Unveiling Eastern treasures

Kadulupothana Kanda ruins

Today the place is also known as Kadulupothana Maleyi, which means Kadulupothana Kanda. It is not easy for pilgrims to visit these places as most of them are hidden in the forest and the roads are not easy to find and travel. Therefore, Government institutes such as the Ministry of Buddhist Affairs, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, and the Department of Archaeology (DoA) must make these heritage and religious places easily accessible to the public.

As the name suggests, the place has a small mountain with many rocks and caves. The most important archaeological feature of this place is the number of drip-ledged caves with cave inscriptions.

As Purawidya Chakrawarthi, Purawidya Paryeshanashuri Ven. Ellawala Medhanandha Thera suggests, this place must have been a branch of Kusalankanda meditation monastery which is close to this place and also that Kadulupothana Kanda monastery must have been incepted during the same time the Kusalankanda monastery was established.

The Thera also interprets three Brahmi inscriptions of the place and reveals their connection to the Rohana royal dynasty. The inscriptions say that the cave was offered by Parumaka Shumana to the Sangha. Another cave was offered to the Sangha by Parumaka Shumana’s wife Upasika Sumana. The Thera identifies the prince Abaya mentioned in the inscription as the King Abaya mentioned in the Kusalankanda monastery inscription. This Abaya is king Gotabaya. The inscription says that the cave was offered during the reign of the son of prince Abaya, who is King Kavanthissa (Kavanthissa was the son of Gotabaya).

These inscriptions are the historical land deeds proving the ownership of this island. The language of the inscriptions is Sinhala.

Rugama Wewa – Piyakaluthata Buddhist monastery

Rugama tank is an ancient tank situated in the Batticaloa District. The ruins of an ancient monastery are located close to the ancient tank. The entire area is today abandoned and yet, in its hay days, it must have been prosperous as the remnants of a complex irrigation system reveals.

In 2020 during our travels, we witnessed that most of the ruins are damaged and in a tragic state. The ruins were almost covered under dense vegetation. Unsuccessful and disappointed we had to halt our expedition due to many hardships. It also must be mentioned that our journey was distracted by many who want forever erase these ruins from the face of the earth.

To further know about this place we followed the writings of the Ven. Medhanandha Thera who explored all of these sites and recorded them. He has also urged many times the authorities should preserve this invaluable heritage.

He writes that the bricks scattered all over the place can be identified as remnants of a brick stupa and the other stone ruins as moonstones and Buddha’s footprint stone slab. However, we believe that these ruins are still there, intact. He also says that he observed that many ruins are still beneath the earth and is waiting to be discovered.

The Thera also reads and interprets the stone inscription at this place. As the inscription says, the stupa and the monastery were created by the great King Sirimewan Abaya during his fifth reigning year and this monastery named Piyakaluthata was made by the great King Yatalathissa.

According to this inscription, the name of this monastery is Piyakaluthata and was made by King Yatalathissa, son of King Mahanaga, in the 3rd century BCE.

Today, the name of the area is Rugama. As Ven. Medhanandha Thera explains, Rugama is the Tamilisation of the Sinhala word Aramagama which was later pronounced as Arugama. Arugama has been shortened to Rugama. Arugama or Aramagama means the village that was offered to the monastery or the aramaya.

Vulnerable Batticaloa

Similar to the Kilinochchi District, the historical sites in the Batticaloa District are mostly undiscovered, and unexplored. Visiting these places is extremely hard as many of those places have no proper access. Even information about these places is scarce. Not much research has been done in the Batticaloa District about its ancient places. Most of these places lie neglected facing more and more damage further.

Some places were clearly being vandalised and new kovils have been built on the ancient premises. We wonder why the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) turns a blind eye to this vandalising of ancient heritage sites in Sri Lanka that happens in broad daylight.

Purposeful vandalising of heritage sites and religious sites belonging to a community is an unfair and unethical act that violates the rights of a community and hurts their religious sentiments and beliefs. However, the UNHCHR is bothered about the legal archaeological conservation and heritage management work conducted by the DoA in Sri Lanka’s North and East and is least bothered about the destruction of Buddhist religious and heritage sites in Sri Lanka’s North and East.

Protecting Sri Lanka’s heritage from the Eelam myth

The DoA, the main body who is responsible for protecting the ancient heritage of Sri Lanka, needs to act more responsibly in fulfilling its duty and responsibility towards the nation. Batticaloa District is one of the least explored and studied districts in terms of its historical and archaeological sites. We need to preserve these ancient Buddhist sites before it is too late. While many of these ancient sites in the Batticaloa District had already been vandalised by terrorists and religious extremists, including those who campaign for an Eelam, which is a mythical Tamil homeland that they claim to be existed in the North and East of Sri Lanka, another large portion of ancient sites in the district are being covered by the forest and some of them are damaged by treasure hunters.

Those who campaign for an Eelam claim that there had been a historical Tamil homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Thus, for them, the archaeological sites, the majority being Buddhist, are seen as a threat to prove the existence of this mythical Eelam. Therefore, the archaeological heritage of the North and East of Sri Lanka has always been a target of the separationists.

Hence, the DoA must give more weight to the preservation of the heritage of the North and East of Sri Lanka as they are the most threatened and vulnerable heritage sites of the island.

Last year, the UNHCHR and the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary General of its 49th session, titled, ‘Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’, released their annual report and commented on the archaeological work happening in Sri Lanka, especially in the East. The 16-page report is highly problematic as it clearly misinterprets the concept of heritage and peace. This report intends to say that the archaeological heritage and archaeological work, especially in the East, is a reason that can cause disputes among the minority communities living in those areas. Well, if it is the archaeological heritage or the heritage management work of the DoA that causes tension and fear among the minorities in the East, then the UN should rather be concerned about addressing that issue, instead of suggesting that these ancient heritage sites should be removed or should not be protected. Also, if the UN sees the country’s archaeological heritage as a threat to peace, our concern is what the UN means by the word, ‘peace’.

The archaeological work commenced in 2020 under the ‘President Task Force for the Archaeological Heritage Management in the Eastern Province’ was also disrupted due to many obstacles caused by religious extremists and racists.

We end our exploration of the North and Eastern provinces in Sri Lanka, here. Yet, our concern about the heritage of North and East heritage of Sri Lanka does not end here. Through this long study and exploration, we have understood that the concept of Eelam, terrorism, and racism is the biggest threat faced by the heritage of the North and East.

We also, in our early segments have proved that the concept of Eelam is clearly a myth that is far beyond reality. Scholars such as Prof. Senarat Paranavitana, Prof. Abaya Aryasinghe, and Prof. Sirimal Ranawella, who have very clear evidence, said that Eelam is only a myth and that such a Tamil homeland never existed in Sri Lanka.

We also have always said that the Eelam is not at all the collective voice of the general Tamil public but clearly of vicious Tamil politicians who stand for racism. Also, the dangerous and vicious political agendas behind the Eelam concept are not only a threat to the heritage sites of Sri Lanka but also to the entire country as a whole. It hinders the development of the country and now it has been happening for almost nine decades. Therefore, unless we put an end to the spread of myths and separate facts from fiction, as a country, it is hard to move forward.

In terms of heritage, the Ealam myth can be identified as the biggest threat to it. Although we end our travels here, in the next couple of weeks, we shall examine the threat caused by the Eelam myth to the country’s heritage and what measures should be taken by heritage management professionals in order to put an end to such myths.

Before we end, we shall present a piece of clear evidence, from a Tamil scholar, who says that the Eelam is clearly a fabricated myth.

The irony here is that the word Eelam is a Tamilised word that means Sinhala or the Sinhala country. This is not fabricated but a fact accepted widely by scholars. Archaeological evidence reveals that Tamil Eelam is a mythical concept and did not exist in reality.

Ila is the historical name of the Sinhala homeland. No matter how many distorted stories are written and published by certain ‘scholars’, these facts cannot be changed.

In the Ancient Jaffna by Mudliyar C.Rasanayagam, Dr. S. Krishnaswami Ayianagar writes in the preface as follows;

“The attempt of the author to derive the name Ilam does not appeal to us as quite successful: Ilam to us seems to be directly derived from the Pali word Sihalam, which in Tamil would be Singalam or even Singanam, but a strict Tamilising would make it Ilam much as the Jainagar of Kosala becomes Sadinagar and then Adinagar in Tamil inscriptions. The transformation of S into I and the la into illa is not so difficult of an achievement philologically. The question of whether Pali word has a Tamil original must be left open for the present.”

(Pix courtesy Amazing Lanka)

By Ama H.Vanniarachchy

The post Unveiling Eastern treasures appeared first on Ceylon Today.