Ruins at Kiribath Vehera, Anuradhapura

Kiribath vehera is an archaeological site situated in Anuradhapura, the once glorious capital city of Sri Lanka.

Situated in the far North of the Ancient city, out of the citadel, Kiribath vehera is in a sad state. To reach the site, one must pass the sacred city, traveling towards the North, taking the Sangamitta road, and pass the ruins at Wijayarama.

Kiribath vehera literally means the ‘Milk rice monastery’. It is not understandable how it got this name. This can be identified as the ancient ‘Uttara Megha-giri viharaya’ mentioned in old scripts and inscriptions. When translated, Uttara Megha-giri vehera gives the meaning, ‘Northern Rain-cloud hill temple’. One pillar inscription found at this place mentions the name, ‘Uthur Megiri watthata’. This pillar inscription can be dated to the 9th or 10th century.

What could be seen here are remains of an ancient Buddhist monastery, including an image house and a stupa. Ruins of the image house are located in front of the ruined stupa.

The ruined stupa is covered with vegetation and hardly can be identified as a stupa. The bricks are spread all over and the top of the stupa there was a large pit dug by robbers when I first visited the site in 2009. The damage caused by robbers and negligence cannot be considered as minor.

As the stupa is collapsed and covered with trees and shrubs, it is difficult to understand its original shape. The stupa can be roughly measured as 30 feet in height and 400 feet in diameter.

The pillars and the brick foundation in front of the stupa can be identified as an image house. However, though smaller in size this demonstrations similarities with the Jethawana image house. The scattered parts of a stone figure can be recognized as a Buddha image.

At present, a positive change cannot be seen as still the site is in a depressed state. Bricks, scattered stones and broken pillars can be seen everywhere. If not conserved soon, the ruins will be destroyed further.

Based on the pillar inscription the place can be identified as the ancient Uttara Megiri wattha monastery or the Uttara Megha-giri viharya.

Ancient scripts records that Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha first visited the Dakunu Megha-giri monastery kept the tooth relic at the temple and sent a messenger to the king. Once receiving the message, the king arrived at the temple and received the tooth relic with royal honour. The couple stopped from entering the citadel or meeting the monarch as soon as they arrived, thus they stayed at the Dakunu Megha-giri monastery and a monk enlightened the monarch with the good news. The Dakunu Megha-giri monastery can be identified as the present day ‘Isuru-muniya monastery’. Scholars assume the ‘Dakunu Megha-giri monastery’ where the couple kept the tooth relic for the first time should be this ‘Uttara Megha-giri vehera’ considering the geographical locations. The Dakunu Megha-giri monastery should surely be located in the Southern part of the capital, which means one must pass the citadel where the most important and secured buildings are located. The ancient main road to Anuradhapura, from North, was across the Malwathu oya. If one takes this road, the citadel must be crossed before reaching the Dakunu Megha-giri monastery. However, the Uttara Megha-giri vehera can be reached easily without crossing the citadel and other important buildings, as it is located out of the boundaries of the most important area of the ancient capital. As the couple landed at a port somewhere in the North, they must have taken this ancient main road to reach Anuradhapura. Furthermore, the royal couple was new to the country and they were escaping the unsafe political situation in their own country, the Kalinga. Considering these reasons, the royal couple must have not chosen to cross the citadel of a kingdom where they are alien to.