Halmillawetiya Kalagam Vehera Ruins in Kebithigollewa – කැබිතිගොල්ලෑව හල්මිල්ලවැටිය කලාගම් වෙහෙර

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The large Asana and the remains of the  Asanaghara at the Kalagam Vehera also known as Gal Enda Viharaya
The large Asana and the remains of the Asanaghara at the Kalagam Vehera also known as Gal Enda Viharaya
Photo by By Dr. Kavan Ratnatunga

Kalagam Vehera is an ancient temple complex going back to the per-chirstian times in Halmillawetiya, Kabithigollewa.  With the migration of the civilization to the South after Anurdhapura period due to continuous invasions  originating from South India, hundreds of flourishing Buddhists monasteries were either destroyed by the Tamil forces or left for nature to take its due course.

By the late 20th century only some stone pillars and a very large Asanagara (seat of Buddha – a slab of stone)  were left to be seen of this ancient monastery. This ruined temple complex was known as the Gal Enda Viharaya ( Temple with Rock Bed ) due the unusually large slab of stone by the the villagers surrounding Kebitigollewa.

Since the beginning of Tamil terrorism in the North, the region surrounding Kabithigollewa has been in constant threat of being attacked by them.  In October 1995 about 20 villagers in Thammennagama close to Kebitigollewa were hacked to death by the Tamil LTTE terrorists. After a relative period of calm, Tamil LTTE terrorists then stormed Kalyanapura of Gomarankadawala village and killed seven villagers. But on the morning of 15th June 2006, the biggest blow to these innocent village folk came in form of 2 claymore mine bomb attacks on a crowded bus traveling between Kebithigollewa and Thalgahawewa killing 64 innocent villagers including 15 children. Among the dead was the priest of the Gal Enda Rajamaha Viharaya.

The fate repeating itself after thousands of years on these villagers, after this massacre by the Tamil terrorists, many from these border villagers fled from their homes and lived in various refugee camps in the government controlled areas and the temple was again abandoned.

After the defeat of the LTTE terrorists in 2009,  The life at these villages were normal again.  With the effort of the then Magistrate of Kebithigollewa, the excavation and the restoration of this ancient monastic complex was initiated using the labor of Civil Defense Force under the guidance of the Archaeology Department.

Stupa of the temple has been built on a high square pedestal. This has been completely destroyed by the invading tamil forces thousands years ago. only the pedestal was preserved of the stupa. Based on the architectural features this stupa is believed to be belonging the mid Anuradhapura period. During the excavations the Yupagala of the stupa has been discovered among the ruble.

Close to the stupa lies a large Asanaghara rock slab, believed to be the largest Asanaghara ever discovered. Asanagara were used as a object of worship and represented Buddha in physical form before the time when Buddhist statues were built. Thus origin of this temples probably dates hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.

The Bodhighara, Chethiyaghara and Asanaghara are considered by scholars to be the three oldest Buddhist architectural elements in Sri Lanka. Of these, the Chethyaighara also called Vatadage and the Bodhighara are mentioned in most ancient Buddhist literature but the sources do not mention the Asanagara in detail. But there are some references to this in the ancient Attakathas and in the ancient chronicles such as the Mahavamsa and the Deepavamsa.

Archaeologically, the Asana seems to have become popular at the same time the carvings of the sacred footprint (siripathulgala) became popular as a symbol of the Buddha or shortly thereafter. Mr. Gunapala Senadheera (Buddhist Symbolism and Wish Fulfillment) states that the use of seats dates back to the 3rd century BC to the 9th century. With the advent of the creation of Buddha statues in Sri Lanka, the use of symbols to commemorate the Buddha had declined.

This Asanaghara at Halmillawetiya was discovered in 1963 (Report of the Commissioner of Archaeology 1963/64 – page 19). This slab of rock was 14 feet 10 inches long and 6 feet 9 inches long.

During the restoration work, the Department of Archaeology discovered a broken wasted pillar inscription about 200 meters away from the site on a private land. When the 3 pieces were put together, part of the history of this forgotten complex was re discovered by the department. The Gal Enda Temple has been called Kalagam Vehera and belonged to Mangala Pirivena  belonged to ancient Abayagiriya University in the ancient times.  The inscription has been installed by the king Kassapa IV (898-914) of the Anuradhapura Kingdom.

The Bodhigara (Bodhi Tree House) found in front of the Asanagara of this complex is also unique. This is the first time that complete proof of the way a Bodhi Tree was planted and nurtured inside a Bodhigara. After conservation work of the Bodhigara was completed it has been filled with sand to stop further destruction only a small section is visible above the ground. Only a picture shows how the Bodhigaraya below the surface looked when excavations were done.

References

  • ඇම්. ජී. රත්නපාල, 1997. වජ්‍රාසනය. සංකෘතික පුරාණය, 2(8), pp.31-38.
  • සිළුමිණ. 2020. යුද්ධයේ බිහිසුණුකම අතරින් යළි ගොඩගැඟුණු හල්මිල්ලවැටිය. [online] Available at: <https://www.silumina.lk/2020/09/26/රසඳුන/යුද්ධයේ-බිහිසුණුකම-අතරින්-යළි-ගොඩගැඟුණු-හල්මිල්ලවැටිය> [Accessed 17 October 2021].

Also See

Map of Kalagam Vehera Ruins in Kebithigollewa

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Travel Directions to Kalagam Vehera Ruins in Kebithigollewa

Route from Anuradhapura to Kalagam Vehera Ruins in Kebithigollewa
Through : Mihintale
Distance : 66 km
Travel time : 1.5 hours
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