Revival of the Tissa Maha Viharaya in Jaffna
250 years before time of Christ, the Great Mahinda Thero, the son of Emperor Ashoka the Great (268- 232 BC) of India visited the island of Sri Lanka with the greatest gift he could offer, the word of Buddha, the Enlighted one. King Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BC) who was reigning in this island nation, embraced the Buddhist philosophy on a Poson Poya day in 250BC.
After embracing this new philosophy turned in to a pious Buddhist building temples all over island for all the Buddhist priests taking up robes. Some of the work includes, Including the donation of Mahamegavana to the Buddhist monks where the Maha Vihara monastery was built, Chethiya Pabbatha at Mihinthale, Thuparama, Isurumuniya, Vessagiriya, Maha Stupa, Upasika Vehera, Hatthalhaka Viharaya and Maha Pali Refectory. Interestingly Mahavamsa, the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, mentions 3 temples built by King Devanampiyatissa in the Nagadipa which is considered as the names used for Jaffna Peninsula as a whole. These 3 are Jambukola Viharaya, Tissa Maha Viharaya and Pachinaramaya.
The barely known Tissa Maha Viharaya was located east of Jambukola Viharaya and was located at Tellippalai Divisional Secretary’s division in Kankesanthurai. This lost temple was revived during the decade of 1940’s. Two buddhist priests, Kalutara Sheeladharatissa thero and Kautara Pannanada thero had visited the Jaffna peninsula in search of ruins of the Tissa Viharaya built by king Devanampiyatissa and discovered the site with the ancient Bodhi and and built a viharaya living of a tiny shelter. In 1946 a devotee named Abraham Perera had donated a land next to the temple and the deed clearly indicates the temple name Tissa Viharaya. It is also reported that in the year 1953, one hundred (100) bhikkus were invited to this temple and Katina Pinkama was performed. In addition, other various activities such as a fair has been conducted by the temple as well as running a Dhamma School to provide Dhamma education to Sinhala and Tamil children in the area. This temple land has been clearly marked in both the English and the Tamil versions in the 1959 revision of the Jaffna one inch map (1:63,360) published by the Survey Department. According to this map the temple has covered an area of about 15 acres of land. It is also recorded that this site and four large Bodhi trees.
The Venerable Kalutara Sheeladharatissa Thero has done a great service during his tenure as the Chief Incumbent of this temple during the 1950s. According to sources, Kalutara Pannanada Thero too had held the Chief Incumbent position after Sheeladharatissa Thero. It is said that the Chief Incumbent of the Nagadeepa Rajamaha Vihara in Jaffna at that time, Ven. Brahmanawatte DHammakitti Tiss Tissa Thero, Ven. Kalutara Sheeladharatissa Thero and Ven. Kalutara Pagnananda Thero had done a great deal for the betterment of this temple during this time.
Despite this, the Sinhalese were unable to live in the North due to the Tamil riots of the late fifties. Sinhalese living around the Tissa Vihara in Valikamam North Government Agent Division known as Thaidi South (also known as Sinhala Kaladdi or Uluthan Kaladdi) and the Sinhalese Bakery owners in the peninsula were also in danger of living in Jaffna. Therefore the Thero of Tissa Vihara returned to his original temple, Sumitharamaya in Kalutara. During the period from 1959 onwards, the temple deserted. However, the presence of this temple is clearly indicated even in the survey maps drawn in the year 1971.
Apart from the temple on those maps, there was no other construction on the land called Sinhala Kaladdi. But the resumption of the Tamil Tiger movement after 1983 was by no means conducive to the nearly 6,000 Sinhalese living in Jaffna. By 1971, there were 453 Sinhalese living in the Valikamam North area of Kankesanthurai alone. The Tissa temple was also demolished and only the well remained. After the opening of the Kankesanthurai Cement Factory, more than a thousand Sinhalese worked there. It was also the residence of Sinhalese from the south in places known as Jaffna Hospital Road, Kasturia Road and Stanley Road. All of these people were been displaced back to the South since 1987 due to the escalation of terrorist extremism.
After the opening of the Kankesanthurai Cement Factory, more than a thousand Sinhalese worked there. It was also the residence of Sinhalese from the south in places known as Jaffna Hospital Road, Kasturia Road and Stanley Road. All of these people have been displaced back to the South since 1987 due to the escalation of terrorist extremism.
After the end of 30 years of Tamil Terrorist extremism, ven Pathakada Wimalagnana Thero, a student of ven Pannanada Thero, tried to locate this temple which had been completely destroyed. Initially it was believed that the Tissa Vihaya established inside the Kankesanthurai Naval Base in 1973 was the site of the ancient Tissa Viharaya but later it was realised that the original Tissa Viharaya was not this temple and the real Tissa Vihara in the present location was identified.
With the end of the war in 2009, resettlement began. Although the resettlement of Tamils and Muslims was expeditious, there seemed to be no hope of resettling the Sinhalese. Therefore, due to the struggle of about 150 Sinhala families living in Jaffna who lodged at the Jaffna railway station, they were given acquired lands in Navakuli. We know that it too was harassed immensely by the TNA. Also, the Sinhalese around the Tissa Vihara in Kankesanthurai never got land again. The Tissa Vihara area was under the command of the Jaffna Commander and after 1987 the Government Agents had prepared deeds for the resettlement of the Tamil people in the Sinhala Kalladi land belonging to the Tissa Vihara. Some Tamils are now trying to seize the land that has been clearly owned by the temple since 1956 by showing these forged permits. However, Ven. Pathakada Wimalagnana Thero who first identified the well in the temple, determined the location and then met the Tellippalai Divisional Secretary and asked for the Sinhala Kaldi land mentioned in the maps, but was told that the land would be given only to those who submitted deeds. But Tamils are been resettled in these lands with fraudulent deeds. It was reported that the temple has now less than 1 acre of the land from the original 15 acres shown on the maps.
However some of the temple land has now been recovered and given back to the temple and attempt to rebuilt Tissa Maha Viharaya from the scratch on the same land where the original Tissa Maha Viharaya stood over 2000 years ago is underway despite numerous difficulties.
- Oldenberg, H., 1879. The Dipavamsa : an ancient Buddhist historical record. 1st ed. London: Williams and Norgate, pp.164-203.
- Mah|can|cama and Geiger, W., 1912. The Mahavamsa or the great chronicle of Ceylon. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press.,p.77-138.
- සේ. ගුණසිංහ, 2018. දේවානම්පියතිස්ස රජ කාලයේ ඓතිහාසික තිස්ස විහාරය යළි ගොඩනඟමු. දිවයින,.
- මතුගම සෙනෙවිරුවන්, 2019. යාපනයේ තිස්ස විහාරය සතු ඉඩම් දෙමළ ජනතාවට දීමේ සැලැස්මක්. දිවයින,.
Map of Tissa Maha Viharaya in Jaffna
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Driving Directions to Tissa Maha Viharaya in Jaffna
|Route from Jaffna town to Tissa Maha Viharaya in Jaffna|
|Though : Chunnakam|
distance : 20 km
Travel time : 35 minutes
Time to spend : 30 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map