Posted on May 27th, 2024


This essay   provides some information on three Buddhist centers in the north east, Tiriyaya, Kantarodai and Jaffna. Like Kurundi, Tiriyaya also had links with Anuradhapura kingdom. It is the closest temple to Kurundi. Tiriyaya is 82 Km from Mullaitivu, 2 hours drive by car.

Tiriyaya vihara has asked for more land. Department of Archaeology explained why Tiriyaya needed more land. Tiriyaya is on a hillock and the whole hill has to be protected, not only the top. So it was necessary to declare over 600 acres of land at Tiriyaya as a protected site. Land was also needed for a pilgrims rest, a modern temple and other infrastructure connected with a sacred area.  Task Force on Archaeological Affairs appointed by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in May 2020 had recommended the release of land to Tiriyaya Vihara.

In April 2023, TNA MP R. Shanakiyan and ITAK MP M. A. Sumanthiran met with residents of Thiriyai, Trincomalee, to discuss their concerns about the land that has been taken by the Girihandu Seya Viharaya, Tiriyaya.

The chief monk of the temple claims that in 2010, approximately 3,600 acres of land surrounding the temple were legally demarcated for its use. However, under the previous Yahapalanaya government, the area was reduced to just 257 acres, the residents said.

 Recently, the chief monk has been lobbying government officials to restore the demarcation to the original 3,600 acres. According to residents of Thiriyai, the Divisional Secretariat of Kuchchaveli received a letter from the Presidential Secretariat to allocate 3,600 acres as requested by the chief monk.

Residents fear that their farmlands will fall within the 3,600 acres, and they will lose not only their livelihoods but also their homes. The chief monk has a history of occupying lands belonging to Tamil farmers near the Paravi Paanchaan tank and cultivating paddy on them, complained Tamil Guardian.

As the controversy continues, arrangements have been made to hold a pinkama at the Girihandu Seya in Tiriyaya on June 28 2023 with the participation of the security forces and the sanction of the Presidential Secretariat, reported Sunday Times.   

Historian DGB de Silva has written on Kantarodai. One cannot escape observing, even with a simple look at pictures, the similarity of the cluster of small stupas at Kantarodai [8 1/2 to 12 ft. in diameter] with a larger stupa [24 ft. diameter] in the centre with those on the three terraces at Borobudur surrounding the larger central stupa, each of which contained an image of the Buddha.

The stupas discovered at Kantarodai may not represent the total number in the original complex. The number has not been precisely recorded and the site is more extensive than the three acres recovered. It is probable that they formed a Mandala of 62 stupas if not of 72 or 81. The evidence is that even after the discovery some have disappeared. Dr. Paul E. Peiris’ effort with an outlay of Rs. 100/= is creditable and Dr. C. Godakumbura’s contribution to declare three acres as archaeological reserve and carry out some excavations are noteworthy but the history of the complex still awaits scientific interpretation, said historian DGB de Silva.

While I undertook writing of the present paper I realized how difficult it is to obtain precise information on Kantarodai remains from Archaeological Survey records, concluded DGB de Silva.

Jaffna was a part of the Sinhala Buddhist civilization of ancient Sri Lanka. Jaffna was Sinhala. The place names are translations from the Sinhala name. Many valuable Sinhalese coins have been discovered in the Jaffna District.

Jaffna was Buddhist. In 1902 or so, Buddhist images were unearthed at Kottiyawatta near Chunnakam. A stone image of the Buddha about 8 feet in height was unearthed near Vishnu temple in Vallipuram, in 1903, together with ruins of buildings, pottery and coins. The statue was gifted to Thailand in 1906 by the British governor Henry Blake. It is now in Bangkok. 

At Makayappiddi, in the courtyard of the Meenachchi Amman Temple, Dr. Pieris discovered a remarkably fine image of the Buddha. At Kantherodai, Dr. Pieris came across a large fragment of the torso of what must have been at one time a gigantic stone statue, being used at a well for washing clothes.  In 2011, Denham noted that Images of the Buddha have been uncovered in Mannar district. 

Jaffna has continued to be Buddhist. Kokila Sandesaya, (15 century) which describes several places on the route to Jaffna in detail, mentions the huge Natha Devale [Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva worship] at present day Chavakachcheri.[1]

In the early part of the last century when Sir Paul E. Pieris examined some of the ruins of the former Buddhist places of worship they were still being progressively obliterated but they were identifiable from what remained as well as from some of the place names. As he observed, several cart-loads of bricks were removed from Putur Kovil Adi [Buddha temple] in the village of Puloli near Point Pedro for a building in the adjoining land. Many images had been destroyed beyond recognition, said DGB de Silva.

The name of the Jaffna peninsula is Nagadipa, not   Jaffna or Yalpanam. Ptolemy called the Jaffna peninsula   ‘Nagadiboy’.  Vallipuram manuscript (2 AD) of Vasabha called it Nakadiva.   A coin dated to 2 AD found at Ututturai in Tenmarachchi division of Jaffna peninsula confirms that the north was called Nagabumi, said P.Pushparatnam of the University of Jaffna.[2] 

The current name Yalpanam appears to have no history. Instead it is attributed to a legend where a blind musician living in India was gifted the Jaffna peninsula by the Indian king, in appreciation of the musician’s skill in playing a string instrument known as ‘Yarl’. The blind musician came to Jaffna, colonized the peninsula with members of his tribe and gave it the name Yalpanam. Jaffna town has a sculpture of this Yarl   at a roundabout in a street in Jaffna town.

Jaffna must be given back its original name ‘Nagadipa’ and Jaffna must replace the island Nainativu in the list of   ‘solosmastana’. Jaffna must now become part of the annual pilgrim route for Buddhists .Facilities must be provided for Buddhists to worship in Jaffna as part of the ‘solosmastana ‘pilgrimage. Buddhists should have asked for this long ago. (Continued)

[1] DGB de Silva. Kantarodai Buddhist Remains- A Sri Lankan Borobudur Lost For Ever, Island, 14 August 2002

[2] P.Pushparatnam. Festschrift for Prof. S Pathmanathan. Godage  p 384

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