Discovering Kaludiya Pokuna in Dambulla
Kalupokuna or the Kaludiya Pokuna is a site with extensive ruins of a monastery on the slopes of a range of hills known as Eravalagala (also called Perawelagala), about a mile and a half to the south-east of Kumbukkandanvala, in the Vagapanaha Pallesiya Pattu of the Matale District. This is not be confused with the Kaludiya Pokuna of Mihintale.
This monastery has been organised as a Pabbatha Vihara as described by Mañjuśrībhāṣitavāstuvidyāśāstra with primary buildings built on a platform surrounded by a moat.-0-
Kaludiya Pokuna has been organized as a Pabbatha Vihara architecture. Archaeologists believe that Pabbata Vihara were built merging with a natural rock formation. These are built by arranging several rectangular building areas (courtyards) at different levels surrounded by water. In the upper courtyard itself are the four sacred buildings arranged in specific order. In the ancient architecture book ‘Manju Sri Bhashitha Vastuvidyawa” (මඤ්ජු ශ්රී භාෂිත වාස්තුවිද්යාව) written in Sanskrit, these buildings and standards are well explained.
The basic feature of these monasteries is a large rectangular precinct or sacred quadrangle which contains the four major shrines, a stupa, a bodhighara, a patimaghara and a prasada which has been identified as the uposathaghara. Vijayaramaya, Pankuliya Asokaramaya, Pacina Tissa Pabbatha Viharaya, Puliyankulama Pabbata Viharaya (Pubbaramaya), Toluvila and Vessagiriya are the temples of this tradition in Anuradhapura. Kaludiya Pokuna (Dhakkinagiri Viharaya) in Dambulla, Lahugala Magul Maha Viharaya, Menikdena, Pulukunava in the Gal Oya valley, a group of shrines at the foot of the rock at Sigiriya and Moragoda in Padaviya are the other provincial sites where Pabbata Vihara have been identified. (Bandaranayake, 1974).
The principal buildings of the monastery, which included a moderate sized stupa and a structure supported by massive but roughly hewn stone pillars, were arranged on several terraces on the hillside and seem to have been surrounded by a moat. As one ascends the hill, passing the terraced sites, the ground to the south and the east becomes rocky and among the huge granite boulders, there are twelve caves used in ancient days as dwelling-places by Buddhist hermits. However it is said that with this 40 hectare (100 acre) reserve, altogether 69 caves have been identified. About 750 feet to the south-west of the stupa, there is a rubble-faced pond, the muddy water which it is now filled with gives to the whole site its modern name of “Kaludiyapokuna“
Three inscriptions have been discovered at this site. The first one is inscribed on a plain guardstone of a flight of steps at the southern entrance to the maluwa of the stupa. This belongs to the 7th century AD and only few letters are legible.
The second inscription is engraved on the rock wall of a cave situated about 400 ft. to the south-west of the stupa. It is written in script belonging to the 9th centaury. The engraving of the record is done in a somewhat careless manner; the letters being quite shallow and, in many instances, badly formed. But, owing to its sheltered position, the record is in a good state of preservation. ·According to Paranavithana, this inscription could be ascribed to king Sena II (853-887) or Kassapa IV (898-914), more probably to that of the earlier of the two.
From this inscription we learn that this monastery has been called Dakinagiri (Dakkina or Dakkinagiri) Monastery during the 9th century. The contents of this inscription tells the various gifts made by different individuals for provision of food to the monastery. The major part of the record is concerned with the gift of a person named Dalana who invested twenty-three kalandas of gold for the daily supply of two admana of rice and one admana of curd. The stipulation made by the donor that the rice should not be given uncooked shows not much faith is placed on the bhikkhus of the monastery. It is also laid down that in case of dissension among the inmates of the monastery, the food intended for them should be thrown to crows and dogs. Evidently, Dalana was of opinion that if the members of the bhikkhus quarrelled amongst themselves, they were less worthy of the offerings of the pious than such animals.
According to Mahavamsa, the Great Chronical of Sri Lanka, king Saddhathissa (137-119 BC) is credited with building Dakkinagiri Viharaya (XXXIII:8) and again king Dhathusena (459-477) is also credited with building a Dakkinagiri Viharaya in Culavamsa (XXXVIII:47). King Aggabodhi I (575-608) had built a Uposthaghara building to the Dakkinagiridalha Viharaya (XLII:27) which could be a different viharaya and again Chulavamsa mentions the king Kassapa V ( 914-923) donating a village to Dakkinagiri Viharaya (LII:60).
Tim third inscription at Kaludiyapokuna is engraved on a slab standing near a ruined structure at a distance of about 250 feet to the south of the stupa. EPIGRAPHIAZ ZEYLANICA (vol III) places this partly damaged inscription to king Sena IV (954-956) and the name Dakkinagiri is mentioned in this inscription as well.
The Kaludiya Pokuna stupa was excavated and conserved in 1979-80 period. The site of Kaludiya Pokuna lies 16 kilometers off Dambulla town passing the picturesque Kandalama wewa. The path lies through scrub jungles and paddy fields to the foot of the hill where the ruins lies. The site is very remote and chances are that you will not meet anybody at this remote and dissolute place other than a laborer or two who toil to keep the site from been engulphed by the jungle.
- Wickramasinghe, D. and Codrington, H., 1933. Epigraphia Zeylanica being Lithic and Other Inscriptions of Ceylon : Vol III. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press, p.253-269.
- De Silva, R. and Karunaratne, W., n.d. Administration report of the archaeological commissioner for the year 1979. 1st ed. Colombo: Department of the Government Printing, p.17-19.
- 2010. සිංහල මහාවංශය. 1st ed. Colombo: Buddhist Cultural Center.
- Mahānāma, Bode, M. and Geiger, W., 1912. The Mahavamsa or the great chronicle of Ceylon. 1st ed. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press, p.250.
- Geiger, W., 1998. Cūlavaṃsa, being the more recent part of the Mahavamsa : Part 1. 2nd ed. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services.
- NICHOLAS, C., 1963. Historical Topography of Ancient and Medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series, Vol VI,(Special Number), p.111.
- Abhayavardhana, E., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata. 1st ed. Kandy: Kandurata Development Bank, in association with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, pp.181-182.
- Powell, K., 2018. Rituals and Ruins: Recovering the History of Vajrayāna Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Master of Arts in South and Southeast Asian Studies. University of California, Berkeley.
- Okamura, T., 2015. RUINS IN CENTRAL EASTERN AREA OF SRI LANKA — at the jungle of Amban Ganga Basin and the outskirts —. Tokyo: South Asian
- Bandaranayake, S., 1974. Sinhalese Monastic Architecture – The Viharas of Anuradhapura. Leiden: Brill.
Kaludiya Pokuna in Kandalama is not to be confused with its name-sake in Mihinthale . It dates back to the period, 853 – 857 A.D., during the reign of King Sena the 2nd. The sacred precincts of this ancient site served as a meditating center for the Buddhist monks who resided there.
The approach to this ancient historical site is very pleasant, winding its way through paddy fields and vegetable cultivations – typical rural Sri Lanka, which gives way to beautiful stands of tall, dry monsoon forest. You even find peacocks crossing the road at intervals.
Kaludiya Pokuna lies at the base of a long rocky ridge on the northern periphery of the Knuckles range. As a result, the forest is more intermediate in character than dry zone. It is also home to a wide variety of birds and butterflies, as it is at the junction of different climatic zones with some species being at an extremity of their range. Clearly, it is an exciting place for birders and butterfly watchers.
The archeological site at Kaludiya Pokuna has a few ruins including a stupa, and it is very obvious to the visitor, that this ancient site screams of neglect.
Like at Pidurangala , there are numerous meditating centers or kutis used by the monks to meditate, but totally neglected and left to rot.
There are also two pokunas or ponds from which the name Kaludiya Pokuna has been derived. One is completely dry and overgrown with weeds, while the other looks more like a huge muddy stagnant puddle of water, and a haven for mosquitoes.
My genius cameraman Lal Nishantha used all his skills to capture on camera, the former glory of this once beautiful pond.
I also found two ancient rock inscriptions – one was hardly legible as letters were almost washed away by the ravages of rain, but the second was mercifully protected by the overhanging rock.
This ancient rock inscription in medieval Sinhala found at Kaludiya Pokuna, dates back to the period between 853 – 857 A.D. during the eighth year of the the reign of King Sena II. It states, that during that period, the temple at Kaudiya Pokuna was called Dakinigiri Viharaya and that a person by the name of Dhalatha donated 23 gold coins to obtain food for the monks living at the Dakinigiri Viharaya.
Yet another pathetic sight that met my eyes, were the remains of ancient artifacts mostly of clay, belonging to Kaludiya Pokuna, stashed away in a tiny shed, with no door to protect them from thieves.
I left Kaludiya Pokuna with a heavy heart, because it is obviously a place of nobody’s business. I hope the authorities concerned, would do something about restoring at least some of its glory, and give Kaludiya Pokuna the dignity it rightfully deserves
Map of Kaludiya Pokuna of Dambulla
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 Kaludiya Pokuna of Dambulla
|Route Dambulla to Kaludiya Pokuna|
|distance :15 km|
Travel time : 20 mins
Driving directions : see on google map