The Oldest Royal Peace Treaty at Sangamuwa Rajamaha Viharaya
War is tearing our beautiful little country into shreds. War between brother communities, who share so much of each others cultural and religious heritage. War worn factions act like zombies in the name of rights and privileges. The misunderstandings and misgivings, arise from their very own akin-ness. Ruthless decisions, accumulating in devastating consequences.
This is the atmosphere we live in today. But like everything, we are getting used to it all – the tension, the suspicion, the bloodshed and massacre.
Long ago two such warring factions realized the uselessness of such carnage and called it a day with a peace agreement writ on rock, atop a local mountain.
When we were told of the Sangamuwa Viharaya in the Gokarella division of Kurunegala we thought its lesson appropriate for today and worth a visit to the location. We were told that there is a rock inscription believed to be one of the oldest peace agreements in the world between two warring local factions.
It was one early morning that we met our good friends Aloye Premathilake and Daya Ranasinghe, the previous Pradeshiya Sabha chairman of Ibbagamuwa, who told us about this place and had volunteered to take us there.
The turn off to the site was along the Dambulla road, past Gokarella.
The inscription chiseled on the rock floor of the hill overlooks fertile valleys and the picturesque Meddaketiya Wewa with its fringe of coconut palms. It is indeed a beautiful setting to have been chosen by the ancients to witness an important agreement.
According to the information given at the site the inscription of medieval Sinhalese is attributed to King Gajabahu II (1132 – 1153 AC) and has been interpreted to contain an agreement to cease waging war between Gajabahu II and Parakramabahu I (1153 – 1186 AC).
The inscription translation reads thus:
“Prosperity! We are the two brothers-in-law, Gajabahu and Parakramabahu who come down in unbroken succession in the illustrious Mahasammata lineage and who valued the absolute truth. According to this treaty we shall not wage war against each other till the end of our lives. If any one of us is first to pass away, the other who survives will be in possession of the (Kingdom). If there be any kings who are enemies of either of us, they are enemies of both of us. If we do anything against this agreement, it will be as if we have transgressed the command of the Triple Gem.
We shall (also) never be delivered from hell. May this writing protect the world as long as the Moon and the Stars last. May this union of these two people, whose wealth is used for the benefit of others, be suffused with love.”
It is a beautiful piece of writing setting out the sun and the moon as witnesses to their majestic intentions.
Close by, another rock slab contains eight rock cut inscriptions which have been identified to have been written in post Brahmi characters.
An assortment of antiquities found in the area can also be seen here and includes guard stones and moonstones of very early periods and parts of a stone umbrella forming the apex of an ancient dagoba.
The Venerable priest in charge of the Temple told us the area lies littered with ruins of ancient buildings including the site where the peace agreement took place. Twelve caves have also been identified in the area.
The remains of an ancient dagoba now lies as a mass of earth and broken bricks. A stone slab altar balances on broken bricks and rubble upon which are simple white flower offerings laid there on that Poya day.
A climb further up the mountain treats you to an even better view of the Meddaketiya Wewa. A steep stairway has been built giving easy access to the rock cave shrine at the summit. Half way through, we stopped to admire the surrounding beauty and there at our feet was a charming little rock pool, where in the cloud-reflected waters smiled pink lotus flowers.
The temple shrine room was tucked cozily into a boulder at the summit. The small rock recess was entered through a ‘Makara’ archway and decorated with Kandyan period paintings. Amongst its decorative motifs so prettily blended was a tiny square wooden window on the top part of the wall.
Ranasinghe drew our attention to a path by the side of the present cave which led to the site where once an older cave shrine had stood. The rock had fallen off and now only parts of the split boulder hung precariously to the precipice. The only identifiable marks were the crumbling plaster of its frescoes.
Map of Sangamuwa Rajamaha Viharaya
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
Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.
Travel Directions to Sangamuwa Rajamaha Viharaya
Route from Colombo to Sangamuwa Rajamaha Viharaya
Route from Kurunegala to Sangamuwa Rajamaha Viharaya
|Through : Kelaniya – Ambepussa – Kueunegala – Gokarella|
Distance : 115 km
Travel time : 2.5 hours.
Driving directions : see on google map
|Through : Gokarella|
Distance : 22 km
Travel time : 30 minutes.
Driving directions : see on google map
Sangamuwa Viharaya  : Remains of Regalia
Although ours is a small island we had a great history. Kings and queens, grand heroes and heroines, noble and eminent monks all collaborated to achieve progress of the country. Epigraphs, archives, historical stories and folklore call us back to our own heritage.
Sangamuwa is located about 20 miles away from Kurunegala. It is close to the Kurunegala-Dambulla main road. Just passing Gokerella village there is a junction called Dolosdaha. To the right side of the Dolosdaha junction a road goes up to Meddeketiya (Wewa) reservoir. In front of the Meddeketiya Wewa there is the ancient and valued Sangamuwa temple and archaeological site.
Sangamuwa was a very important monastery during Anuradhapura era. It is said that a large number of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunnis achieved enlightenment here. According to the historic evidence Arahath Malaiyadeva Maha Thera was also enlightened at Sangamuwa sacred site. One of the 10 main generals of King Dutugemunu, Gotabhaya’s wife was also enlightened after she was ordained as a Bhikkunni at Sangamuwa. After the victory of the Vijithapura battle between the Kings Dutugamunu and Elara, the armies were released to go their own ways. Then Gotabhaya had gone to live in the Buddhist way. His wife also had come to her own village, presently known as Sangamuwa. And she became a Bhikkuni. She takes attained enlightenment. Sangamuwa has a rich heritage. Actually it is the place of the first and only epigraph of a peace agreement recorded in world history.
This epigraph gains a good testimonial to the country and its rulers. Prosperity! We are the two brothers in law, Gajabahu and Parakramabahu, who came down in unbroken succession in the illustrious Mahasammata lineage. According to this treaty we shall not wage war against each other to the end of our lives. If it is anyone of us is first to pass away, the other who survives will be in possession of the kingdom. If there be any kings who are enemies of either of us, they are enemies of both us. If we do anything against the agreement command of the Triple gem.
We shall (also) never be delivered from hell. May this writing protect the world as long as the Moon and the Stars last. May this union of these two people, whose wealth is used for the benefit of others, be suffused with love.
In fact one of the combats caused to establish the inscription. Parakkramabahu I and Gajabahu II were two brothers in law. But once they fell into a conflict about the crown. And they got scared of each other and hid in the same place. Unexpectedly the place was Sangamuwa.
Incidentally one morning they happened to meet face to face. It caused conflict again. But with the mediation of a monk, they stopped their combat and promised to build the country for a prosperous future. Then the incident created a deep message for the future generation.
The Sangamuwa temple belongs to the 3rd century. There were so many kings who reconstructed the Sangamuwa and King Dhatusena had built the Meddeketiya Weva.
In fact Sanganuwa is a former natural fortress. There are four ranges of hills that can be seen surrounding Sangamuwa. In the ancient period there were four moats around Sangamuwa too.
Lindakotugala, Belagala, Mawathagala and Viharagala are the four hills ranges and Meddeketiya Weva, Paalugam Weva,Badabadda Weva (now it is a paddy field) and in the south the evidence of an ancient ruined reservoir could be seen.
Sangamuwa is a very gloomy place. But naturally the place is very clam. The rural background has not directly converted to the modern society. But very little infrastructure is there in the rural area. There is no electricity even to the temple.
Sangamuwa and other near by villages are located in Meddeketiya Gramasewaka division. There are so many neglected villages in that area – Hiddapitiya is one.
According to Ven. Aluthgama Mangala Thera, the only monk seen in this ancient monastery, the people are financially helpless.
“Candidates visit our village and take our people for a good ride with so many votes. I am not going to ask for electricity until politicians keep their promises. May be my idea is peculiar, but justice should be done.” Ven. Mangala Thera said.
So many kings have repaired and reconstructed the temple and Meddeketiya Weva several times. There are so many archaeological remains that can be found buried under about five feet below. The remains of an ancient dagoba, and palace, cave with drip ledge can be seen at this site. The paintings belong to Nilagama generation artists of the Kandy period. Post Brahmin characters, guardstones, moonstones, umbrellastones (Upasthambaya) portray an excellent era.
“Archaeological department of north western province had tried to excavate the land many a time. But they did not dig the land according to our requirements. The digging of the land should be done under the inspection of both parties.” The Thera said.
Artefacts found in an excavation are kept at the site for the people’s observation. That means the authority can make a suitable spot like a small cottage, as a museum to protect the archaeological objects. But the officers disagreed to my requirements.
“I don’t have enough confidence about these officers. How could we rest assured that they would not damage the sanctity of this sacred land?” Ven Mangala Thera questioned.
Although Sangamuwa is an archaeological site the temple authority cannot do any construction without the Government permission. The Archaeological department cannot do anything beyond the request of temple authority.
Treasure hunters have tried to excavate the dagoba a number of times.
The temple bell has been stolen about seven months back. Ven Mangala Thera said the police did not take any serious action on the robbery.
If the situation will continue this way, soon valuable artefacts in the archaeological site will disappear from the ground. The solitary kingdom may be dead over time.