Historical Significance of the Hidden Gonagala Ruins of the Yala and its Inscriptions

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Gonagala is a rocky outcrop in the Yala Wildlife Sanctuary lying off the route to Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya. An ancient reservoir also named Gonagala Wewa, and the ruins of an ancient monastery belonging to the 2nd century BC on the rocky outcrop indicate a thriving city of the ancient Ruhunu Kingdom. Not only Gonagala but ancient ruins on all rocky outcrops around Sithulpawwa such as Pimburamalgala (Pimburagala), Silavakanda and Palatupana (now called Magul Maha Vehera) are ever-enduring remains of this forgotten kingdom.

The Archaeology Department records investigation of numerous sites with ruins inside Yala Sanctuary in 1974, namely Akasachethiya, Varahamankada, Gonagala, Pilimalena Kanda, Area West to Sithulpawwa, Pilimayaya, Muniammagama, Beralihela Kanda, Alugalge Kanda, Allagala, Seenakkuva and Anjali Viharaya.

Two stupas at the top of the rock, both being excavated by treasure hunters were reported at Gonagala. The one was reported to be well preserved with a quadrangular monolith at its centre. The other dagoba was poorly preserved. Besides the stupas on the rock, ruins of a building had also been recorded.

Cave Inscriptions of Gonagala

At this site, 11 cave inscriptions written in Pre-Brahmi script have been discovered and deciphered. These have been documented by Prof. Paranavithana in the first volume of the Inscriptions of Ceylon published in 1970. The inscriptions found at Gonagala, Modaragala and Magul Maha Viharaya are some of the oldest inscriptions found ascribing to circa 250 BCE. All these caves have been inscribed with the donor of each cave. Out of these, there are a few interesting inscriptions among them. One reads “The cave of the members of the Madukasaliya Corporation [is given] to Sangha”. According to Paranavithana, the name Madukasaliya is probably derived from the place named after which the corporation was named.

Three of the cave inscriptions at Gonagala mention the name Pussadeva. One inscription reads “The cave of the chief Abhaya, son of chief Phussadeva, son of chief Abhaya, the commander-in-chief, is given to Sangha of the four quarters, present and absent”.

Out of 61 cave inscriptions discovered nearby from the 2nd century BC Sithulpawwa, two inscriptions mention the names of two generals of Dutugemunu, Nandimithra and Velusumana (Nicolas, 1963). According to Mahavamsa, Pussadeva, another general of Dutugemunu was in the neighbourhood of Cittalapabbata (Sithulpawwa) and one of the three mentions of Phussadeva in Situlpavu inscriptions was in fact the Pussadeva of Dutugemunu’s Army.

According to Paranavithana, the above inscription refers to another general of King Dutugenunu, ‘Theraputta Abhaya’ (Theraputtabhaya) as chief Abhaya, the commander-in-chief. After the birth of Abhaya, his father took to robes and Abhaya became Theraputta Abhaya (Abaya, the son of a priest). Theraputta Abhaya too took to robes after Dutugemunu’s victory but not before ensuring the succession of the family bloodline. The General’s son was called Pussadeva and his son was called Abhaya, after the grandfather. All of them carried the title Parumaka. (Paranavithana, 1970).

At present there is no information about the Gonagala Stupas or the building found there.

List of Archaeological Sites inside Yala and Kumana National Parks

References

  • De Silva, R. , n.d. Administration Report of the Archaeological Commissioner for the years 1970-1977. 1st ed. Colombo: Department of the Government Printing, pp.29-33.
  • PARANAVITĀNA, S., 1970. Inscriptions of Ceylon :Volume 1 : Early Brahmi Inscriptions. 1st ed. Colombo: Department of Archaeology, p.50.
  • Nicholas, C., 1963. Historical Topography of Ancient and Medieval Ceylon. Journal of the CEYLON BRANCH OF THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY, New Series, VI,(Special Number).

Also See

Map of  Gonagala Rock in Yala Sanctuary

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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

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Travel Directions to Gonagala Rock in Yala Sanctuary

The park can be reached through Southern Highway. It is 275 kilometres away (the shortest path through Ratnapura avoiding the Highway but travel time is longer) from Colombo.

Route from Colombo to Yala National Park  (Ruhuna) EntranceRoute from Kataragama to Yala National Park  (Ruhuna) Entrance
Through : Southern Highway – Mattala – Tissamaharama – Kirinda
Distance : 275 km
Travel time : 4.30 hours
Driving directions : see on Google map
Through Tissamaharama – Kirinda
Distance : 40 km
Travel time : 45 minutes.
Driving directions : see on Google map

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