Dimbulagala Handapanwila Rajamaha Viharaya Archaeological Site

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Handapanwila Rajamaha Viharaya lies in the rocky outcrop known as “Duwegala” in Handapanwila village in the Dimbulagala area. Duwegala (Duvegala) is an ancient Buddhist Monastery and the ruins include a stupa, rock inscriptions, and remains of buildings.

There are two important inscriptions at this site. One is a carving of a Ship and the other is an inscription by King Lanjatissa (119-109 BC).

The ruins of Duwegala appear to be first visited by archaeologist H.C.P. Bell in in September 1897. He had inspected the ruins at the site and made an eye copy of the cave inscription in early Brahmi characters. His Administration Report for that year contains the following brief notes on the site: September 1.- Cross the Mahaveli Ganga into the Egoda Pattuva, Duvegala, A solitary rock (five miles from Yakkure round the vil) between Handapan-vila and Bandi-vila. Remains around it of ancient monastery. On the top of the rock an inscription of Lajji Tissa, (119-109 B.C.), and below a short cave record‘.

The inscription covers an area of the rock surface and the first two lines are each about, 15½ft. 14ft.3in. in length. This is without taking the mangala letter si of the first line into account. The third line of ten letters is only 5ft. 7 in. in length.

This script belongs to the 1st or 2nd century. Bell has rightly pointed out that this inscription records the building of a vihra by King Lanjatissa (119-109 BC) for Gotagataka Tisa-tera.

The script has been read as below;

Success! King Lanjaka-Tissa, having built a Vihara for the Elder Godhagatta Tissa, gave to this vihara,the two categories of revenue of the tanks Vakaravi, Viharavi, Panitakavi, of the lake named Nikula, and of the channel of Kalahanagara.

(Paranavitana, 1983)

It is believed that Gotagataka Tisa is the Thero who had brought about the reconciliation of the two brothers Dutta-Gamini and Tissa, sons of King Kavantissa. The Thero admitted the guilt of Sangha of not working towards reconciling the brothers earlier and avoiding bloodshed among their own people to Prince Gamini, and as a penance, the Sangha had supplied a contingent of five hundred members of the Sangha to accompany the army of Prince Gamani when that prince marched forth to fight with Elara.

Lanjatissa was the elder son of King Saddhatissa (137-119 BC) who was consecrated after his elder power brother King Dutugemunu (161-137 BC) passed away. Lanjatissa came to power about 45 years after the reconciliation of the brothers and Gotagataka Thero would have been quite old when this temple was donated by King Lanjatissa (Paranavitana, 1983).

One of the inscriptions which has been dated to the 2nd – 1st century BCE has a symbol of a ship with sails on its inscriptions which is found inside the cave where the current image house of Handapanwila Rajamaha Viharaya lies. This is one of the clear indications that shipbuilding was not new to the people of Sri Lanka in the pre-Christian era. This ship symbol at Duvegala has been adopted as the official logo of the Maritime Archaeology Unit of Sri Lanka.

The inscription reads from right to left as

(Symbol) Barata-Sagarakitasa lene

(Paranavitana, 1970)

Paranavithana reads the inscription as “The cave of lord Sangharakkhita” (Paranavitana, 1970). However, some archaeologists believe that Sagarakitasa translates to “Sagarakitti” (සාගරකිත්ති) meaning serving in the sea.

With the passage of time, the ancient monuments and buildings, established in this temple site were destroyed due to enemy invasions and treasure hunters. The site which lay in the elephant-infected jungles of Dimbulagala was cleared and maintained by the then prelate of Dimbulagala Aranya (from 1972), Matara Kitalagama Sri Seelalankara Thero for more than twenty years until his demise.

The site known as Duwegala with ruins of ancient buildings, drip-ledged caves, and other archaeological factors inclusive of stupa and rock inscription, allotted by Geographical data Nos. mentioned below in wildlife conservation zone in Handapanawila Village in the Grama Niladhari Division Maguldamana in Dimbulagala Divisional Secretary’s Division in Polonnaruwa District, North Central Province was declared as an archaeological reserve on 1st February 2023.

North Latitudes East Longitudes

7° 50’ 6.12” N – 81° 3’ 39.39” E
7° 50’ 17. 38” N – 81° 3’ 37.50” E
7° 50’ 13.17” N – 81° 3’ 31.46” E
7° 50’ 8.54” N – 81° 3’ 31.20” E

References

  • Paranavitana, S. (1970) Inscriptions Of Ceylon  | Volume I  | Containing Cave Inscriptions From 3rd Century B.C. To 1st Century A.C. and Other Inscriptions In the Early Brahmi Script Vol 1. Colombo: Archaeological Survey Of Ceylon.
  • Paranavitana, S. (1983) Inscriptions of Ceylon | Volume II Part 1 | Containing Rock and Other Inscriptions From the Reign of Kutakanna Abhaya (41 BC – 19 B.C.) to Bhatiya II (140 – 164 A.D.) . Colombo: Dept. of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of Ceylon.
  • Wikramanayaka, V. (2023) ‘Monuments to be declared as Ancient Monuments’, The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka EXTRAORDINARY, 2317/57, p. 4A.

Also See

Map of Dimbulagala Handapanwila Rajamaha Viharaya Archaeological Site

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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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 Dimbulagala Handapanwila Rajamaha Viharaya Archaeological Site

The modern town of Polonnaruwa is also known as New Town, and the other part of Polonnaruwa remains the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa.

Route from Colombo to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Kandy to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Through: Central Highway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo: 230 km
Travel Time: 4.45 hours
Driving Directions: See on Google map
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time: 2 hours
Driving Directions: see on Google map
Route from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Batticaloa to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time: 2 hours
Driving Directions: See on Google map
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time : 2 hours
Driving Directions: see on Google map
Route from Polonnaruwa to Dimbulagala Handapanwila Rajamaha Viharaya Archaeological Site
Through : Manampitiya
Distance : 36 km
Travel time : 1 hour
Time to Spend : 1 hour
Driving directions : see on google map

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