident.

In 2023  Buddhists woke up to the fact that the Buddhist ruins as Vaddamana Pabbata   had been vandalized. The ancient stupa  had been removed and replaced by a Siva Linga. Today, the ancient Vaddamana Pabbata Vihara is a kovil. it is in a completely devastated state, and no legal action is being taken to protect the site, Buddhists  said.

The  two sides  vigorously complained against each other to the Police. Both complained of vandalizing. The Department of archaeology complained in 2018, 2019 and 2020 that  Vadunagala ruins were interfered with.

In 2018, The members of the ‘Kovil’ administration committee were summoned to the Police Station and warned  against unlawful entry to Vadunagala reserve and causing disturbance. They were told that they must obtain the permission of the Director General of the Department of Archaeology, before they engaged in religious activities in the future.

On the 26th of March 2023, Thambirasa Madhimugarasa who said he was the priest of ‘Vedukkinari Malai Aadhi Lingeshwaran Kovil’ made a complaint to Nedunkerni police that  that Hindu statues are Vadunagala had been damaged. On inquiry police found that the area where the incident had occurred fell within the Nainamadu Forest Reserve. A case was filed at Magistrate courts, Vavuniya.

In April 2023, Department of archaeology  complained again that new constructions had taken place. The Kovil’ administrators said that  it had been done consequent to an order from Magistrate’s Court of Vavuniya  . That was not so. The Hindu group had been permitted by Magistrate court to replace the damaged  Hindu statues but the group had instead  put in place new large Hindu statues.  The ‘Kovil’ Committee members were warned to act strictly in compliance of the Court order and not to proceed beyond what was permitted by the said order. This   case is also currently pending before the Magistrate’s Court of Vavuniya.

In May 2023 A Fundamental Rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking an order directing the authorities to take immediate action to secure and protect the Vadunagala Pabbatha Viharaya Archaeological site in Vavuniya District. As far as I can see, the petition says nothing about the Tamil Separatist Movement It  targets the police.

The petitioners were  Ven. Galgamuwe Shanthabodhi , Brig. (Rtd) Athula De Silva, journalist Shenali D. Waduge, businessman Jihan Hameed, Nilhan Paul Fernando and Upali Jayasinghe Bandara.. 

The petitioners stated that Vaddamana Parvatha (Pabbatha) Viharaya Archaeological site is located in the Nainayamadu Forest in the district of Vavuniya.  Vaddamana Pabbatha Viharaya, a Buddhist monastic complex, dates back to the early Anuradhapura era. It has a long history. In 2010 this place was rediscovered and re-identified by the Department of Archaeology and was gazetted as a protected monument.

The petitioners alleged that in 2018, acts of vandalism occurred in this place, where the floor of one of the caves with Brahmi inscriptions was filled with soil brought from outside and levelled. The bricks from the brick stupa were removed and an image of a Hindu God has been inserted.  

The Petitioners  stated that the actions or inactions of the respondents, including IGP Chandana Wickramaratne, Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles, Senior DIG Vijitha Gunaratne, DIG Ampawila, SSP Chamika Wickremasinghe and others are willful, negligent and unreasonable and have vehemently violated the fundamental rights of the Buddhist Citizenry duly guaranteed under Article 10, Article 12.1 and Article 14 (1) (e) of Sri Lanka’s Constitution.  The case is pending.  ( continued)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2024 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress