Dedigama Kota Vehera  – දැඩිගම කොට වෙහෙර
If you take the right turn at the Nelundeniya junction and travel less than two miles, on your right side will loom the unmistakable mound of the Sutighara Cetiya, more popularly known as the Kota Vehera, at Dedigama. In the typical Parakramabahu style the stupa has its hemispherical form truncated on the top, earning the name Kota Vehera. It was not difficult for us to find the site and we walked around the huge mound of earth which is all that is left of it today.
Three of the stupa of the Kota Vehera type the Sutighara Cetiya at Dedigama, the stupa at Yudaganawa and the Damila Stupa at Polonnaruwa belong to the 12th century and are attributed to King Parakramabahu the Great.
The Damila Stupa was constructed by South Indian Chola labourers that King Parakramabahu is said to have brought from India as prisoners. The stupa at Yudaganava is said to be the cremation ground of Ratnavali, Parakramabahu’s mother. And the Sutighara at Dedigama was to commemorate his birthplace in ancient Dedigama.
It is fascinating to note that local tradition and literary reference to the present Dedigama goes back to a very early time. The ancient Pali forms of Punkhagama and Jatigama have been identified to the Sinhalese Datigama or Dedigama.
The Mahavamsa refers to Punkhagama and to the story of King Parakramabahu the Great (AD 1153 – 1186), beginning from the time of his father Manabharana. According to the chronicle Manabharana dwelt at Punkhagama under the name of Virabahu. Punkkhagama was included in the division of a kingdom called Dakkhinadesa or the southern country.
Prince Manabharana and his consort Ratnavali had only two daughters and no sons. The Prince then made over the whole administration of the kingdom to his Ministers and withdrawing into solitude prayed for a son. One night as he camped in the Temple of the King of gods (Devaraja), he was promised a mighty son who would bring glory and fame to his family. His dream has been later related to God Vibhisana of Kelaniya in the Salalihini-sandesaya.
This son of Manabharana and Ratnaveli born by the grace of the gods, who was to be the future Parakramabahu the Great saw the light of day at Punkhagama. The chronicle says that after Parakramabahu became Maharaja he built in the province of Yuvaraja, amongst other monuments, the Sutighara Cetiya, 120 cubits high, on the site of the house where he was born at Punkhagama.
In the 12th century Dedigama was the occasional residence of some of the provincial rulers of Dakkhinadesa. In the 14th century Dedigama was the capital of a paramount sovereign of Lanka, King Parakramabahu V (AD 1344 – 1359).
The Tisara-sandesaya, the oldest existing Sinhalese sandesa poem, in its nearly complete and original form, purports to carry a message by a swan from Devinuwara in the south of Lanka to a king of Dedigama who bore the name of Parakramabahu. The king has been identified as King Parakramabahu V.
The author, a bikkhu of Devinuvara, says that he was engaged in prayer to God Upulvan of that city to protect the king who was his friend. The work contains a poetic account of the city of Dedigama during Parakramabahu V’s reign and includes a description of the monastery there.
The royal seat of Dedigama and King Parakramabahu V are introduced thus:
“O my friend, give this message to His Royal Majesty King Parakramabahu who flourishes in the city of Dedigama protecting according to his pleasure the Mother Earth the prowess of his captivating and mighty arm.”
The sandesa continues testifying to the magnificence of the city as a royal residence during that time:
“Friend with a joyful mind, enter the great city of Detigam, which is resplendent through countless stately mansions containing various paintings (in them) as if the splendour of the whole world had gathered together into one place and where constantly reside people full of love and devotion towards the Triple Gem.
“My friend observe with pleasure the glory of that majestic city gate, which is like a tilaka ornament in the forehead of that lady, namely the city, whose parting of hair is the ever beautiful highway, whose waist girdle the deep moat, and whose full breasts the full pots (symbols of fortune).
“The reflection of flags hoisted all over and fluttering by the breeze when fallen on the crystal mirrors appear like the hosts of Devas and Siddhas sporting happily in the pure waters of the Heavenly River whither they have descended.”
The poet likens the city to the mighty ocean:
“Eternally that city is like the ocean. In the city there reside learned teachers: it is full of enjoyment: It is the abode of pretty women and numberless sportive youths, and also of countless sages; it echoes with the shouts of victory, flags carrying the garuda symbol are hoisted over the highway; it overflows with pearls and gems, Just as the ocean is surrounded by the great rocks, it is full of water, it contains the moon, chanks and flutes; in it live Ananta and many a large fish; it resounds with the waves and water; it is the abode of Great Visnu, it is also full of pearls and gems.”
The worldly wealth was not all, the poet did not forget to mention the spirituality of the great city.
“In the city there was a monastery, the constant abode of virtuous monks. Prosperous ministers in their riches comparable to the God of Wealth had taken up their residence here. There were huge elephants and swift footed horses. The city was crowded with the fourfold army. In that prosperous city of Dedigama flourished King Parakumba.”
The Vuttamala- sandesa-sataka also carries an account of Jatigama, this being another Pali equivalent for Dedigama. It was written by a can May 26, 2012e poem purports to be a message from Dedigama to Kelaniya.
Extracts from his eulogy of the great city and praise of King Parakramabahu are interesting:
“By the city of Jatigama, which is a divine tree for its residents, where there are prosperous and majestic rulers of the earth and with lotus in the form of the city is resorted to by the bees, namely the good people, which city is crowded with shops kept by gentle merchants of noble birth who are mines of manifold wealth, which city is the cluster of flowers worn on the head of the Earth-Lady, in which city dwell kings and their ministers, which city is like the ocean to receive the rivers of learning.”
“In that city abundant with wealth, full of compassionate people, and crowded with hosts of soldiers, the row of large oblong ponds forming the moat shines with its waters which are infested with crowds of crocodiles.”
The account of the city continues:
The high mansions with their gabled roofs, and flags hanging from them. At the entrances to the city are decorated gateways ( torana). There are mighty huge elephants and swift white horses. The five fold music resounds like the noise of the ocean. Special mention is made of the beautiful arecanut groves. That city with many hills and amidst which the royal palace resembles the Mahameru, is resplendent like the milky ocean. There lives King Parakramabhuja.
In that city there was also a vihara establishment (assamabhumipado) where students learnt the words of the Buddha. In the monastery gardens grew areca trees with blossoming flowers, coconut palms laden with fruit, crowds of campaka trees with flowers like flames of fire and mango trees bearing sweet fruits. The bo-tree is compared to a dark cloud. Here lived monks of high rank of both the village and forest fraternities…..
The poem ends with a prayer of God Vibhisana of Kelaniya for the protection of King Parakramabahu and his council of ministers.
After reading extracts from these sandesa poems one is overwhelmed and it is a little difficult to conjure up its one time grandeur and reconcile it with the sleepy village of today. As we bumped along its narrow roads in our modern vehicles it was breathtaking though to think of the mighty elephants, swift white horses, gleaming mansions and picturesque arecanut groves that made up Dedigama’s ancient grandeur.
- Dedigama Kota Vehera – Primary site
- Ancient Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka
- Other Places of Interest Within 25 kilometers