Dimbulagala Kosgaha Ulpotha Maravidiya Ruins – දිඹුලාගල කොස්ගහ උල්පත මාරවීදිය නටබුණ්

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Image house at Kosgaha Ulpotha
Image house at Kosgaha Ulpotha
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

The Dimbulagala Rock is known for the Dimbulagala Rajamaha Viharaya by the public. But the Dimbulagala rock is scattered with ancient ruins not known by many. Kosgaha Ulpotha is such site hidden inside thick forest on the eastern slopes of the Dimbulagala Rock.

Until recently Dimbulagala rock has been a home to a Vedda community who are considered to be the decedents of the original aborigines of Sri Lanka who continues to maintain the original hunter gatherer lifestyle for millennia.

There have been 4 small settlements of veddas around the Dimbulagala rock which was called Gunners’ Quoin. These settlements are Ulpota, Kohombolewa, Alagonagoda and Gonandamene out of which Ulpota was considered the most important out of this cluster. All these settlement had consisted of few huts, eight in Kohombolewa and three in Gonandamene in the early 20th century.

The Dimbulagala was transformed in to a major Buddhist site after the Matara Kithalagama Sri Seelalankara Thera (better known as Dimbulagala Hamuduruwo) arrived in 1950’s to the animal infested Dimbulagala range. He developed the Dimbulagala Rajamaha Viharaya as well as the Vedda community who lived around the rock.  Unfortunately On May 26, 1995 Dimbulagala Hamuduruwo was murdered by the Tamil LTTE terrorists when he was on his way to visit a farm.

During his early days at Dimbulagala,  Sri Seelalankara thero has gone in search of a cave called as “Iswate” by the Vedda community. He was accompanied by 2 other villagers on this search. Suddenly a leopard has appeared on the trail and the two villagers had run back and the thero has run towards the leopard to block its way. Suddenly a man in white clothes had appeared on the road  and has shown a path and asked the thero to take that path.

This path has taken the three travelers directly to the “Iswate” cave. The thero had cleaned the cave, lit a fire in front of it to keep wild animals away and gone to sleep in the cave. Suddenly a tall man has appeared in front of him and  has asked the thero to follow him. The man has taken the thero to a closeby location near the rocks, pointed at a place and then disappeared. At a later date, Seelalankara thero has dug the location shown by this mysterious man and a freshwater spring has sprung from this location. This spring is now called Kosgaha Ulpotha and it is said that this spring never dries up even during the worst dry spells. Many super natural events happening during the time Seelalankara thero was living in this adobe are being spoken by the people who were living in the vicinity at that time.

The annual report of the Archeology department of 1897, has a detailed description of the ruins of the Maravidiya in Kosgaha Ulpatha.

September 3rd. – Camped at Kuda Ulpata near a cool, wooded, spring below the South-West side ol Dimbula-gala (“Gunners’ Quoin” Hill). Here are at present located a few Veddas. Behind, the cliff towers slightly concave (recalling the East face of Sigiri-gala, but steeper) with many bambara wada (rock-bee hives) hanging hundreds of feet up. Further East, the range rises still higher with two more rocky scarps well marked. Directly behind Kuda Ulpata is a slight dip (de-gala) in the range at no mean height. Nestling high near the summit can be seen some caves with white plastered walls, like the “gallery”. at Sigiriya.

At the East end of Dimbula-gala lies Kosgaha Ulpata. another Vedda hamlet ; and round, opposite its Western face, Manampitiya, the largest and most thriving village in Tamankaduwa, two miles this (Egoda Pattuwa) side of the Mahaveli-ganga and the ‘Maha-gan-tota’ ferry.

The main heights of ‘Dimbula-gala‘ are ‘Kalukoka-hela‘, ‘Guru-hela‘, ‘Maravidiye.’ For water, besides the “Namal-pokuna’’ and “Nilmal-pokuna.” there are three springs (ulpat) —Kosgaha, Kuda, and Pussella-Vevel.

September 5th. – Gave this day to the exploration, etc., of the caves, hardly visible from the vadiya (circuit-hut) at Kuda Ulpata as a white speck amid green and grey setting of forest trees and granite cliff, which lie high up that portion of Dimbula-gala that adjoins the dip in the hill directly behind the hamlet.

All this South-West side of Dimbula-gala is known to the Vedda (of whom a quaint posse of silent folk from Kuda Ulpata and Kosgaha Ulpata hamlets guided us) as “Maravidiya“, from the tradition of an ancient road which is said to have passed round the base of Dimbula-gala to Manampitiya.

The highest point of this part of the hill is just West of the gap, or dip, and above these caves ; thence it falls away gradually Westwards, with two rocky bluffs breaking the hill line.

For more than half the way up to the “Maravidiye Caves” the approach is very gradual. It runs along a rocky spur of the hill, which projects South-West. After passing a cave (with a ‘katare‘ or drip-line cut over its brow, but bearing no inscription) the ascent gets steeper ; and just before reaching the rock cliff under which lie the caves becomes! quite steep. The caves—originally natural caverns pitting the scarp, but subsequently improved by artificial handywork—rest on the lower slope of the rock cliff. This forms their floor and that of the passage-way uniting them.

Cave A
The first cave reached is also the best preserved. Some ten feet of a low wall, or high kerb, with rounded top, which formerly protected the off-side of the narrow terrace, still remain. The walls of the two rooms, with much of the hard plaster adhering firmly, stand m places nearly as perfect as when built centuries ago. Even some of the “frescoes” which once adorned the walls may be faintly traced. There are arched doorways admitting to ruined chambers, one fairly spacious.

Cut well up on the roof formed by the overhanging rock, outside the cave, is an inscription (No. 1) in the oldest form of “Cave character” (each letter apparently about a foot m vertical size). It is legible enough, but beyond the reach of an ordinary ladder.

Immediately beyond the rooms there is a ‘gal-wala‘, or rock pool, of delightfully cool, clear, water, always in shade, and said never to dry up.

Passing this on the left, a gradual rise by a narrow ledge, two to three feet only in width, leads on, for twenty yards or so, towards the second cave (B). A few fathoms crawl along the breakneck ledge—now almost unprotected, but which troubled the Vedda escort as little as it would have monkeys then a dip through a natural rock-tunnel on to a further ledge, hardly less dangerous; which, in turn, descends to a broader passage ending in another tunnel.

Cave B
This second tunnel emerges on to Cave B, the largest in the range, which is quite open now ; but was utilised for a vihare at one time, portions of its walls are left, showing frontage of 26 ft. The rock floor, being wider here than at any other point, this vihare had the advantage of a fair-sized terrace in front.

Remains of “frescoes” (mostly in black and white) exist on the plaster of the inner wall. One of these old paintings may represent Gautama Buddha’s Sat-satiya, so familiar in modem Temples of the Island.

As with Cave A an equally pellucid rock pool, just beyond the vihare, served to supply pure drinking water in abundance to the occupiers of the cave.

Beyond the pool there is space for perhaps another cave room, but small. On the rock roof of Cave B are two inscriptions—the older (No. 2), a single line in the “Cave script” dating back B. C. like the record at Cave A. ; the other (No. 3), an inscription of about the 11th century A.D. This is incised on a raised panel, once smooth, and is of great interest both in itself, and as proving the occupation of these caves up to mediaeval times.

The writing being on the sloping roof, considerably within the cave, is wonderfully well preserved; every letter is quite legible.

In contents, it is apparently a pious record of repairs and improvements, etc., to the Cave Vihare, by “Sundara Maka Devi” queen of Vikrama Bahu (“Vikumba niridu”) dated in the 27th year of “Jaya Bahu Vat-himiya”. Mention is made of “Gaja Bahu Deva” ( Gaja Bahu II) of special names of caves (“Sanda Maha Lena”, “Hiri Maha Lena”, “Kalinga Lena” ; and the charitable dedication of “Demale Vehesara” (? village).

Photographs were taken of both Caves ( A.B.), of the passage between them, and of one gal-wala of the three inscriptions “eye-copies” were made, and No. 3 also photographed (Plate VI.)

From the caves the vista of Eastern Province and Central Province (Kandyan) hills is very extensive; and, the day being fortunately clear, afforded a glorious view. Of former images in the Caves, there survive only two small limestone ot-pilima (sedent figures) both worn and damaged, and the mere wooden core of a hiti pilimayak (statue), all of the Buddha.

Mr HCP Bell, describes in detail the the inscriptions on each cave in the journal “The Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register” of 1917.

INSCRIPTIONS

Three inscriptions, and three only, have been discovered at the “Mardvidiye Caves”, despite careful search on two separate occasions. Of the three records, two (Nos. 1., 2.) are carved in the most ancient style of the “Brahmi Lipi” writing found in Ceylon, and go back to the early centuries B.C. the third, incised on a panel, is in the Sinhalese script of the 11th century A.D.

Inscription No. 1
A record of 21 letters in single line which is (as stated in the Diary entry) ‘‘cut in the oldest form of ‘Cave character’ (each letter apparently about a foot in vertical size)” above the brow of Cave A, though at such a height as to be inaccessible, without special ladder or scaffolding. This, however, is immaterial, as owing to its boldness the inscription can be read easily, except perhaps for one akshara, rather worn. The palatal “digamma” sa is that used both in this and Inscription No. 2 of Cave B.

Transcript.
Pa ru ma ka Pu sa jhi ta ya u pa sa (ka) Chi ia ya le ne sa ga sa.

Translation.
“Cave of the female lay-devotee Chita, daughter of the Chief Phussa, (granted) to the Community (of Buddhist monks).”

Inscription No. 2
Also a one-line epigraph ; 15 letters in all, somewhat less largely cut than No. 1, but of about the same age B.C.

Transcript.
A ya ra Ti sa ha jha ya A bi u pa la ya

Translation.
“ (Cave) of Abiupala, wife of the noble Sura Tisa.”

Inscription No. 3
This fine inscription, of seven lines between ruling, is engraved on the inner sloping face of Cave B, within an oblong counter-sunk panel. To right of the panel are outline figures of Sun, Moon, Crow and Dog, all symbolic.

Exposure to the weather in the open cavern may have somewhat roughened the rock surface, but has not materially affected the incised writing, which is still completely legible, and presents no difficulty to the copyist. The ‘‘eye-copy” reproduced (Plate VI) was jotted down in his own Inscription Book by the Archaeological Commissioner standing in front of the panel in 1897, after photographing it (Plate V). Five years later, when surveying the Dimbula-gala caves and ruins, the Head Overseer of the Archaeological Survey made an independent official “eye-copy” which differs in no respect, save in being distinctly better drawn.

With the exception of two passages, more or less cryptic, the contents of the inscription are easily understood, its language differing but little from that of the present day.

As regards three of the Royal Personages mentioned the ‘Mahawansa’ leaves us in no doubt.

Queen “Sundara Maha Devi,” from whom this gal-sannasa professes on its face to emanate, was manifestly “Sunari (Tumour, Sundari) the youngest sister” of the three princes who came from “Sihapura” (Kalinga) in India. She was given by Vijaya Bahu I “unto his son Vikrama Bahu”—the “Vikumba nirindu” of the inscription —“to wife, being desirous to establish his race.” {Mahdwansa, LIX, 49.)

“And when in process of time a son was born into him named Gaja Bahu”—“Gaja Bahu Deva ” the rock record calls him—“ the king being mindful of the welfare of his sons,” gave Vikrama Bahu “the whole of Rohana and sent him to dwell there” (LX, 89.)

On the death of Vijaya Bahu, after a long and eventful reign, civil war ensued, with fluctuating success, between the late king’s brother Jaya Bahu I (who was immediately anointed king) and his sister, or half sister, Mitta, with her three sons, on the one side, and Vikrama Bahu I on the other ; until (as the History states) by a signal victory the latter became “the lord of his people, and dwelling in the city of Pulatthi (Polonnaruwa) governed the King’s Country (Raja Rata, a Northerly Division of Tri Sinhala, or ancient Ceylon), although he was not anointed king” (LXI, 47.)

“Vikrama Bahu died after he had enjoyed the kingdom one and twenty years,” (LXIII, 18)—an “enjoyment” which cost the Buddhist religious establishments dearly.

He was succeeded at Polonnaruwa by his son Gaja Bahu II—who, allied with Manabharana the Younger, proved such a thorn in the side of their more distinguished relative, afterwards the illustrious Parakrama Bahu the Great. The internecine struggle for mastery ended only, as the old Chronicler puts it quaintly, by the two former princes, “because that they could not dwell even in their own country through fear, taking refuge in the King of Death, seeing no other way of escape.” (Mahawansa, LXXV, 27-31).

The fourth “Royal Personage” specified on the panel record is “Jaya Bahu Vat-himiya” in whose 27th year the gal-sannasa was granted.

Who was he ? Was he Mahalu Vijaya Bahu I, who reigned 55 years, or was he his younger brother, Jaya Bahu I, whose rule is variously given as from one year (Mahawansa Editors) to three years (Rajawaliya and, in the Tamil inscription of Polonnaruwa, as at least 38 years—the last 15 of which he had shared with his grand-nephew Gaja Bahu Deva ?

The question was partially discussed in the Archaeological Commissioner’s Annual Report for 1909 (pp. 26, 27)

Text
1. ඔකාවස් රජ කුලෙන් නිපන් සුදොනා පරපුරෙන් ආ හිරුගොත් කුලෙන් අභින්න වූ රූසිරින් සිරි
2. දිනු දොවොටුනු මැන්දෑ උපන් විකුම්බා නිරිඳුහට අගමෙහෙසුන් වැ ගජබාහු දේවයන් ලද
3. සුන්දර මහා දෙවින්වහන්සෙ පන්සියක් මහා සඟනට ආවාසවූ අප මුනි රජහු සිරුරු
4. දා පිහිටි දුඹුලුගලැ සන්ද මහ ලෙණින් හිරි මහ ලෙණ දෙ අතුරෙහි මඟ දණ එව දමවලී යන මිනිසු
5. න්ගේ දුක බලා ගල් ගස්වා මඟ පවත්කොට ලෙන පිළිම දාගබ් මහබො පිහිටුවා කලිඟ ලෙ
6. ණයැයි නම් තබා ජයබාහු වත්හිමියන්වහන්සෙ සත්විසිවන හවුරුදු පොසොනැ පුර පො
7. හොයැ දෙමළෑ වැහැසර කුසලාන් කරවා පාබත් පුදනු කොට ලෙන පවත්නා තාක් කලට සින් බවට සුන්දර මහා දෙවීම.

Translation.
I (lit. we) Sundara Maha Devi —descended from Suddhodana’s line, sprung from the Ikhwaka (Okawas) royal dynasty, coming of the Solar race in unbroken succession, (who) transcends (the goddess) Sri in loveliness, (and) was blessed with (lit. got) Gaja Bahu Deva (as son), when (lit. being) Chief Queen to King Vikrama Bahu (Vikumba Nirindu) born of parents both Crowned Heads (lit. born between two crowns) –hereby set forth (lit. certify the fact) that, observing the hardship of persons traversing with bent knees by the help of chains the passage-way (manga) between the ‘”Great Moon Cave” (Sanda Maha Lena) and the “Great Sun Cave” (Hiru Maha Lena) the residence of five hundred of the Chief Community (Maha Sanga), where corporeal relics of our lord Buddha are deposited, (I, therefore), caused
(suitable) stones to be laid (lit. broken up) and improved the passage way.

(Further), that having established cave (shelters) dagabas, and great ho trees, (I) gave (to this Cave Temple) the appellation “Kalinga Lena” and, in the 27th year (of the reign) of Jaya Bahu Vat-himiya on the Full Moon Day (pura pohoye) of (the month) Poson, dedicated for the sake of religious merit (kusalan karava) Demale Vehesara (village), causing rice to be offered (from that village) to monks (pa-bat, lit. monk-bowl rice), for so long a period as the Cave (Temple) shall exist.

Veddas of Ulpotha in 1911
Veddas of Ulpotha in 1911
photo from ” “The Veddas” by Seligman, C. and Seligman, B., 1911

References

  • H.C.P. Bell, 1917. DIMBULA-GALA : ITS CAVES. RUINS AND INSCRIPTIONS. The Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register, III(1), pp.1-12.
  • Seligman, C. and Seligman, B., 1911. The Veddas. 1st ed. London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Eranda, 2016. දිඹුලාගල හිමි වැඩ සිටි ගල්ලෙන පුදුම අමුතු දෑ මේ ලෙස සිදුවුණ … – IFBC Organization | Dhamma. [online] IFBC Organization | Dhamma. Available at: <https://dhamma.ifbcnet.org/දිඹුලාගල-හිමි-වැඩ-සිටි-ගල-2/> [Accessed 26 May 2021].

Also See

Map of Dimbulagala Kosgaha Ulpotha Ruins

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Travel Directions to Dimbulagala Kosgaha Ulpotha Ruins

Route from Polonnaruwa to Dimbulagala Kosgaha Ulpotha Ruins
Through : Kaduruwela – Manampitiya
Distance :  35 km
Travel time : 30 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map

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