Ruins of Ancient Sapumalgaskada Buddhist Monastery in Vavuniya – වවුනියාව සපුමල්ගස්කඩ ආරාම පුරාවිද්‍යා භූමිය

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The large Stupa mound at the Ancient Sapumalgaskada Buddhist Monastery in Vavuniya

The large Stupa mound at the Ancient Sapumalgaskada Buddhist Monastery in Vavuniya
photo by : Santhabodhi Thero

The northern part of Sri Lanka was inaccessible to the Sri Lankans for over 30 years due to the LTTE terrorists controlling the most of this area. After the defeat of the LTTE in 2009, this area has seen a massive development in the infrastructure and facilities enabling any Sri Lankan to travel and visit any area.

Along with this freedom to access these forbidden jungles, ruins of hundreds of ancient Buddhist sites hidden in the jungles of Mullaitivu District, Vavuniya District, Mannar District and  Kilinochchi District have been discovered by the Army. Due to 30+ years of ethnic cleansing of Tamil Tiger Terrorists supported by Tamil politicians, Buddhist villages which supported few monks in some of these temples also have disappeared.

Ruins found at Sapumalgaskada is one such ancient aramic complex now lying in middle of the virgin shrub jungle off Kalebogaswewa. According to legend, the tooth relic of Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from the port of Lankapatuna in Trincomalee and the procession had traveled though Sapumalgaskada on its way to Anuradhapura. The procession had briefly rested at this site and the relic deposited in a specially built hall and one of the ruined buildings at the site is still called the Dalada Maligawa (relic house).

Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero has identified this temple as the Ran Maduwa Viharaya. In this context, Maduwa means Mandapaya (platform) giving the meaning Gold Platform for Ran Manduwa. The ruins at the site spreads an area of about 15 acres. At the center lies the main structures. Two rows of  8.5 feet high stone pillars suggests a large ancient image house. At one end of the building stands an ancient Buddha Statue on a recently made pedestal. The statue is 6.5 feet tall and has a pleasing appearance. The folds of the robe of the statue resembles the Awkana Buddha statue, though small in size. According to tradition, this statue has been brought here from a near by Buddhist archaeological site known as Kolongolla.  An unfinished stone door frame, some pillars and a foundation can be seen in front of the image house.  The 6.5 feet stone Buddha statue reported by Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero is no longer found at the site, probably destroyed by treasure hunters or carried away by extremist elements.

About 50 yards east of the Image House is a stupa now resembling a mound of earth. This stupa too has faced the same fate of other ancient stupas in the hands of treasure hunters. It has been dug from the top multiple times in search of valuable treasures in the relic chamber. This mound measures 150 feet in circumference and 8 feet in height. It has stood on a terrace made of stone. The ground has been paved in stone slabs. Part of a seated Buddha statue and a stone flower alter now lies near this stupa mound. About 150 feet of length of a wall running around the platform can be traced today.

A stone pillar with a folk at the top measuring 7 feet 4 inches is a curious artifact at the site indicating existance of more artistic buildings in the vicinity. Number of huge Araliya trees (Temple trees) which looks about 100 years old tells that this site has been occupied by priests at  the turn of 20th century and of a Buddhist community around the temple.

According to mawbima.lk article in June 2019, a number of artifacts at this site had been destroyed and some large Moonstones, Guard stones and Korawakgal (balustrades) has been stolen recently by Hindu Extremists. After the end of the LTTE, there has been a tendency to claim all ancient Buddhist archaeological sites in the Northern and the Eastern provinces to build Hindu Kovils fumed by racist Tamil Politicians. Recently an attempt was made to destroy the buildings used by the priests and  build a Hindu Kovil at the Sapumalgaskada Archaeological site too but few Buddhists now living this area had been able to thwart the attempt at least for this time.

To reach the site, you need to travel to Bogaswewa which lies off Vavuniya. From Bogaswewa, take the road towards the ancient Kalebogaswewa  Reservoir. Travel another 1.5 kms passing the reservoir across the jungle on the same road to reach the turn off to the Sapumalgaskada Monastery. Then you need to travel a further 1 km on this jungle by-road to reach to site. The last 3+ km of this gravel road is through thick jungles where Elephants roam. Therefore it is not advisable to travel on this road after dark.

primary source : The Sinhala Buddhist Heritage in the East and the North of Shri Lanka by Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera

 

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Map of  Ruins of Ancient Sapumalgaskada Buddhist Monastery


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Traveling Directions to Ruins of Ancient Sapumalgaskada Buddhist Monastery

Route from Vavuniya to Ruins of Ancient Sapumalgaskada Buddhist Monastery

Through : Etambagaskada – Mamaduwa – Eropathana – Bogaswewa
Time to spend – 1-2  hours
Distance : 37  km
Travel time : 1.15 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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