Padikemgala Raja Maha Viharaya – පඩිකෙම්ගල පුරාණ විහාරය

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 Padikemgala Raja Maha Viharaya

A guard-stone

Siddhartha Gautama languished for six long years of untold privation in spending his life as an ascetic in the recess of the caves in the jungle after renouncing the princely life of his Royal Kingdom of worldly pleasures to seek the truth and attain Supreme Enlightenment. The cave shelter where he was living the life of a recluse is still known as Dineshwon in India. From there Gautama laboured seven miles walking to reach his final destination in the district of Buddha Gaya.

Offering of Kiripidu Dana by Sujatha ….

When the brilliant moon was bathed in full radiance, Siddhartha Gautama in seeking Enlightenment sat under the spreading bowers of a giant Nuga Tree lying close to the bank of river Neranjana in a village still known as Senani which is connected with the life and times of Siddhartha Gautama culminating in his renunciation that paved the way for his supreme attainment of Buddhahood.

In this serene but pastoral village of Senani, there lived a daughter of a chieftain’s housemaid. As she was sweeping the ground around this Nuga tree to which rituals and other offerings were made, she beheld Siddharta Gautama seated at the foot of it engaged in absolute meditation in all solemnity and grace.

 Padikemgala Raja Maha Viharaya

Remnants of a Buddha statue

She cried in joy and brought the happy tidings to the notice of her household. The chieftain’s household was all agog with villagers when she was confronted with a pleasant surprise of the visitation of Gautama. They were filled with joy of sanctity. With all sacredness and obeisance they prepared poojas and alms to be offered to Gautama. They were in high glee of this meritorious act. Sujatha took the bowl of Kiripindu Dana (milk rice) knelt before Gautama and offered it in all grace and sanctity to Him and He accepted it with all gratitude.

Thereafter, Gautama Buddha ambled towards the river Neranjana where He bathed. After crossing the river, Gautama partook the Kiripidu Dana offered to him by Sujatha. On its impact Gautama felt he was more fortified with much strength to his body and mind. Whereupon He blessed Sujatha with His hand on her newborn child. He invoked longevity and blessings on him when Sujatha romped home rejoicing over this meritorious act.

Then came the glorious event on that very day. That evening, Siddharta Gautama strolled in all solemnity and determination towards the Bo-Tree and sat under its copious shade and attained his life-long quest for Supreme Enlightment.

Its very episode in stone …

 Padikemgala Raja Maha Viharaya

Viharadhipathi Lunama Gnanaloka thera explaining the historical value of the bodhigara

The above-related event of Sujatha offering Kiripidu Dana to Siddhartha Gautama is lively etched in a stone frieze at a Raja Maha Vihara named Padikemgala Raja Maha Viharaya (Hambantota district). It too nestles in the Walawe basin, from where it is still closer to reach this historical Temple along the Embilipitya-Sooriyawewa Road. At its turn off (to the left), lies the road leading to Meegahajandura School via Magal Ara land settlement scheme. From Embilipitiya it is about 25 miles on a gravel road which is quite motorable. The next route is through Hambantota via Koggalla from there to Meegahajandura School off Magal Ara farmers’ settlements, where the distance is about 30 miles from Hambantota.

Treasure trove of ancient Relics …

 Padikemgala Raja Maha Viharaya

Ancient ruins

This Padikemgala Raja Maha Vihara lies in the forest glades. The temple is surrounded by a barricade of a retaining wall composed of ancient bricks fortified with well dressed stone slabs placed one over the other with well marked groves carved out. This stone structure is semi-circular. In the middle of this stone frieze lies Sujatha offering Kiripidu Dana to Siddhartha Gautama followed by more stone friezes of elephants with their trunks curled up. These relics and other remains are enclosed with a retaining wall built of finely quarried stone slabs placed evenly one over the other lying in a crumbling state.

Unique finds of a gangoyle, (Weeping Stone) a sort of water spout that conveyed its flowing waters through the mouths of lion heads must have been meant for the flow of drainage water. These stone gutters had been kept at the four corners of this site, but only two are remaining still in a dilapidated state, lying here and there. The robes of this Buddha statue are in a ruinous state, and the frills etched on the robes are still distinct. The other rare but priceless archaeological artifact was a structure called “Yanthara Gal” (Treasure Chambers). In ancient monarchical times, valuable treasures were buried for safe-keeping. Such treasures were deposited in the Yanthara Gal which is square in shape having square deep seated grooves in which these valuables are preserved, then with the other such Stone slab also having such square shaped grooves were sandwiched together and buried, particularly in ancient Viharas or monastry sites. The Padikemgala archaeological site, had been the abode of Arahants (highest Sages).

Period of Times

 Padikemgala Raja Maha Viharaya

A close-up of the Bodhigara which shows Sujatha offering ‘Kiripidu’ dana to Siddhartha Gautama

Since I have been living for a long time in Embilipitiya nestling in the Walawe basin, I have had visited the Padikemgala Rajamaha Viharaya. My first visit was in the early 1970’s when I was transferred to the Walawe Project from the Gal Oya Project in 1970. The Incumbent of this Rajamaha Viharaya was Ven. Lunama Gnananda Thera and he is still there. During his incumbency he had taken manifold steps to restore this temple. Though now in dotage he still devotes his time to develop this ancient site.

When I visited the Rajamaha Viharaya in the 1970’s those stone gutters with lion heads were in a ruinous state while the Asana Gharas – the Bdhi Gharas which prouder shelter to Bo-Tree is in a permanent state. The place is kept in a clean and environmentally friendly state. In recent years, the Archaeological Department had carried out extensive excavations around the ancient site of Padikemgala. Among the classic artifacts unearthed are the remains of Bodhi Ghara (the house of the Bo-Tree). It is a square enclosure comprising well dressed stone slabs. It has been restored to its ancient glory, while others such as Bodhigaras were also restored by the Archaeological Department. Two others, one at Nillakgama lying in Hathalispaha Korale East in the Wannihathpathu (Kurunegala district) and the other at Panduwasnuwara Archaeological site (off Kuliyapitiya) and could be seen. The one I had visited in the late 1985, (story of the Mutlind/hooded cobra, janitors stone referred to earlier) is wrapped in a hoary episode as narrated by this Incumbent when I first visited it in the 1970’s.

It runs thus:- Some years ago in the early 1950’s the Hambantota Police of the time led by an A.S.P. and his policemen raided, a gangja plantation in the area. Retired Police officers may recall this interesting but amusing one. It is called that the the then A.S.P. (Hambantota Police Station), had accidentally come across this Multi-hooded cobra stone lying in the jungle tide of Padikemgala. He had a fascination for it to be kept at his bungalow. So he removed it to his bungalow for safe-keeping as then the Padikemgala temple was deserted. That night it was a nightmare to his wife when in the dead of night she dreamt of a saintly man dressed in immaculate white, wearing a white turban over his head, had warned her to remove the cobra stone forthwith back to the very site it was found.

Before it was removed to the Padikemgala site, he consulted the Govt. Agent Hambantota and the officials concerned.

They had strongly advised him to return it to the Padikemgala site. It is that lost and found Multihooded cobra Guard stone that is still lying there at the Padikemgala Temple – quie, safe and sound.

by Gamini G. Punchihewa
Sunday Observer

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Travel Directions to Padikemgala  Raja Maha Viharaya

Route from Colombo to Padikemgala

Route from Sooriyawewa to Padikemgala

Through : Horana – Ratnapura – Pelmadulla – Udawalawe
Distance : 180 km
Travel time : 3.5 hours.
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Meegahakandura
Distance :11 km
Travel time : 20 minutes.
Driving directions : see on google map

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