Gal Messa (Dolman) of Padavigampola (පදවිගම්පොල ගල් මැස්ස / ශිලා මඤ්චය)

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About four miles to the north of Rambukkana, in the heart of a village on the plain beside a plantation of jak, is a curious structure of stone, like the table of some giant of the good old days. This Dolman (Gal messa) is called by local folk, Maliyadeva Guharamaya, the dwelling of the last great Initiate of Buddhism on our island.

There is no history connected with this structure, for, it belongs to a period before history ever came to be written. The building, if it can be styled is known as a dolman, a word probably derived from Cornish and meaning stone hole.

The dolmen at Padavigampola is the only known example in Ceylon of structural work by Stone Age man.

Stone edifices like dolmens and those at Stonehenge were once associated with the sun worship and human sacrifices of the Druids.

Scholars are of the opinion that they were chambers for the dead or (and) temples of a primitive cult. The dead were held in awe and worshipped, consequently, they were housed magnificently in contrast with the living who were satisfied with caves and crude rock shelters.

The tribal chieftain of Neolithic man, the probable author of dolmens and other megalithic structures, was buried in these chambers of stone, and earth heaped over the pile. There were also huge mounds of earth and rubble known as ‘barrows’ which contained stone ‘boxes’ within them.

The origin of these monuments has not been discovered. Chains of dolmens exist, chiefly along the coast, from India to Egypt, from Asia Minor along the Mediterranean littoral (both African and European), up the Atlantic, across the North Sea in the Scandinavian countries, and, in special, Denmark by the Baltic, the source of amber supply.

The islets of the Mediterranean, particularly Malta abound in these relics.

It is contended that a race of Asian sea traders who colonized the Mediterranean spread their art of erecting these lithic monuments amongst the people with whom they came into contact. Monuments of antiquity such as dolmens, megaliths, cromlechs, and menhirs, are connected with sea-trade and ore deposits, of gold, copper, and tin, besides amber. Hence some scientists call the traders megalith-builders. These monuments have not been discovered in the heart of Europe, in Germany (central) and Austria, for instance, and this negative evidence led them to associate them with sea-borne traffic.

The Azilian period of the early hunter and nomad is said to have ended eight to nine thousand years ago. Then came a Neolithic man whose ‘advanced civilization’ with polished stone implements, hatchets, saws, hafted axes, adzes, etc., enabled him to put up crude settlements, grow wild crops, and throw up protecting palisades. Crops necessitated the recording of seasons. Hence Stonehenge which was a chronometer in addition to its ‘religious’ significance, such buildings are attributed to this new Stone Age of ‘improved’ stone instruments.

The Dolmen at Padavigampola has only three sides. The door is nowhere to be seen. Each side is one solid block of gneiss roughly fashioned into a rectangular shape.

The left wall and the roof, which latter is an enormous slab, have cracked right across on account of a soft vein in the hard rock.

The heaviest slab by far is the roof. It is of the same thickness as the walls. This block weighs thrice as much as a wall. It is interesting to speculate how men using stone tools were able to lift into position this mass of granite weighing several tons. The roof inclines about 10 degrees to the right.

A slab smaller in dimensions than either wall serves as the back door of the dolmen. It is not long enough to fit right across the two major walls.

Consequently, it leaves a space of 2 feet from the back end of the right-hand wall. It too seems to have been bigger originally.

Probably a crack loosened one portion and this has evidently been removed later, possibly by the recluse inmate who used the opening as an exit.

The whole structure seems to have been closed up, almost airtight, with one slab in front and another behind. In this manner, it would have been a sealed box and a fit receptacle for the sacred dead.

Grooves of over a foot in breadth are cut at either end of each wall so that two slabs can be fitted into position to seal the whole effectively.

Padavigampola is nearly 40 miles from the seacoast. How comes it, then that this monument has been set up at such a distance? The answer is furnished in these words of a famous anthropologist, Professor Childe:

“But it must be remembered that most of these tombs, and especially those in the hinterlands, were not built by the visitors themselves, but by natives who had assimilated the idea rather imperfectly and were trying with increasing ill-success to copy the models that they had seen.

These latter were far too preoccupied with their cult and the labors it involved to make any real progress in the more practical arts.

(This is a reprint of an article originally published in 1937. The writer, D.T. Devendra, was an eminent archaeologist, writer, and teacher./ Sunday Times)

The locally popular name of this Dolman is Gal Messa and a small temple built near this is also called Gal Messa Pansala.

To reach the site travel 1.5 km from the Deliwala Kota Vehera towards Bulugolla from Kegalle. A barely visible road with a steep downward slope to the left will take you to Padavigampola. There is no name or any indication of the Gal Massa marked by the road. The only landmark is a bus halt made of cement opposite this road.

Traveling a further 1.5 km on this road will bring you to a small temple with the bo-tree close to this road which could be easily missed. A community hall can be seen just passing the bo-tree. The Dolman lies on a small patch of land behind this bo tree but not visible to the road.

A small gate near the community hall will lead you to this incredible structure belonging to the Stone Age man.

Also See

Map of  Gal Messa (Maliyadeva Guharamaya) of Padavigampola

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)

The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Driving Directions to Gal Messa (Maliyadeva Guharamaya) of Padavigampola

Route from Colombo to Gal Messa
Via : Peliyagoda – Ambepussa – Polgahawela
distance : 95 km
Travel time : 2-2.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map


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