Dambakola Patuna Temple, Jaffna

Located at the far end of our little island paradise, the Dambakola Patuna Temple is one of the major tourist attractions in the Jaffna Peninsula.

It is a place where you can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Indian Ocean, the mesmerising beauty of the peninsula, and the remnants of Sri Lanka’s glorious past.

The best time to visit the place is early mornings or late evenings to witness the sunset. Trust me, the beauty of this place will last in your mind forever.

Dambakola Patuna Temple has a rich legacy and its antiquity dates back to the 3rd century BCE; making it one of Sri Lanka’s oldest temples. Also known as the Jambukola Viharaya, today the area is known as Sambiliturei in Tamil.

According to history, the temple was built by King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BCE. This was to commemorate the arrival of the sacred Bo sapling from India. The sacred Bo sapling was brought to Sri Lanka by the Buddhist Bhikshuni Sanghamitta, who was the daughter of the Mauryan Emperor Asoka.

As history narrates, the two kings were very close friends.

King Devanampiyatissa arranged a special parade and prepared and decorated the main road connecting the capital Anuradhapura and the harbour at Dambakola Patuna, where she was supposed to land.

Dambakola Patuna was one of the major ancient harbours of Sri Lanka during historic times. The king and his group decorated the harbour and waited for the arrival of the Bhikshuni and the sacred Bo sapling.

After the arrival he welcomed the ship by walking into the sea, and as historical texts says, to a point where the water was up to the king’s chest.

According to legend, the Bhikshuni also visited Delft Island and a stupa and monastery were built in her honour. However, after she arrived at the harbour, the group paraded to Anuradhapura where the sacred Bo sapling was planted at the Mahamewna Gardens.

On their way to Anuradhapura, which took several days, the group had stopped to rest. At these places, temples were built to commemorate her visit and in honour of the sacred Bo tree.

This story, which is proven through historical texts, inscriptions, and archaeological evidence, marks a very important event in Sri Lankan history.

King Devanampiyatissa had carried out many constructions here. A Bo tree (one of the eight Bo saplings) was also planted at Dambakola Patuna but later it was destroyed during the days when Jaffna was facing unrest.

The Jambukola Viharaya was reconstructed by King Vijayabahu the Great (1055–1110 CE) and according to the Samanthapasadika, Greek pilgrims (Yonaka people) had visited the Jambukola temple.

It is also recorded in chronicles that Prince Aritta and his team boarded a ship from Dambakola Patuna to go to India to meet the Mauryan emperor. After he met the emperor, he arrived at the same harbour.

It is also recorded that a Siripathul Gal or Buddha’s Footprint stone had been found in this place (the Buddha’s footprints were worshiped as a symbol of the Buddha, centuries before the Buddha statue was created).

As time passed, the Viharaya fell to ruins and the port gradually faded in significance.

During the LTTE war, the temple was further neglected.

During post-war times, the Sri Lanka Navy conducted reconstruction work at the temple premises. The small white stupa was constructed within 65 days. The Bo tree is not the ancient one, but one planted by the Navy in 1998.

The temple is an important place to visit if you travel to Jaffna as it is located at a very important harbour of the past that connected Sri Lanka with the mighty Mauryan Empire. Also most importantly, it is the place where the sacred Bo sapling first entered the shores of Sri Lanka. The sacred Bodhi tree (planted at Anuradhapura today), is considered the oldest living tree that has a recorded history with accurate planted dates. It is also the oldest tree that has a living culture woven around it. It is also one of the most sacred venerated objects of the world and probably the most important living venerated symbol for Buddhists all over the world.

By Ama H.Vanniarachchy

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