Losing Heritage of Samalankulam Buddhist Ruins in Vavuniya
Samalankulama (Samalankulam in Tamil) is remote village lying 5km off Vavuniya town lying in Asikulama Gramasewaka Division of Vavuniya South Assistant Government Agent’s Division. Its 3km away from the Vavuniya – Medawachchiya road and also from the Vavuniya – Kebithigollewa road. Therefore it is said that this village has earned the name of Sama-lan (සම-ලං) meaning equidistance. Another proposed etymological origin of this name is “Samanala” undergoing changes with time. Madukanda itself is an important historical site with links to the arrival of the Sri Dalada, while Samalang Weva is said to be mentioned in the Vanni Rajavaliya. Unfortunately, this site is today under threat from a Kovil which has been built on the same site.
In 1970s the site was inspected and remains of two stupa mounds and an image house on a rocky plain belonging to the Anuradhapura period were recorded. An statue of an Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva and a part of a Buddha statue has been discovered when the image house was excavated.
A police report filed by the Inspector of Police of Vavuniya Police on 17th November 1978, reports a complaint made in regard to building of a kovil on the rock plain damaging the stupa mound. He reports that stupa had been damaged and the stone removed and found near the kovil indicating that the kovil is been built using the stones from the stupa. According to the report, this building of this Kovil dedicated to ‘Gana Deviyo‘ has started in 1975. In the same year a government engineer has blasted part of this rock unaware of the ruins and used the rubble to build the road.
On a letter to Archeology Commissioner by the Government Agent in Vavuniya dated 10th October 1978, he mentions there are ruins of 4 structures on this rock plain which is about 15 feet above ground level. A pillayar kovil is been built on top of one ancient building and 2 flattened stupas are found on what appears to be a platform 50×50 feet in size. Two pieces of pillars were seen at one such stupa.
When the damage to the site was reported, the Archaeological Department started excavation and conservation work in late 1970’s and the Archaeology Commissioners report for 1979 reports that the excavations have revealed that the mound of earth and bricks were remains of an image house belonging the middle Anuradhapura period. An annex to the left side of the image house has been added at a later period. An upper part of a broken left arm of a limestone Buddha statue and and bronze Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva statue has been discovered within the ruins. In the middle of the image house a small relic chamber covered by bricks had been discovered. In it 2 old coins (Kahapanas) were found.
The report made by the Archaeological Officer at the site on 2nd March 1979 reports the status of the stupa mounds. Once the conservation of the the image house has been completed in 10th February 1979, conservation of a stupa has started. The stupa mound has been about 12 feet high. Half the stupa has been removed to build the kovil. The stupa has been built on a 25×25 feet square platform. He reports that the stupa seems to take a octagonal shape, however since bricks has been removed from various places, the shape of the stupa cannot be determined.
Like many archaeological sites in the north and northeast, this too had suffered total neglect during the 30 year brutal war with the Tamil terrorists. After the war ended and elections held, tamil politicians have been relentlessly trying to wipeout any signs of Buddhist heritage sites in the region by building kovils over them and blocking archaeological conservation attempts on all sites by provoking communal unrest using civilians.
The Japanese Cultural Heritage International Cooperation Consortium Cooperation had carried a brief survey of Partner Country Survey on the Samalankulama Archaeological site in 2012 and reports ;
“Now it has been transformed into Shiva Temple (Samalankulama Pillaiyar Kovil). However, there was a Buddhist temple at the beginning. The existing ruins of a brick monastery with a stupa and scattered with to be building materials in the surrounding area. A bronze statue of the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva (collected by the Vavuniya Archaeological Museum) has been excavated from the site of the monastery
The stupa has an octagonal and hexagonal substructure on the upper part of the square base, which is not found in Sri Lanka.”
The remains of this site was again attacked in 2018 when the Tamil National Alliance funded to expand the kovil and ruins were bulldozed. The officers of the archaeological department who rushed to the site to investigate the damage were chased away from by the villagers. Unfortunately all governments have been turning a blind eye towards the wilful destruction of the ancient Buddhist heritage scattered all around north and northeastern provinces while the politicians moving in to build kovils on top of them and then claiming religious disharmony. The photos below are from the letter sent to Director General of UNESCO to “Safeguard and preserve the cultural property in Sri Lanka endangered by racial prejudice unlawful occupation or wilful destruction” in 1983 by late Cyril Mathew, then minister of Industries and Scientific Affairs.
- De Silva, R. and Karunaratne, W., n.d. Administration report of the archaeological commissioner for the year 1979. 1st ed. Colombo: Department of the Government Printing, p.48.
- Gunarathne, B., 2021. වවුනියාවේ වැළලුණු බොදු පුදබිම් – සමලාන්කුලම්. Dinamina, p.21.
- Mathew, C., 1983. An Appeal to UNESCO to Safeguard and Preserve the Cultural Property in Sri Lana Endangered by Racial Prejudice, Unlawful Occupation or Wilful destruction.
- Dharmawardana, C., 2018. LankaWeb – Samalan Weva archeological sites and Taliban-like activity by Eelamists.. [online] Lankaweb.com. Available at: <http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2018/11/20/samalan-weva-archeological-sites-and-taliban-like-activity-by-eelamists/> [Accessed 8 June 2021].
- Dharma-wardana., C., n.d. TRADITIONAL SINHALA PLACE NAMES OF TOWNS IN THE NORTH AND EAST SRI LANKA – Sinhala placenames.. [online] Dh-web.org. Available at: <https://dh-web.org/place.names/#vanni79> [Accessed 8 June 2021].
- 2014. スリランカ北部、東北部における文化財保存と活用 調査報告書 – 文化遺産国際協力コンソーシアム協力相手国調査 – （平成24年度）. Japan: 文化遺産国際協力コンソーシアム事務局, p.62.
- රතුගමගේ, ද., 2018. සමලන්කුලමේ විහාර බිමක බලහත්කරයෙන් හින්දු කෝවිලක් හදයි – පරීක්ෂාවට ගිය පුරාවිද්යාවට පූජකවරු හා ගම්වැසියන් පහර දෙන්නත් හදලා. [online] Divaina.com. Available at: <https://divaina.com/daily/index.php/main-news/19962-2018-11-18-13-20-40> [Accessed 8 June 2021].
Map of Samalankulam Buddhist Ruins in Vavuniya
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Travel Directions to Samalankulam Buddhist Ruins in Vavuniya
|Route from Vavuniya to Samalankulam Buddhist Ruins|
|Though : Horowpathana Road|
Distance :5.5 km
Travel time : 10 mins
Driving directions : see on google map