Posted on May 23rd, 2024


Kurundi vihara’s troubles are not over. First it was the stupa, now it is the pilimage. Work on the stupa at Kurundi vihara is complete.  The relics have been deposited and Kurundi stupa is ready for worship. The next step is renovation of the pilimage.

 The Archaeology Department said that they could reconstruct the pilimage exactly as it originally existed, right up to the roof. They had the necessary evidence from the ruins itself. We can fully    create it. We have all the evidence, including evidence on how to do the roof,” they said. Kurundi had a wooden roof. That can be inferred from the pillars.  The carved beam found at the pilimage is also considered to be very special.

However, work on the pilimage has stalled. In January 2024, Ama H. Vanniarachchy investigated for Ceylon Today[1] . The delay was not due to lack of money. The money was there, Bauddhaloka Foundation was funding the project, said Ven. Santhabodhi .

Ama was told that the conservation work of the  pilimage is being delayed, deliberately, for political reasons. Santhabodhi said he thought the  authorities feared that the Tamil Separatist Movement   may oppose the conservation work of  the pilimage. Nevertheless, there are some archaeology officers who are willing to go ahead with the conservation work of the image house, despite  the anticipated conflict, Santhabodhi said.

With the conservation work of the image house  being delayed, the excavated area of the image house, including the  soil layers and unearthed stone objects, is exposed to heavy rains, heat, and soil erosion. The ruins are getting destroyed. The wall around the image house has started to collapse in certain places. Some of the stone pillars are tilted to the side due to soil erosion, as a result of heavy rains. We have fixed props to prevent those pillars from falling,  Ama was told.

Archaeologist Chandima Ambanwala  when interviewed said the main issue is that no measures are taken to conserve the unearthed architectural structures during a given timeframe. This causes severe damage to the unearthed architectural structures. This is extremely serious.

We must understand the gravity of this, he said. Excavating an ancient architectural structure, exposing it and abandoning it  accelerate the decaying process by a hundred times. These ancient structures were under the soil for many centuries, sometimes even thousands of years and during this time the decaying process is under control and stable. Once these structures are unearthed and exposed to natural conditions such as rain, atmosphere, sunlight, heat, humidity and so on, it is open to speedy decay.

 We have many examples of such situations in recent times. The Kawudagala Stupa in Welikanda was excavated but was not followed up by a conservation process. The stupa was destroyed by treasure hunters. Another example is the image house at Kurundi Buddhist monastery. If anyone visits this place now, they can witness the damage caused to the image house after it was abandoned after excavations,”  said Ambanwela.

When asked who should be responsible for the prevailing issue at Kurundi, Ambanwela said   Director General of the  Department of Archaeology (DoA) is to be blamed for this damage because the Department is the institute that is responsible for protecting Sri Lanka’s ancient heritage and it is also the institute that has all the authority to take action for the safeguarding of the heritage. It is the duty and responsibility of the Department to safeguard the ancient heritage sites and monuments in Sri Lanka.”

These architectural structures are getting decayed day by day, at a great speed. Therefore, the Director General and the Department of Archaeology  cannot wipe their hands off of the responsibility of protecting Sri Lanka’s heritage of the people on behalf of the people,” concluded Ambanwala. 

Archaeologist  Gamini Wijesuriya blamed the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs. I have been asked to comment on is the status of the excavated image house at Kurundi and why it has been abandoned by the authorities,  said  Wijesuriya. A competent team from the Department of Archaeology has excavated the site, and the next task is the conservation and (interpretation) presentation.

The exposed image house, is being destroyed due to the absence of any action. In my view, such neglect is tantamount to a crime. The remains should be consolidated without further delay. Ven. Santhabodhi  has said that  the  money allocated for the excavation as well as conservation of the site is  readily available.

the DoA has an excellent professional and technical team, together with the accumulated knowledge of 130 years on the subject, and is capable of conserving the remains of the image house, Wijesuriya continued.

The current Director of Conservation, Prasanna Ratnayake, is the  third of a generation of internationally-renowned conservation professionals to hold the position as the Head of Conservation in the DoA. Ratnayake possesses 25 years of experience in the Department as the Head of the Conservation Division with international training and experience. He and his team in the Department can conserve the exposed remains of the image house to the highest international standards within a short period of time”  Wijesuriya said.

 Wijesuriya attributes the  delay in conservation of the excavated Kurundi image  house, to the interference by the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs over the last decade. The current Minister of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs has no clue  about the history and the role of the DoA, which has existed for 133 years.

The Ministry has failed to appoint a competent  head of  the DoA among those serving with experience. Over the last five years, the Ministry has appointed five incompetent and unqualified persons as the Director General of Archaeology, who have miserably failed to provide the required leadership to the competent staff of the Department and disrupted all the normal work. 

The Ministry and those appointed at Director General, Archaeology cover up their incompetency, claiming it is political interference that prevents the conservation of the abandoned image house in Kurundi, continued Wijesuriya.

The latest saga of the series of disruptions done to the DoA is the scheme of recruitment hastily drafted and published by the Ministry, which prevents    members of the DoA from applying for the position! It is clear that provisions have been made for those without any experience in the task performed by the DoA, to apply.  To me, (Kamalika Pieris), this  sounds like sabotage.

It is questionable how those in the Ministry of Public Administration and the Public Service Commission allow such schemes of recruitment to be approved, breaking all accepted norms in the public service.  they owe the public explanations, concluded Dr. Wijesuriya. 

Kamalika Pieris  (that’s me)  spoke to a lawyer who was interested in the Kurundi matter. He said bluntly, that the pilimage conservation was getting delayed because the  cases against Kurundi in the courts of law  were  dragging on.  The Magistrate who heard  the cases has run away. These cases should be concluded as soon as possible.

He  told me that experts warn that that the exposed pilimage ruins  are now starting to deteriorate, and with a few more heavy rains, the pilimage ruins will disappear. The next heavy rain will probably finish it off.

This lawyer also referred to the appointment of the DG of  Archaeology . He said that when   they met the authorities, on behalf of Kurundi , they were told that the pilimage work would be started once the new  DG, Archaeology . But they are delaying the appointment, he said angrily.

My view, (Kamalika Pieris), is that  the Buddhist lobby  must take action to get the conservation work of the pilimage started as soon as possible. I would also add that  even if all the ancient pillars fell down, it  will not be the end of the  Kurundi pilimage.  If the original ruins vanish, the Archaeology Department will be able to   build  a new pilimage modeled on the old one. They have the design and the expertise.  Any ancient pillars still available could perhaps be placed ‘in situ’. Those who  support  ‘Venice Principles’ will be told to shut up. ( Continued)


Source for photos.  Bauddhaloka Foundation 

[1] https://ceylontoday.lk/2024/01/13/exposed-to-decay-part-i/

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