Ruins of Puliyankulama Pabbata Viharaya in Anuradhapura – අනුරාධපුර පුලියන්කුලම පබ්බත විහාරය පුරාවිද්‍යා නටබුන්

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Ruins of Puliyankulama Pabbata Viharaya in Anuradhapura as seen in 1896.
Ruins of Puliyankulama Pabbata Viharaya in Anuradhapura as seen in 1896.
Source : Archaeological Survey of Ceylon, Plans and Plates – for the Annual Report 1896

Puliyankulama (Puliyankulam) is an ancient Buddhist monastery lying on the outskirts of Anuradhapura on the Anuradhapura – Rambewa road (towards Jaffna), about 1.4 kilometers away from the Jaffna Junction in Anuradhapura. This site is known as Puliyankulama Ruins. The archaeology Department nameboard identifies this site as “Pubbarama Archeological Reserve”. The site is not being properly maintained and is covered with tall grass and bushes. This is probably due to this site not being a popular attraction and the lack of knowledge of the site by the general public.

Puliyankulama is made in the form of 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. 

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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. VijayaramayaPankuliya AsokaramayaPacina Tissa Pabbatha ViharayaPuliyankulama Pabbata Viharaya (Pubbaramaya)Toluvila and Vessagiriya are the temples of this tradition in Anuradhapura. Kaludiya Pokuna (Dhakkinagiri Viharaya) in DambullaLahugala 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).

An inscription recovered from the shrine complex of the monastery at Puliyankulama refers to this monastery as Uda-Kitagbopavu (Udaya-Kittaggabodhi-Pabbata) and further states that the vihara was dedicated to the monks who came from Puvaram-vehera (Pubbrama) belonging to the Kaparamula of the Abhayagiri monastery (Prematilleke and Silva, 1968).

The monks of the Abhayagiri vihira came to be known as Dharmarucikas from about the first century B.C., and it was they who played a major role in accepting Mahayanist teachings from time to time. The first impact of Mahayanism in Ceylon, according to literary sources, was felt not long after Nagarjuna’s activities in India, when the doctrine known as Vetullavada was introduced to the island in the third century A.D.

Two weathered inscription slabs from the monastery at Puliyankulama has been discovered. One refers to the donation of daily supply of rice to a person who daily had perform a some activity in connection of the dharma-dhatu (daham-daya). The second slab inscription too has the word dharma-dhatu too (Paranavithana, 1991). These finds from the Vijayarama and Puliyankulama are significant in that they evidently confirm their Mahayanist affiliations.

Puliyankulama ruins follow the building arrangement at Vijayarama but on a vaster scale (Weerasooriya, 1939). Mitton in 1917 reports that the ruins are in a very good state of preservation as regards the ground-plan, and would be an excellent model on which any one could study the disposition of the buildings included in one of these monasteries. Unfortunately a road named “McBride’s Folly,” after the unlucky originator, has been driven across a part of the monastery, cutting off an angle and thus destroying the symmetry of the plan, but in imagination it is not difficult to efface this and see it as a whole.

In arrangement Puliyankulam resembles Vijayarama, but it has no preaching-hall. At Vijayarama there is but one row of piriven, or monks’ cells, all round, and here there are two. Inside the monastery wall all the usual features are to be found, the dagaba, image house (pilmage), viharas, etc. The walls of the platforms are singularly perfect, and show with great clearness the curious method of the old stone-layers, who, instead of finishing each block rectangularly so that any one fitted any other one, worked one block to fit into another like a puzzle, thus saving themselves trouble in one way, but redoubling it in another. This monastery has suffered perhaps more than any other from stones having been taken from it for culverts and other road-building purposes in the dark days before the archaeological authority intervened. The jungle around was cleared out in 1891 (Mitton,1917).

An inscription was unearthed in one place giving a date of twelfth year of king Dappula V, and two similar inscriptions were found in the dagaba, so that the age is well known (Mitton,1917).

Historical Guide to Anuradhapura’s Ruins by Hubert E. Weerasooriya published in 1939 provides a detailed description of this site;

The entrance is on the south as at the northern monastery, and a path starting at a substantial guard-house leads directly north for about ninety yards onto the sacred quadrangle. At the commencement of the path, on the east and west are two structures which look like either refectories or baths. There are four entrances to the sacred enclosure, the chief one being on the south. Inside the enclosure are a dagaba, sadly gutted, and three image-houses whose images and whatever other treasures that had once been deposited therein, have gone the way of all precious objects which were at Anuradhapura.

One of the image-houses bear distinct signs to show that it once sheltered a miniature dagaba probably built of some precious metal, with four Buddhas placed on the four sides of it. But not a vestige of these treasures remains, while a gaping empty yantra gala near a second image-house discloses the sight of another treasure looted.

Surrounding this enclosure, as at Vijayarama are found twelve awasa-ges. But unlike at the former, a second row of these priestly residences, five a side, stand behind the first, making in all thirty-two buildings, in addition to their lavatories and out houses. Surrounding these awasas which cover an area of about three hundred yards square, is a wall of cut stones, while just outside the wall runs a deep moat. A large pond lying partly in and partly out of he monastery completed the unit.

While this monastery was being excavated, four small bronze figures were dug up at the four porches to the sacred, quadrangle, but unlike at Vijayarama no animal figures were found. They were probably the guardian gods of the four directions. This ground very possibly covers the spot where Arahat Mahinda first alighted on, ‘in the eastern quarter of the city and on which subsequently Patamaca or Pathama Cheitiya was built. This dagaba has not been identified.

This Puliyankulama image-house has no rival of its class at Anuradhapura. The smaller but similar terraced image-house at the Toluvila ruins falls far short of it in size and general design. Judging from the shattered ruins of the pedestal and the solitary pillar still remaining erect, twenty-and-half feet high, Mr. Bell fixed the height of the spectacular image which must have been housed in it, as twenty-feet. Not a vestige of it remains. The grand lotus shaped pedestal has been shattered to satisfy the loathsome greed of an unknown heartless vandal devoid of the slightest sense of the aesthetic, as a half buried empty yantra gala peeping out of the ground discloses.

Most of the stone pillars have been ruthlessly robbed from this building, and even the monastery has suffered the same fate. These stones now peep out from beneath two or three unduly substantial culverts gracing Mac Bride’s Deviation,-the work of road building pioneers.

Plan of Puliyankulama Pabbata Viharaya
Plan of Puliyankulama Pabbata Viharaya
source : Bandaranayake, S., 1974. Sinhalese Monastic Architecture – The Viharas of Anuradhapura

References

  1. Weerasooriya H.E., 1939. Historical guide to Anuradhapura’s ruins. Colombo: W.E. Bastian, pp 84-89.
  2. Devendra, D.T., 1952. Guide to Anuradhapura. 2nd ed. Colombo: [Govt. Press], p.58.
  3. Mitton, G., 1917. The lost cities of Ceylon. New York: Fedrick A. Strokes Company Publishers, pp.143-144.
  4. Bandaranayake, S., 1974. Sinhalese Monastic Architecture – The Viharas of Anuradhapura. Leiden: Brill.
  5. Prematilleke, L. and Silva, R., 1968. A Buddhist Monastery Type of Ancient Ceylon Showing Mahayanist Influence. Artibus Asiae, 30(1), pp.61-84.
  6. Paranavithana, S., 1991. Mahāyānism in Ceylon. The Maha Bodhi Centenary Volume 1891-1991, 98(7-12), p.228.
  7. Bell, H., 1914. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon Plans and Plates for Annual Report 1894. Colombo, Ceylon: Archaeological Survey of Ceylon.

Also See

Map of Vijayarama Aramic Complex at Anuradhapura

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Driving Directions to Vijayarama Aramic Complex at Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura can be reached through many routes from Colombo. The two main routes are through Puttlam (Puttalama) and though Kurunegala. Traveling from Puttlam you will pass scenic Wilpattu area. the From Kurunegala there are two main routes to Anuradhapura. The most common route is through Dambulla. The other route is though Galgamuwa. Out of all the routes, the commonly used is the Kurunegala – Dambulla route (Route 2).

Route 01 from Colombo to Anuradhapura

Route 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura

Through : Negombo - Chillaw - Puthlam
distance from colombo :213 km
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Dambulla
distance from Colombo : 221 km
Travel time : 3.15 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps

Route 03 from Colombo to Anuradhapura

Route from Kandy to Anuradhapura

Through : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Padeniya - Thambuthegama
distance from colombo :213 km
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Katugastota - Matale - Dambulla
distance from Colombo :139 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Route from Anuradhapura Railway Station to Vijayarama Aramic Complex
Distance : 5 km
Travel time : 10 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map

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