Bowattegala Monastery Ruins in Kumana – බෝවත්තේගල ආරාම සංකීර්ණයේ නටඹුන්

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Bowattegala Monastery Ruins

Bowattegala Monastery Ruins
Photo courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

The villages of Kumana and Panama, once part of a ancient flourishing civilization, today is a think jungle teeming with wildlife. The evidence of this civilization still remains in form of ruins of massive monastic complexes such as Bowattegala Monastery,  Kudumbigala Monastery and Bambaragastalawa Naga Pabbatha Monastery, dams,  canals and irrigation reservoirs belonging to the pre christian era scattered all over the jungles in and around Kumana.

Bowattegala, a rock strewn mountain in the midst of Kumana National Park, had been first fashioned a monastery in the third-second century BC by the ten noble brothers of Kataragama, known in Sri Lankan history as the ‘Kataragama-kshathriya’.

Bowattegala hills consists of many caves mostly with drip ledges and Brahmi inscriptions indicating that this has been a vast monastery in the ancient times. Remains of brick walls on some caves indicate that these caves have been converted in to shrine rooms and living quarters for the meditating monks. The fact that the Brahmi inscriptions belong to the pre Christian era and the bricks belong to a later age prove that Bowattegala Monastery has survived for thousands of years before falling in to despair.

The are ruins of stupas on number of hill tops which has been dated back to the Anuradhapura period. The inscriptions at Bowattegala Monastery speaks of 10 brothers and historian Senarath Paranawithana believes that this refers to the 10 Kshathriyas of Kataragama mentioned in the Dhatuwansa, the  ancient chronicle of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha and Ven Ellawala thero too support this belief.

Citing the inscription mentioning  of Kataragama Kshathriyas also in Kotadamuhela (කොටාදැවුහෙළ) in the same vicinity, and the lack of any evidence of the their work in the current Kataragama area, Ven. Ellawala Thero believes that the Kshathriyas of Kataragama ruled from the Panama/Kumama area and not in the current Kataragama.

The chronicle states that the Kshathriyas of Kataragama attended the planting of the sapling of the Sri Maha Bodiya at Anuradhapura and later received a sapling of the same tree as a present. This tree is said to be planted in Kataragama. Considering the above and the name Bowattegala which could interpreted as the “Garden by the rock where the Bo tree is situated” it has been assuemed that the sapling from the Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura was planted at Bowattegala and not in the present Kataragama as per the popular belief.

Primary Source : The Sinhala Buddhist Heritage In The East and the North Of Shri Lanka
by Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero

Map of Bowattegala Monastery in Kumana

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites.

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Travel Directions to Bowattegala Monastery in Kumana

Route from Colombo to Kumana Park Entrance at Okanda

Route from Potuvil to Kumana Park Entrance at Okanda

Through : Balangoda – Beragala – Wellawaya – Monaragala – Potuvil – Panama – Okanda
Distance :350 km
Travel time : 6-7 hours.
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Potuvil – Panama – Okanda
Distance :40 km
Travel time : 1 hours.
Driving directions : see on google map

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