Mihintale Wasammale Archaeological Site

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Mihintale holds an immense significance for Sri Lanka, also known as Mihinthalawa, regarded as the birthplace of Buddhism in the country. Therefore, Mihintale is integral to the Buddhist heritage of Sri Lanka. However, a substantial number of Sri Lankans are familiar with Mihintale primarily through the narrative of Mihindu Thero and the historic ruins present at the site.

However Mihintale encompasses an expansive area surrounded by monasteries dating back to the Anuradhapura period. Numerous hidden spots within the forested surroundings remain undiscovered to this day.

Located approximately two and a half kilometers from the sacred Mihintale site, there is a stone hillock. This site is situated around two kilometers from the Mihintale junction, heading towards Vavuniya. Beyond the Rajarata University sports ground, there is a hill approximately 700 meters away. However, these remains concealed due to the dense trees lining both sides of the road. The local residents utilize the thick forest and the adjoining mountainous terrain for cattle herding. Referred to by villagers as “Wasunmale” or “Wasammale”, this area is now also known as “Chitra Gala” (art rock).

Now, let’s delve into the origin of the name “Chitra-Gala.” In 1988, a farmer, while searching for his cattle, ascended this hill. On the hill, there is a substantial rock stretching about 800 meters in length. Along one side of this rock, there are four caves arranged in a row. Positioned in a section where the rock gently slopes downward, these caves resemble the the hood of a cobra. Among them, only one cave is carved with a drip ledge. Inside this cave, there is a painting spanning approximately 20 feet in length and 15 feet in height. Unfortunately, over time, most of these paintings have been faded. It’s challenging to envision this cave as a natural formation due to the slope of the terrain. However, one can speculate that the ground was filled with bricks, tiles, clay, and stone fragments, or perhaps walls were constructed in this cave.

The stone surface is meticulously cut and polished, with a thin layer of plaster applied for the intricate paintings. To safeguard these artworks, the Department of Archaeology has added a protective cement trench. Unfortunately, numerous paintings have suffered damage over time. However, it is conceivable that the entire artwork was executed under a unified theme. Currently, only two images remain distinctly visible. These images depict two cobra figures. Originally, when discovered in 1988, these snakes were illustrated coiled around a monk, yet the details of the monk have since been eroded. It is also suggested that one of the cobras may have several hoods.

Beneath this, there is a depiction of a woman seated on a small ‘asana.’ Her waist is delicately draped, evoking the style of women in Sigiri frescos. The woman is shown holding something in her left palm, with what seems to be a painting of a cobra above it. Certain scholars speculate that this portrayal represents a cobra maiden.

As proposed by Mr. Ariya Lagamuwa, a Senior Professor in the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Management at Mihintale Rajarata University, these paintings are believed to date back to the 6th-7th centuries. They are thought to depict an event within the realm of cobras.

The reverence for Bodhisattvas in both Mahayana and Hinayana traditions, originating around the 3rd century, reached its zenith between the 6th and 9th centuries. Concurrently, the worship of Goddess Tara also appears to have taken root. The inscription from the tenth century by King Mihindu IV of Mihintale notes endowments to various shrines in the area. The Eth Vehera and Girihandu Vehera mentioned in the inscription are located in the same region. However, the shrines named “Maninal Dev Du Gruhaya” and “Nagendra,” as mentioned in the inscription, have yet to be discovered.

Professor Senarath Paranavithana has identified “Maninal” as an alternate name for the Goddess Tara. Based on this, Mr. Ariya Lagamuwa postulates that the confined cave could potentially be the abode of Maninal Dev Duva or the Nagendra shrine.

In addition to these caves, numerous natural ponds grace this rocky plateau. Regrettably, due to inadequate security measures at this location, reports indicate that individuals who visit the site, have defaced many of these ancient paintings.

There is no proper entrance to these cave complex. Approximately 1 km beyond the Rajarata University sports ground, an archaeology board marks the way. A small sandy road veers left from there into the forest, ending after a short distance. Beyond this point, one must navigate the jungle to reach the destination. It’s crucial to exercise caution as this area is a forest habitat for elephants and various other wild animals.

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Map of Mihinthale Wasammale Archaeological Site

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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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Traveling Directions to Mihinthale Wasammale Archaeological Site

From Anuradhapura to Mihinthale Wasammale Archaeological Site
Via : Mihintale
Total Distance : 15 KM
Duration : 30 Minutes
Travel Time : 1 – 1.5 Hours
Driving Directions : View on Google Map

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