Currently the village of Sastrawela is a tiny speck of habitation situated on the Panama-Pottuvil Road. The village does not even make it into the Survey General’s map. Since the 1980’s many of its inhabitants have fled to Panama due to the unrest in the area. Yet back in the hay day of the Ruhunu Kingdom, Sastrawela was not only well known, but it was considered as an important seat of learning. According to folklore, the name Sastrawela is said to have been derived from the original name Shastraweiliya which indicates that the locality was associated with an institution of learning. The word ‘Shastra’ even roughly means a discipline or an art form. The area is said to have been the abode of many a soothsayer and scholars during ancient times. Legend says that scholars from far away kingdoms and even across the seas from India had travelled to Sastrawela to learn the various disciplines of science and astrology.
The relevance of Sastrawela to the story of Prince Gamini is the fact that it is said that the astrologers that were occupied at the Royal Palace of King Kavantissa hailed from this village. When the royal wedding between the King of Ruhuna, Kavantissa and his bride Princess Vihara Maha Devi was to take place, the astrologers of Sastrawela were consulted to obtain the auspicious times for the various wedding rituals. It is said that after considering the horoscopes of the royal couple, the learned men at Sastrawela determined the auspicious times for the many rituals involved in the marriage of the royals.
An important ruin remaining at Sastrawela which gives a glimpse of those prosperous times is Mani Naga Pabbatha Viharaya which is said to date back to the time of King Mahanaga, the first King of Ruhuna. The temple which is in near ruin with an incomplete Stupa and few scattered granite pillars is still venerated by the villagers who visit this shrine mostly on full moon Poya days after undertaking the arduous journey from Panama. The Stupa which is said to have been built by King Mahanaga had been renovated by King Kavantissa and his son, Saddatissa. Also in the vicinity of the stupa are several caves with Brahmian inscriptions indicating that the area was first presented to meditating monks in the early 3rd Century B.C. Stone pillars and other ruins remain scattered around the vicinity of the stupa, indicating that this was once a huge monastic complex, sheltering many monks.
The history of Sastrawela goes back to the 3rd Century B.C when the Ruhuna Kingdom was established by King Mahanaga, brother of Devanampiya Tissa. Mahanaga fleeing from Rajarata after an assassination attempt established his capital in Magama, believed to be in modern day Tissamaharama. Since then Ruhuna flourished for many centuries at times as an independent kingdom and at times as a semi autonomous sub-kingdom under the rule of Anuradhapura. Though many archaeologists believe that the original temple complex was built by Mahanaga there are some who suggest that it was, in fact, a Naga king called Maninaga who was the first patron of the shrine. The Nagas were a pre-historic tribe which lived in the island before the advent of the Aryans in 6th Century B.C. However, it is believed that many Nagas intermingled with the Aryan settlers and were part of the fabric of ancient Sri Lanka. Therefore, a Naga king ruling this region and building a shrine is not totally improbable though historical evidence to prove this point is yet to be discovered.
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- Other Places of Interest Within 25 kilometers
Map of Maligatenne Raja Maha Viharaya
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Travel Directions to Mani Naga Pabbatha Viharaya
Route from Colombo to Mani Naga Pabbatha Viharaya
Route from Batticaloa to Mani Naga Pabbatha Viharaya
|Through : Avissawella – Ratnapura – Beragala – Wellawaya – Buttala – Monaragala – Siyambalanduwa – Pottuvil – Arugam Bay|
Distance : 320 km
Travel time : 7-8 hours.
Driving directions : see on google map
|Through : Kalmune – Akkarapattu – Pottuvil – Arugam Bay|
Distance : 120 km
Travel time : 2-3 hours.
Driving directions : see on google map