It was as thought the wind had come to a standstill. The sun, slaughtering the dampness left by the rains that fell a few days previously, bore down hard on the earth. The vegetation, wilted, wrote a desolate signature on the landscape. The jungle was enveloped by a deep silence.
On our right lay Kuragala, a key landmark of the Buddhist resurgence of the second century B.C. The Kuragala range was about two miles from where we stood. Instead of the seth pirith that would have descended softly from Kurugala and travelled in all directions, it is the sound of Muslim prayers that pierce the still air. Instead of the gathas of the thunsaranaya, one hears recitations from the Quran. Everything has changed. Carrying tenderly the necessary sorrows that arrive on account of transience, I entered Galtemyaya.
The Archaeological Department has succeeded in erecting a fence around the 4 acre piece of land that contains the remains of a different civilisation with a different cultural and philosophical outlook. Perhaps the Department moved thus in the face of the real threats to Buddhist archaeological remains in the area. Very little investigations have been carried out by the Department or anyone else about this area. According to Vikiliye Narada Nayaka Thero, whose was the lone voice protesting the Muslim invasion of what is clearly a Buddhist archaeological site, it was across Galtemyaya that the ancient route taken by devotees who flocked to Kuragala lay.
Galtemyaya is located a short distance from the 14th mile post on the road from Balangoda to Kaltota. The entire area is covered by the remains of an ancient building. The remains indicate that there had been four doors through which one could enter the building.
The remains of a chaityaya which stands in a south-easternly direction from the remains of the building indicates that this was a temple complex. However this structure has been destroyed either by treasure hunters or by those intent on erasing all evidence of Buddhist presence in the area. The dathu chamber has been totally ravaged. All that remains is a stone vessel which might have contained the relics, a yanthra gala.
Galtemyaya Kuragala and Budugala are areas which stand witness to a flourishing spiritual awakening in the area in times gone by. However, it is only Budugala that Buddhist pilgrims visit now. The ancient Kuragala temple complex has been totally invaded by Muslims. One finds only the Jailani Muslim Temple there.
Several stone inscriptions have been discovered in the area. One has been carved at the right end of a cave on top of Hituvangala. The brahmi characters indicate that it belongs to the 2nd century B.C. Archaeologics are of the view that this was an abode that was gifted by one Datta. It is clear that attempts have been made to defile both this, and another inscription found in another cave, with Arabic characters.
In a book on the ancient writings on Saparagamuwa the Rev. Kirielle Gnanawimala claims that Kalthota (Kalathittha) which lies close to Galtemyaya, Kuragala and Budugala, could be the kingdom of Vikumpandi (1044 A.D). Lala Adithya’s “Ceylon Vagabond” also has an account of Kuragala. He claims that although there are Muslims in the area now, it is possible that there would have been an ancient Buddhist shrine there previously.
The simple finish of the remains indicate that the site belongs to the second century B.C. The guardstones are flat and without any decorative figures. Galtemyaya looks upon us helplessly. Kuragala is yet another lost territory for the Buddhist pilgrim. The stupa on top of Kuragala has had to be “protected” by barbed wire. The Archaeological Department, which is but a sandwich of corrupt politicians, is powerless to do anything more. Everything that is happening is clearly against the interests of the Sinhala Buddhists who, more than anyone else, created a nation and a civilisation on this land.
There is a Buddha Sasana Ministry. By name. Buddhism receives a prominent place in the constitution. And it is defiled at every opportunity. Perhaps it is fortunate that W.J.M. Lokubandara has been appointed the Minister of the Buddha Sasana, for he has always voiced fearlessly the concerns of the Buddhists in this country. He carried a heavy responsibility on his shoulders. He has to recover Kuragala for the Buddhists and ensure that Galtemyaya is once again peopled by devotees who want to make the pilgrimage to sites that are holy to them.
This is an hour when cultural invasion in a myriad of forms is taking place. Although everything looks quiet, it is no secret that Bo trees in Trincomalee and hundreds of Buddhists shrines in the North and East are being systematically destroyed. Kuragala is but one site that has been “taken over”. This is therefore an age where, as Anagarika Dharmapala once said, it is being planned to murder Prince Diyasen the moment he is born.
How does one obtain solace in such an hour? Yes, impermanence and sorrow… these are the building blocks of the human condition. The Bamiyan Buddha statues are no more. Need we lament? The Buddha would say “no”. But then again, here in this land, if we concede our civilisational foundations, we would be bereft of the spiritual nourishment necessary for a mind healthy enough to receive the essence of the Buddha’s wisdom. Uru Varige Wanniyaletto once said, “What we had was sirith. Then they came up with laws. Laws are broken. Let us preserve our sirith.” What is necessary then, perhaps, is that we preserve everything that is encompassed in that simple word, pregnant with cultural history and spiritual wealth, sirith.
Translated by Malinda Seneviratne
Map of Galtemyaya Kirudiyawela Ancient Ruins
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Travel Directions to Galtemyaya Kirudiyawela Ancient Ruins
Route from Balangoda to Galtemyaya Kirudiyawela Ancient Ruins
|Distance : 24 km|
Travel time : 30 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map