Kadurugoda Viharaya at Kantarodai Jaffna (කදුරුගොඩ විහාරය – ‍යාපනය)

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Ancient Kadurugoda Viharaya (Kantarodai) is one of the very few ancient Buddhist sites remaining in Jaffna today.

The site of Kadurugoda was discovered in 1917 by Magistrate P.E. Pieris who reported that bricks from this site are being carried away by cart loads by the residents around the area for building of houses. An excavation done in 1917-1919 has unearthed remains of a shrine room, parts of Buddha Statues, Bodhisattva statues, Buddha foot imprints, and coins belonging to pre pre-Christian era.

Kantarodai (Kadurugoda) in Chunnakam (Hunugama) has been identified as the Kadurugoda Viharaya in the Nam Pota, a book of important Buddhist centres in Sri Lanka, compiled in the Kandyan period.

The term Kantarodai (also spelt Kantharodai, Kandarodai) is a corrupted form of the Sinhalese word Kandavurugoda, or the site of a military encampment. The Kandavurugoda became Kadurugoda and then it was later tamilised into Kantarodai.

In 1917, P.E. Pieris located 56 Stupas in the area but only about 20 remain today. The largest is about 23 feet in diameter and the smallest is about 6 feet. There are also several foundations of stupas that have disappeared. The stupas are made of coral stone and are gray in colour. They have a very distinguished design with small cavities all over. The stupas don’t have the standard”Hathares Kotuwa” above the dome. Instead, a pinnacle is fixed to the top of the dome.

P. E. Pieris and D. Litt published an extensive article in The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland Vol. 26, No. 70, Part I. in 1917 which covers the ruins of Kadurugoda in detail. This is the most detailed and comprehensive account of the ruins of Kadurugoda in the early 20th century available today.

On certain information received, I next visited the village of Kantarodai, which, as already pointed out, is the Sinhalese Kadurugoda. The intermediate stage in the development of the name appears in Mascarenhas’ foral. where the village Candaracudde is assessed for the Land Tax at 37 pardaos. 1 chacran 17½ fanams;  and for the Poll Tax at 6. 1. 10. At the last census the population consisted of 444 males and 437 females. The termination goda being pronounced by the Tamil  as koda (cudde), soon developed into oda and the Tamil odai, so that in deeds of the middle of the last century the village even appears Odai Kurichchi. The descriptive name goda can be well applied to the village, as the undulating nature of the ground is very noticeable in this flat country. It is situated six miles south by west of Kankesanturai, and adjoins Uduvil, a village which is entitled to much more attention than it has yet received, if it be only by virtue of its important tank.

Tlie size and massive construction of its bund, a portion of which is now converted into a coconut garden, as well as the laige stretches of rice fields which are adjacent, indicate an extensive scheme of irrigation. The tank itself is connected with three others, and a large channel leading from it still survives in spite of all the encroaching activity of adjoining landowners. Kantarodai and Vduvil, with Chunnakam, form the centre of the solid western chunk of the Peninsula which hears the Sinhalese name of Yalikamam. and they are links in the chain of Sinhalese names, including Tellipalai, VimankAmam, Mallakam, Chunnakam, Uduvil, Inuvil, Kondavil, and Kokkuvil, which ronnec t Kankesanturai with the Capital.

I was fortunate enough on my first expedition to meet Mr. Proctor A . S. Pounamhalam. who very kindly accompanied me through the village. I found a new well being opened, and on looking down into it my attention was attracted by some blue specks. I therefore descended into the well and found there so much of interest that the next week l opened a pit for the purpose of further  investigation. The spot is a palmyra garden, and quite fiat, and at a depth of three or four feet the debris ot buildings was encountered. This consisted primarily of roofing tiles mixed with large fragments of strong lime plaster about three inches in thickness. For a width of about six feet the tiles found were glazed or enamelled on the upper surface, which was grooved, in a rich blue colour laid on very thickly and fired. There is grooving not only on the upper surface but also on the under surface, to admit of the tiles fitting into each other. Below these tiles was a large deposit of slabs of coral stone moulded and otherwise, and all wedge-shaped, having manifestly been used in a dagoba or other circular building. It is not possible to ascertain at present the origin of these beautiful tiles. The Superintendent of the Madras Museum informs me that such tiles are unknown there and no similar tiles are on view at our Museum: but a lump of “enamel” of the same colour, found at Anuradhapura, is shown. I found, however, on examining the store-room here a couple of fragments of similar tiles brought from Tissamaharama, and dating about the first century before Christ. Apparently what I had found had been used as a roof over a dagoba, and I had alighted upon the site of a dagoba of special importance.

I now began a more methodical examination of the village, visiting a large number of the carefully screened dwelling compounds. I was accompanied by Rasanayagam Mudaliyar, the Secretary of the District Court of Jaffna, to whose persistency, wide and accurate information, and intelligent cooperation, I am under a deep obligation. What we discovered filled me with astonishment ; we had discovered a village scattered all over with broken tiles. It does not require much knowledge of ancient sumptuary laws to know that tiles indicate a palace or a temple, and here there is no tradition of a palace. Tiles lay about in profusion on every side, in thick layers. Here and there masses of brickwork were seen, but bricks are much in demand in a country where bricks worth the name cannot be produced for lack of suitable clay. It was. however, the wells which soon beg-an to attract our attention ; their number is great and the majority of them are built up of wedge-shaped coral blocks taken from dagobas, while set in the plaster works are ancient roofing tiles. At one of these wells was half a stone Koth and low down in another was a portion of a stone frieze, pointed out to me by a little boy who knew it as the ‘Bride and Bridegroom.’ It should be noted that coral stone is not to be found in the neighbourhood, and that all the immense quantity of dressed coral which littered the village, had at one time been employed for buildings, mainly of a circular shape.

The presence of several artificial mounds of a moderate size, for the largest of them probably did not exceed sixty feet in diameter, explained the abundance of the coral blocks. These mounds are the remains of dagobas. and it seems strange that so large a number should be found in one small village. There were, I should think, quite a dozen of them, and so far we have found the stone kotas of sixteen of them; a few of these kotas are shown in Plate II. There was no necessity to spend much out of the scanty stock of money available, in order to ascertain what these mounds were. The largest, or one ot the largest, is known as the Turumpa Tidal, the Mound of the Turumpas, a very low caste equivalent to the Sinhalese Apullanas, who live round it. These have been utilising the material ot the dagoba tor many years,vand when I visited the spot a large collection of the Vairakkal from the garbha had been dug up and was lying ready for removal. In various parts the sites of buildings were indicated by rows of the stone bases of columns. These bases consist of large blocks of Vairakkal, sometimes three feet across. roughly rounded, and showing on the top a deep socket of about six inches square, which had been meant to receive a column. Some of these bases stand clear above ground, and some were found under a couple of feet of earth.

The Tamil villager is intensely religious and frequently seeks a remedy for the ills of this life by erecting a Vayiravar shrine, a remnant apparently of ancient Hero worship. Often the shrine consists of nothing more than an iron trident fixed on a stone or log of wood and placed under a tree. Opposite this is set up a block of hard stone against which on solemn occasions coconuts are broken to the honour of the deity, and several of the koths as were found utilised for this purpose, being fixed in the ground with the base uppermost. The most interesting of the coral stone finds, namely, the miniature dagoba which is shown in Plate II. was also being similarly used. Numerous temples in the District, I was informed, have drawn upon the ruins at Kantarodai for limestone.

On reaching one portion of the village, all interest in tiles, bricks and coral stone disappeared in the discovery of limestone remains. This limestone, which is similar to what is frequently seen in Anuradhapura, is not to be obtained in the Peninsula, and along with granite had all been imported from elsewhere. In this portion of the village nearly every dwelling compound yielded some interesting specimen. The large fragment of the torso of what must have been at one time a  gigantic statue (see Plate IV.) was being used at a well for washing clothes on. A drain by another well yielded the tallest of the kotas shown in Plate II., the base of  the circular column in Plate III. and the massive block of limestone on which the head is shown in Plate IV.

This last block is a coping stone, one of several found at various spots, and is semicircular above with a fiat base grooved down the middle for setting in the plaster. Another well yielded the specimen Buddhist railing ornament shown to the right of Plate III. A fine specimen of this type, complete with a handsome projecting moulding on one side, is being used at a Kali Kovil. These slabs were no doubt used in the ornamentation of dagobas, though I cannot suggest the use of the similarly ornamented cylindrical block on the left of Plate III. and which has a socket at the top. unless it to be the top of a pillar prepared to receive the capital. The slab by the side of this  last was found at an old woman’s hut; it will he seen that it once formed part of a circle, the diameter of which Mr. Baker. Superintendent ot Surveys at Jaffna. estimates at approximately 60 feet. This must have formed part of one of the basal rings of a dagoba. A portion of a granite pillar, buried as the door step of another hut, was the only specimen of granite found.

What was perhaps of as much interest as anything else were the great fragments, sometimes nearly three feet across, of lime concrete, which were found used as stepping stones and at wells. This concrete is from five to six inches thick, and freely mixed with shells. I was told that there is an entire roadway paved with this concrete, but have not excavated for it yet. Some little distance a way, at the Pillaiyar Kovil at Makayappiddi — another Sinhalese name — is the pretty sheet of water shown in Plate VI. On either side of the flight of steps is set up a block of ancient stonework : that appearing in the illustration once formed the feet of a gigantic statue of either a royal personage or of the Maitreya Buddha, as appears from the Virakkalal on the ankles.

Among the most valuable of the finds are the two portions of the body of an image of Buddha found separately in a field where there are some stone pillar bases ni situ. The feet of this had been formed of a separate block or had been broken off and subsequently fastened to the body by means of iron rods, the hollows for which may lie seen. Similarly the right arm had been formed of a separate piece. The same field yielded the second largest lent a in Plate II., as well as the head of a Buddha of heron size shown in Plate IV. The head had been broken off from the body and the fracture had been repaired in, the same fashion as in the case of the feet of the other Buddha. These seem to indicate a period of foreign invasion followed by a Buddhist revival. At the edge of this field is a dagoba, to which the kota had probably belonged. A trench was sunk across a portion of this and revealed the fact that it was similar in it’s construction to the one at Chunnakam though of much greater size. There was however a striking lack of the remains of plaster work. About ten yards beyond, amongst numerous stone pillar bases, Rasanayagam Mudaliyar detected a projecting piece of limestone which he insisted on my digging up. A whole day was occupied in the task, the excitement of the workmen increasing with the increase in the apparent size of the block; at last with a shout of triumph they turned over what was found to be the body of an immense Buddha, the fragment weighing nearly three quarters of a ton (Plate V.). Here again the right arm had originally been formed of a separate block and lias not yet been traced………….

Recently a tiny dome, part of a stupa has been unearth end. This is about 1 1/2 feet in diameter. 1 1/2 feet tall. This is believed to be one of the original structures.

The Archeology department purchased an area of 7 acres in 1948 to protect this site. This land was grabbed by the Tamil residents in the area and the area had reduced to 3+ acres in 1965. And today this area has shrunk further to less than 1 acre.

It is believed that these miniature stupas are built to enshrine the remains of 60 Arhaths who died due to a famine in the area.

This site has survived the destruction of war mainly due to the efforts of the Sri Lankan Army. Even today, this site is maintained and looked after by the Sri Lankan army.


Also See

Map of  Ancient Kadurugoda Viharaya (Kantarodai)

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

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Travel Directions to  Kadurugoda Viharaya

Jaffna can be reached through 2 directions. The first one is over the Elephant Pass which is the normal route to Jaffna. The other entrance is from Pooneryn over the newly built Sangupiddi Bridge. This road connects to Mannar.

Route 01 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Kurunegala)Route 02 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Puttalam)
Through : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Travel Time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Puttalam – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Travel Time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Route from Jaffna to  Kadurugoda Viharaya
Distance :24 km
Travel time : 30-40 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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