Deegavapi Rajamaha Viharaya (දීඝවාපි රජමහා විහාරය)

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Deegavapi is one of the 16 places which has been blessed by the Buddha’s presence. Buddha was invited to Kelaniya by Mani Akkika of the Naga Tribe, ruler of the Kelaniya region on his second visit to Nagadeepa. In the 8th year of attaining nirvana Buddha decided to visit Sri Lanka for the third time, specially to Kelaniya. During this visit, he came to Deegavapi with 500 Arhaths and spent time meditating. Deegawapi is placed as the 6th site in the Solosmasthana of Sri Lanka.

According to the Mahavansa, The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, this stupa was built by King Saddhatissa (137-119 BC). According to the same the king has also donated a jacket decorated with gold lotus flowers and various gems to cover the stupa.

…… “Moreover, he founded the Dighavapi-vihara together with the cetiya; for this cetiya he had a covering of network made set with gems, and in every mesh thereof was hung a splendid flower of gold, large as a wagon-wheel, that he had commanded them to fashion. (In honour) of the eighty-four thousand sections of the dhamma the ruler commanded also eighty-four thousand offerings. When the king had thus accomplished many works of merit he was reborn, after his death, among the Tusita gods.” ……….

Since this location has been blessed by Buddha’s presence, it is generally believed that this stupa is a “paribogika” stupa and no special relics have been enshrined. But historian venerable Ellawela Medananda Thero believes that this stupa enshrines a nail relic of Buddha. An inscription on a gold foil unearthed during excavations discloses that King Kawanthissa (164-192) has done renovations to the stupa.

With the passage of time, this temple was neglected due to the internal conflicts of the country. King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe ( 1747 – 1781) seeing the status of the temple carried out major renovations and handed it over to Rev. Bandigide Negrodha thero along with 1000 ‘amunu’ (2000-2500 acres) of land in 1756. Two stone inscriptions by King Saddhasissa and King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe have been in existence at the Deegavapi until the last century but both of these have mysteriously disappeared now. But a copy of the Rajasinghe inscription which was made in 1845 exists today.

During the British occupation of the country, the British took over all the land belonging to the temple and in 1886 the British government agent in Batticaloa instructed to dig this 2000 year old stupa and carried the bricks and ancient granite slabs to be used in irrigation projects in the area. The British used the Muslims in the area to do his work as no Buddhist would take part in the destruction of this revered site. In the end, only a mound was left over of this great stupa and was left to the jungle.

In 1916 a priest called Kohukumbure Revatha Thero started searching for this stupa and he found some muslims carrying bricks in carts. When inquired, he was told that they were from a great brick mound deep in the jungle. He followed these cartsmen and found the Dageba in absolute ruins. He came back with a few Buddhists from Colombo and started redeveloping this temple area and also managed to reclaim 250 acres of land back to the temple. By this time, the Deegavapi area was dominated by Muslims who were given refuge in this area by King Senerath (1604 – 1635) when they were harassed in the coastal areas by the Portuguese. The king not only gave them refuge but destroyed a Portuguese fort at the port called “Deegavapi Thitha” for them to carry out their business activities freely. But in 1950 Kohukumbure Revatha Thero was brutally murdered by a Muslim in the area

The stupa was 110 feet height when the archaeological department started its renovation work in 1964, but a document by Badigode Buddharakitha Thero put the height to 185 feet in 1845. The circumference of the stupa is about 1000 feet. Currently, a height of 30 feet has been restored.

The Deegavapi Stupa lies about 18 kilometres east of Ampara town in an area dominated by Muslims. Today the land belonging to the temple premises including historical artifacts is under threat from Muslims and Muslim politicians who attempt to wipe out any signs Buddhist heritage in this area. In the recent past many conflicts have risen with the muslim politicians trying to destroy the temple artifacts which are spread over thousands of acres. While instances they have been saved most of the time they have been successful with the government turning a blind eye. Recently a parivara chethiya was bulldozed in constructing a road within the Deegavapi land. The LTTE terrorist activities since 1980 also helped this cause since access to this site by the general public was restricted. In the 80’s the LTTE attacked a Singhalese village murdering 13 and injuring over 40. Until the LTTE was destroyed in 2008, Deegavapi was again left to a few brave priests who risked their lives to maintain a Buddhist presence.

Other names : deegavapi, digavapi, deegawapi, digwapi,

Also See

  • Solosmasthana – The Sixteen Buddhist Sacred Sites Hollowed by Buddha

Map of Deegavapi Rajamaha Viharaya

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Driving Directions to Deegavapi Rajamaha Viharaya

Ampara is the nearest main town to deegavapi. Take the Akkaraipatthu road from Ampara. It is about 18 km off Ampara town.

Route 1 from Colombo to Deegavapi Route 2 from Colombo to Deegavapi
Though : Awissawella – Rathnapura – Beragala – Wellawaya – Monaragala – Ampara
distance : 350 km
Travel time : 7-8 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Kandy – Mahiyanganaya – Meegaswattha – Padiyathalawa – Maha Oya – Ampara
distance : 330 km
Travel time : 7-8 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Route from Ampara to Deegavapi 
distance : 20 km
Travel time : 30 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map


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