Posted on May 20th, 2024


Kurundi vihara is the first monastery to be conserved in Mullaitivu district, as far as I know. This alone makes Kurundi special. The other thing that makes Kurundi special is that it is right   in the middle of Eelam. So Kurundi is political as well.

Ruins like Kurundi are reminders of an earlier age when the north and east were securely Sinhala and Buddhist. Kurundi   vihara, originally Kurundavashoka vihara, was the leading monastery in Mullaitivu in the Anuradhapura period. Kurundi was a large monastic complex, spread across 400 acres.  

Kurundi vihara was a very significant vihara in Anuradhapura times.  Kurundi attakatha was written at Kurundi, which means that Kurundi had a direct link to Mahavihara in Anuradhapura. Kurundi held an inscription which was addressed to all monasteries in the area. This shows that Kurundi was the leading monastery in Mullaitivu area.

HCP Bell said that this was the largest monastery he had seen in that area. The     100 steps seen by Bell can still be identified. In 2013 Medhananda said that he saw the most ruins at Kurundi. Have not seen so many ruins in any other place I have gone to, he said.

Kurundi has distinctive features. Kurundi stupa was a very early stupa.  Those stupas did not have pinnacles. They were topped by chatra and yupagala. At Kurundi, we found the yupagala and installed it   , said Department of Archaeology.

Buddhist structures are usually of brick, but at Kurundi they have used Kabok instead. Stupa has   had a row of elephants made from kabok, as well. There was   a special binding between the kabok stones, the archaeologists said. Over 500 metal nails were found at the site. The small terra cotta figures found there were fine specimens of Anuradhapura craftsmanship.  The carving on the door frame of the pilimage was a rare item.

The Tamil Separatist Movement had known about Kurundi. They had entered Kurundi reservation, during the war and damaged the pilimage. Kurundi had a large inscription which was already   broken when found in 1949. In 2018 when Kurundi was excavated, it was in six pieces.  Department of Archaeology put it together. The Department said that it had been deliberately destroyed. It did not break due to natural causes. Buddha statue and bodhisatva statuesas well as a yupa gala and yantra gala    also appeared to have been deliberately damaged.

Tamil Separatist Movement is desperate to halt the forward march of Kurundi monastery. The conservation of Kurundi has led to much frantic Tamil agitation. I cannot recall anything like this taking place ever before.The Department of Archaeology has been conserving stupas for decades, without anybody caring or objecting. But Kurundi is different.

 The opposition at Kurundi is due to the geographical location of Kurundi. Kurundi is in Mullaitivu. Mullaitivu is important for Eelam. The northern and eastern provinces meet at Mullaitivu. If a Buddhist wedge is created at Mullaitivu, then it will affect Eelam. That is why the Tamil Separatist Movement is having kittens over Kurundi.

The work on Kurundi was regularly interrupted by the desperate Tamil Separatist Movement who   tried hard to stop the rise of Kurundi. Gajan Ponnambalam made a complaint on Oct 8 2022 regarding the Survey Department team going to Kurundi[1]

Kurundi conservation faced obstacles and delays due to the actions of the Tamil Separatist Movement.  Conservation work stopped several times due to demonstrations and court cases.  Work went on in a stop-start manner.   

Due to a law   suit we could not do anything for two years,     said Santhabodhi. Work on Kurundi was halted in 2018 due to a court case against Santhabodhi and the   Department of Archaeology.  While the   case going on, Tamils renovated the wewa, destroying much that was archaeologically valuable.  The case ended in 2020. Lawyers appeared free and they won the case. In January 18 2021 the Department of Archaeology started excavating.

Work stopped again after the commotion at the relic enshrining.  At the enshrining ceremony the police turned back the cars of the Buddhists but did not stop the Tamil Separatist Movement from coming in, said Santhabodhi.

Tamil Separatist Movement never expected a young bhikkhu, Santhabodhi to turn up at Kurundi in 2018 with a desire to revive Kurundi. The Tamil Separatist Movement heavily criticized Ven. Santhabodhi. Tamil Separatist Movement targets me in their media channels,   because of Kurundi, Sapumalgaskada and Nayaru Gurukanda, said Santhabodhi. I am presented as a monk who was getting ready to invade the Tamil homeland. Other improbable allegations are also made.

Santhabodhi said that he did Kurundi under great difficulty. He    had to raise the money, face court cases, had encounters with police. Santhabodhi faced threats and blows.  He faced intimidation from the start.

When the project started, the Archaeology Department gave a letter to Santhabodhi permitting him to do work at Kurundi. But when we went to Kurundi to make a mura kutiya on October 5th 2018, we found that there was a problem with permission, said Santhabodhi. The Forest Department has not been informed. So we had to go back. On the way back,   150 Tamils came and surrounded the car, threatened us and hit us. The threats are continuing said Santhabodhi, in a You Tube interview in August 2022 (Gaja TV).

Tamil Separatist Movement did however succeed in shaking the confidence of the Buddhists. The Kurundi team was told that Tamil Separatist Movement was going to take action against Kurundi. The team, not knowing much history, was alarmed. Fortunately they found an inscription which when cleaned up, showed that Kurundi was a Buddhist site. it was the inscription by Udaya VI which had seen by Sirimal Ranwella.  

Similarly, former Chief Justice Sarath Silva, referred to the Kurundi findings of HCP Bell, and remarked , inter alia,  that Bell was the first to record Kurundi. Bell was not a Buddhist, he added. It is the white man who showed Kurundi to us, we must be grateful to them, he said. This was said in passing, without emphasis. (Bell did not possess divine vision.  The natives would have given him the locations and he carried out the investigations).

Kurundi vihara is the first Buddhist monument that, as far as I can recall, has been officially called a contested site”. Buddhist archaeological remains become sites of conflict when Sinhalese people enter into areas inhabited by Tamils and Muslims, said Tamil Separatist Movement. As a contested site, Kurundi had to compete with a bogus kovil where they were worshipping a trident, a yupa gala and a korowak gala.

Kurundi has made a strong case for itself using social media.There were heaps of well crafted You tube presentations such as:

. https://youtu.be/k8V1TQSbTQg;

Here are three selections from these You Tube chats. 

  • කුරුන්දි විහාරය ගැන ඔබ නොදත් කරුණු | Kurundi Viharaya | Rawana Production July 15,2023. It was said, Now Tamil Separatist Movement  is getting ready to create trouble
  • කුරුන්දි විහාර අර්බුදය | Sri Lanka Tv/  July 2023. Kurundi ruins are not in a settled area, that means, an area in which people live. People do cultivate on archaeology reserve land, but that does not make it legal.
  • YouTube channel ENTERTANING SPOT, featured Kurundi on June 14.2023. Santhabodhi, who appears prominently in all videos on Kurundi spoke. Here are some of the things he said: He said that Mahavihara was the first monastery, not the largest monastery. At Kurundi, the ancient Kurundi  pond was turned into a wewa, without permission. Tamil Separatist Movement charges that we have occupied lands which they had cultivated for ages in Kurundi.  That is not so. They have deforested  5 acres of forest reserve containing ruins, in 2019,  and say it was  ancient paddy lands. They have no documents to show  ownership. They are at fault. Don’t listen to the  Tamil Separatist Movement . .https://youtu.be/Q4vIO5jjvmY

Bauddhaloka Foundation  which funded the conservation of the Kurundi stupa also helped in the dissemination of information on Kurundi. It had a superb symposium in May 2023, in Sinhala, for the local audience, where the persons involved in Kurundi work spoke of what they had done. It was very informative.

Bauddhaloka Foundation   also had a webinar on the history and archaeology of Kurundi for western audience, in English on October 28. 2023

The Kurundi team  is  not giving in  nor is it keeping quiet. Kurundi is  fighting back.  It has presented its own case admirably. It has produced a large, heavy book about itself. KURUNDI VIHARA VAMSAYA”, subtitled ‘Mullaitivu Nagachola maha vana meda pihiti iparani bodu puda bimaka katawa”, published by Sarasavi, 2023, 431 pages. It gives a full account of the Kurundi matter. It is chock full of photos of everything and everybody connected to Kurundi, so it is pictorial too. It is an excellent record.

That is not all. Kurundi has its own website. https://www.kurundi.lk/ and its own logo.

Kurundi Rajamaha Viharaya,
Sri Lanka( continued)

[1] https://youtu.be/Mu077_2dR8Y.

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