The shops windows are a riot of red as they compete with each other to sell their Valentine day souvenirs. The jet set and the disco generation in the city appear to be set to have a ball and a bash. If the heart and spirit of selfless and sacrificial love is still the essence of this celebration then how many of us will remember this story from Sri Lanka’s own history and culture.
The village of Isurumuniya stretches along the Kurunegala road from the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Here in this once agrarian community is told the greatest love story in Sri Lankan literature.
Lotus ponds, rock boulders,. bathing pools, winding foot paths, shade trees in full bloom with flowers and nuts, birds, squirrels, butterflies. This is the royal pleasure garden at Isurumuniya. The ran masu uyana or the gold fish park.
The garden ends on the bund of the mighty Tissa wewa . On another side is the Isurumuniya cave temple. Probably one of the most beautifully sited temples in Anuradhapura.
Here at Isurumuniya is found some of Sri Lanka’s oldest and best works of rock art. And a most poignant love story. The story of a prince who gave up his throne to wed a low borne maiden.
It is said that Prince Saliya son of king Dutugamunu and heir to the throne was walking in the gardens when he first set his eyes on a beautiful maiden. Maybe she was feeding the birds or picking flowers ……. The prince came the next day and again the next day till he thought he could not wait without seeing her. The prince fell in love with the beautiful maiden. And romance blossomed like the flowers in the garden which became their secret meeting place.
However a marriage to a low borne maiden was not in accordance to the royal family. The prince was faced with a costly choice. If he wished to love the maiden of his heart he had to give up his right to the royal throne. A preference that possibly caused a controversy amongst the royals of that day. Maybe even a turning point in Sri Lanka’s history.
Somewhere in the village a stone artist was inspired. A bold decision, a statement of sacrificial love that was worthy to be carved into all time. And so he chiseled tirelessly and engraved the love lost couple in a solid slab of granite, as a love poem forever.
Today this world famous sculpture of the lovers attributed to 6th century stands in the museum of Isurumuniya. There are many interesting theories amongst archeological scholars and historians regarding the identity of the lovers.
Professor Paranavitana identifies this couple as Duttugemunu’s son Saliya and his candela girl friend Asokamala for whom he sacrificed the throne. But some taking note of the style and similar figures found in the India identify this pair with Siva and Parvati. Siva in the form of a warrior and Parvati in the form of Kama And others are of the view that it depicts a young lustful soldier embracing his charming young damsel, in an attempt to console her before leaving for the battlefield.
Daily Mirror, February 12, 2007
- Isurumuniya Viharaya – ඉසුරුමුණිය විහාරය – Primary Article
- Anuradhapura’s most famous rock carvings
- One of the Greatest Love Stories Ever Told
- Anuradhapura – The city of the God Kings
Driving Directions to Anuradhapura
see primary article
Isurumuniya Viharaya Map
see primary article