Memorial of Nuwarawewa Bandara near Ruwanweliseya – රුවන්වැලිසැය අසල නුවරවැව බණ්ඩාර සිහිවටන එලකය
The ancestral history of the Nuwarawewa family of Anuradhapura goes back to the days of king Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BC). When Theri Sanghamita arrived in Sri Lanka with the right branch of the Sri Maha Bodhi in 249BC, eight princes (and brothers) arrived with her for the protection of the Bodhi. They were Bodhiguptha, Sumitta, Chandraguptha, Deveguptha, Dharmaguptha, Sooriyaguptha, Gothama and Juthidhara. According to Bodhiwansa, Bodhiguptha was the eldest and he had been given the responsibility of taking care of the Sri Maha Bodhi by the king Dharmashoka of India.
King Devanampiyathissa warmly welcomed this group and prince Bodhiguptha was given the position of “Jayamahalena”, with the responsibility of protecting the Bodhi Tree, a position by inheritance.
After a period of silence in the written text, the family who protected the Bodhi tree for generations appears during the era of the Kandyan kingdom as the Nuwarawewa family. The head of this family was a Maha Vanniya, a regional ruler of the Nuwarakalaviya (Maha Vanniya). After the capitals moved to the south due to continuous attacks from south India, The descendants of the Bodhiguptha had stayed back in this jungle city and had carried out all the services to the Sri Maha Bodhi and due to the reason of their adobe being at Nuwarawewa, they would have been eventually be called the Nuwarawewa Family by the time of Kandyan Kingdom. With the lay ownership of the Sri Maha Bodhi, the Maha Wanniya was also the lay owner of the Atamasthana, the eight sacred temples in Anuradhapura. With this ownership he also held the authority to appoint the chief Thero of the Atamasthana.
The last member of the original Nuwarawewa Family was “Nuwarawewa Bandara” who was appointed the chief lay owner of the Atamasthana along with all the privileges enjoyed by the Maha Vanniya of Nuwarakalaviya in 1853 after a court battle with his half sister. Since he was living in Bulankulama Walawwa, another manor house belonging to the Nuwarawewa family, he was also called “Bulankulame Nuwarawewa Bandara”.
James Tennent in his 1860 book “Ceylon” records meeting with his father, “Nuwarawewa Bulankulame Suriyakumara Vannisinghe” in late 1840’s as a young man, a direct decendent of the prince Bodhiguptha who accompanied the Sri Maha Bodhi.
Before leaving for Aripo, the priests of the great temple waited upon me bringing with them a youth, the lineal representative of an ancestor who accompanied the Bo-tree in its voyage from Magadha to Ceylon B.C. 289. The chiefship of the district has been ever since in the same family, and the boy, who bears the title of Suriya-Kumara-Singha, “Prince of the Lion and the Sun,” can boast an unbroken descent, compared with whose antiquity the most renowned peerages of Europe are but creations of yesterday.
Unfortunately the Nuwarawewa Bandara died in 1863 without a male heir to his position as the lay owner of Sri Maha Bodhi and the Atamasthana. After multiple court battles, this position had moved to his wife Owille Kumarihami who was the first woman to carry the lay ownership of Atamasthana and the power to appoint the chief prelate of Atamasthana. This young widow married again and the ownerships and the responsibilities have been transferred along this family line up to the present day.
The memorial of the last direct descendent of the prince Bodhiguptha lies in view of Ruwanweliseya and reads “අනුරාධපුර නුවරවැව බුලන්කුලමේ සූරියකුමාර වන්නිසිංහ සත්පත්තු මහවන්නි නිලමේතුමාගේ පුත් අටමස්ථානයේ භාරකාර නුවරවැව බුලන්කුලමේ බණ්ඩාර මහතාගේ සමාධිය” (Memorial of Nuwarawewa Bulakulame Bandara, the custodian of the Atamasthana and the son of Anuradhapura Nuwarawewa Bulankulame Sooriyakumara Vannisinghe, The Nilame of Sathpatthu Mahavanni)
The date of birth of Nuwarawewa Bandara is given as 1809. However based on the Tennent’s notes his father was a young man when he met him in late `1840’s. Therefore there is a doubt if this date is correct.
- Tennent, J., 1860. Ceylon; an account of the island physical, historical and topographical, with notices of its natural history, antiquities, and productions (Volume II). 1st ed. London: Spottiswoode And Co., p.625.
- හසිත චාමිකර ගුණසිංහ, ශ්රී මහා බෝධියේ ගිහි භාරකාරීත්වය හිමි නුවරවැව පවුල. කැලණිය විශ්වවිද්යාලය.
Map of Memorial of Nuwarawewa Bandara
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|Route from Anuradhapura town to Memorial of Nuwarawewa Bandara|
|Through : Nilaweli Road|
Distance : 5 km
Travel time : 10 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map