Ruins of Ancient Kurundavashoka Viharaya in Mullaitivu – මුලතිවු කුරුන්දවාශෝක පුරාවිද්‍යා භූමිය

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Ruins of Ancient Kurundavashoka Viharaya in Mullaitivu

Ruins of Ancient Kurundavashoka Viharaya in Mullaitivu
Photograph by : Ven.Santha Bodhi himi

The northern part of Sri Lanka was inaccessible to the Sri Lankans for over 30 years due to the LTTE terrorists controlling the most of this area. After the defeat of the LTTE in 2009, this area has seen a massive development in the infrastructure and facilities enabling any Sri Lankan to travel and visit any area.

Along with this freedom to access these forbidden jungles, ruins of hundreds of ancient Buddhist sites hidden in the jungles of Mullaitivu District, Vavuniya District, Mannar District and  Kilinochchi District have been discovered by the Army. Due to 30+ years of ethnic cleansing of Tamil Tiger Terrorists supported by Tamil politicians, Buddhist villages which supported few monks in some of these temples also have disappeared.

Even after the end of the LTTE, Tamil Politicians are continuously creating obstructions using the innocent civilian villagers around national heritage sites to stop these being developed or conserved.

The ruins at the Kurundumale ( Tamil : Kurundumalei) in Mulathivu district is such a place currently being fought by the politicians. The ruins of Kurundumale has been documented in an archaeological report of 1905.  An inscription which was recorded at this site has now disappeared. In August 2013, this site was declared as a protected archaeological site by a gazette notification.

To understand the importance of this site, we need to go back to the time of the arrival of the great Mahinda Thero to the country in 250 BC. The preaching of the Buddha were in the language of of Pali. The Atuwa (අටුවා) are the text written in Pali which describes the the deeper areas in Tripitaka in detail. When the Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka, the local priests stared documenting the deeper analysis of Tripitaka in local language (Hela Basa) which were collectively called Helatuwa (හෙළටුවා). Helatuwa consisit of three Attakatha (අට්ඨකථා). These are Maha Attakathawa (මහා අට්ඨකතාව), Pachchari Attakathawa (පච්චරි අට්ඨකතාව) and Kurundi Attakathawa (කුරුන්දි අට්ඨකථාව).

It is believed that the Kurundi Attakatha has been documented in the Kurundavashoka Viharaya (Kurundashoka Viharaya) in Kurundumale. According to Mahavamsa, the Kurundavashoka Monastery has been built by king Kallatanaga (109-104 BC) and records various donations by king Aggabodhi I (575-608) and king Vijayabahu I (1070-1110). According to the archaeological report of of 1505, the largest rock inscription in the country was found here. According the history, this inscription has been made during the reign of king Mahinda III (801-804) to resolve a dispute relating use of water in Kurangama Reservior. The report also records that the stupa was protected by a Watadage (Stupa House). But unfortunately, the inscription or any remnents of the Watadage are missing today.

After the 1905 report, the next report comes from Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero who had visited this site in 1964.

No responsible person ever wanted to repair or reconstruct or consolidate the Buddhist shrines of Mulativu District when there was free access to the area. There is no other epoch that such a failure is felt than present times. A very holy place met with such a misfortune is Kurundavashoka Vihara eponymed Kurundammale at present. This is situated north of Tannimurippukulam tank close to Kumulamunai near Nedunkarni, in thick jungle. One has to follow hunter’s game tracks to reach the mountain. Kurundanmale was also named Piyankallu (sin: Piyangala) 

The mountain spreads over an area of about 100 acres, The upper-most part is a Hat surface oval in shape. There were two paths to reach the top level from North and South, when I visited it in .1964. 

The brick mound on top of the mountain, 140’ in the round and 21’ in height, was a stupa that outshone all other objects around. Some other foundations show characters of Image houses. A pit is dug at the entrance to one such building. That can be considered to be a Vatadage (circular relic mouse). The two wells or rather ponds that supplied water for the religious site are filled with mud. Signs of an outer wall can be seen. There were flights of steps to the structures where climbing was necessary. Ruins show that the religious place started some where in the Pre Common Era and existed for many centuries. 

No other place I visited in this district had such an amount of ruins. Unfortunately no inscriptions are met with here. But a document that mentions about king Mahinda III (801 804) tells us about a dispute regarding water in a tank at Kurangama. C. W. Nicolas is of opinion that this dispute arose on the waters of Tannimurippukulam. We struggled hard to find out this inscription, but the efforts were in vain. There is a story among the settlers here mainly Tamils that Buddha in one of His visits trod on this rock. Considering all, it is worthwhile to be more inquisitive about the place. 

A village named Kurundaka is mentioned in the commentaries. The ‘Kadaimpoth’ (information On boundaries) mentions Kurundugamurata. The word ‘rata’ means a district or an area. ‘Padi rata’ is mentioned as closer to Kurundurata in Pujavali and Nikaya Sangraha. Kurundurata, Kurundugaamurata, Kurundaka can be the same area. Padirata is known today as Padaviya. Chronicles say about Parakramabahu 1 l (1236 -70) defeating the forces of Magha at Kurundi. Chandrabhanu who invaded Shri Lanka at a recent period, is said to have enticed the Sinhala people at the same place. Ivers is of opinion that Kurundurata is present Kanda Korale and Kadavat Korale. Some believe that it is Karikattumalei South that belongs to the Vavuniya District. Aggabodhi I (571-604) built a vihara named Kurunda. Vijayabahu I reconstructed it. Aggabodhi I also constructed the Kurunda Vapi (Kurundu Vava) and a coconut grove there. Khallata Naga (100-103) built the Kurundavashoka Viharaya. It was also known as Kurundapasaka. 

Kurundavashoka is the shortened from of ‘Kurundavapi Ashoka’. The Ashoka vihara close to the Kurunda vapi was named thus. The term ‘Kurunda’ is present in all forms. The earlier said inscription tells of Kurungama. Kurundama also is similar. As some Commentaries are older than the chronicles, (esp. Sihalattha Katha) we can conclude that Kurundagama and its vihara existed from the time of Ven. Mahinda. One of the commentaries was written here. All these suggest that this sacred place was in existence from the Pre Common Periods and Buddhist Bhikkhus lived there from such a length of time. The Manorathapurani mentions of a bhikkhu in the full name of Kurundakavasi Pussamitta Thera. 

At least two days are necessary to do a general inspection of ruins at Kurundankulama and Tannimurippu Kulam. The Tamil villager who showed us the way presented himself to carry me on his back as I was tired. Such was the friendship between the two races then. Terrorism has over-ruled all other sentiments today and we find that we cannot step into those places. The villagers today face many hardships. Such Places where Buddhist heritage flourished are today in pathetic conditions.”

The jungles which the Kurundumale Monastery existed was declared as an protected archaeological area by the gazette number 7981 published on May 12th 1933. Again on 16th August 2013, this are area was declared as an protected archaeological site. But in 2018 when the department of archaeology started conservation of the location, the politicians of the TNA agitated the Tamil people of around the area and threatened the officers of the department and two Buddhist priests who had visited the site to see the ruins. They managed to stop the conservation work and obtained a temporary restraining order from the courts by citing that this conversation efforts may cause civil unrest in the area. The joke was that it was these TNA MPs who were creating the civil unrest.

Fortunately in October 2018, the judge in the Mullativu courts gave permission for the Archeology Department to proceed with the conservation work.

To reach this historic site from Vavuniya town, travel on the A9 you will reach the Puliyankulama where the road will divert to Nedunkeni. Then take the Nedunkeni road travel past Nedunkeni and towards Mullativu for 6 km to reach an unmarked gravel road to the right leading towards the jungles. Travel on this road for 10 km through the Thannimuruppu Reservation to reach the access area to these ruins. Then you need to treck through the jungle to reach the discovered area of ruins. The top of the hill covering about 20 acres is filled with ruins of ancient buildings. There has been a kabook wall encircling the top of the hill and remains of this wall are still seen at some places.

Ruins of one ancient stupa can be seen on the southern side of the ruins. All you will see today is a large mound of earth with a diameter of about 120 feet rising to about 20 feet overgrown with trees. Treasure hunters has taken their own time digging this stupa in search of treasures. Ruins of various buildings can be seen scattered around this area. Rock pillars, broken moonstones, balustrades and steps are scattered on the rock as well as at the lower levels.

Hopefully the department of archaeology will complete the restoration of the site before more damage is done to these ruins.

References

  1. The Sinhala Buddhist Heritage in the East and the North of Shri Lanka by Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera
  2. අග්බෝ රජු තැනූ මුලතිව් කුරුඳුමලේ විහාරය පිළිසකර කිරීමට TNA එරෙහි වෙයි
  3. පුරාවිද්‍යා සංහාරකයන්ට කනේ පාරක්… මුලතිව් කුරුන්දාශෝක විහාරය සංරක්‍ෂණය කිරීමට උසාවි තීන්දුවක්

Also See

Map of  Ruins of Ancient Kurundavashoka Viharaya


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Traveling Directions to Ruins of Ancient Kurundavashoka Viharaya

Route from Vavuniya to Ruins of Ancient Kurundavashoka Viharaya

Through : Omanthe – Puliyankulam – Nedunkeni
Time to spend – 2-4  hours
Distance : 56  km
Travel time : 1.5 hours + hike
Driving directions : see on google map

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