The Lost Sri Wardhana Bodhi in Kiliveddy

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Kottiyarama was an ancient port in Sri Lanka. Today this is known as Koddiyar Bay, the southern portion of the Trincomalee Bay. Unfortunately, this is the only reminder we have of ancient Kottiyarama today. The land between the south of Mahaweli Ganga River, the north of Verugal Aru River and the ocean on the east has been identified as the ancient Kottiyarama.

It is confirmed from the inscriptions and other sources that this area was called Kottasara (කොට්ඨසාර) or Kotasara (කොටසර) during the medieval times. From the Dambadeni period to the 1960s, it was known as Kottiaram Patthu, but there is not a single piece of land with the names Kotasara or Kottiarama today.  The land known as Kottiaram Patthu is now divided into three administrative areas Echalampattu, Seruvavila and Muttur. 

It said that one of the “Dethis Pala Maha Bodhi“, the first batch of 32 saplings of the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura was planted at Kottiyarama in the ancient text, Sinhala Bodhiwamsa.

According to the historic text Dhathuvamsa, the ancient Bodhi Tree in the village called Kiliveddy, belonged to the Mangala Maha Seya in Seruwila. However, the Siriwardhana Bodhi planted by King Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BCE) has been receiving veneration from the king of Sri Lanka long before Mangala Maha Seya. Therefore Siriwardhana Bodhiya was second only to the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura in sanctity and antiquity (Mathew, 1983).

Historian Ven. Elllawala Thero visited this site and examined it in 1965. He states;

The. large Bodhi Tree at this place is very much interesting. Its age can be more than a thousand years. Some eight stone pillars, a moonstone, three slabs belonging to a flight of steps, and some foundation stones and bricks are seen inside the overgrown stems and roots – of the tree. The only carving on the face of the moonstone, a Lotus design, suggests that it belongs to the 4th or 5th Century. The ways the ruins are situated prove that they belong to a Bodhighara.

Repopulation of Kiliveddy with Hindus

Restored by Robert William Durard Moir (1870/1876), who served as a Trincomalee Vice-Governor, the Mangalai Reservoir was soon rendered destitute by an unexpected flood that destroyed the villages around it. The government gave permission to build houses for the displaced in a place called Kiliveddi, near the 17th mile post on the road between Muttur and Batticaloa. The displaced Tamil farmers took the Ganesha idol and the Bell from the Kandalingam Swami temple in the destroyed Tirumangala village to the Sivan Kovil in Thangaveli village and the Lingam to the Verugal Kovil. The Mari Amman idol was brought to Kiliveddi and was deposited next to the ruins around the Kiliveddi Bodhi tree.

In the 1950s, Prime Minister D. S. After Senanayakeya established the Allai farming colony, the government established a bridge ferry over the Kallar Canal, so all the colonists travelled to Muttur and Trincomalee by the path near this Bo tree. 

Lay Custodians of Sri Wardhana Bodhi in Kiliveddy

At that time, a Buddhist known by the name Upasaka Appuhami, who was a landowner in Dehiwatta village, voluntarily became the guardian of the Kiliveddi Bo tree and removed the rubbish that had been piled up for a period of time around the Bo tree and made it a custom to put flower lamps in the evening and make offerings. Due to his dedication and efforts, before too much time passed, the Bodhi of Kiliveddy became a place of worship for the Buddhists of the Allai Colony. Since there was no safe land route to Trincomalee at that time, every Buddhist who travelled through the dangerous forest made it a custom to offer offerings to the Bo tree. Every woman who wished for an easy childbirth came here and made Bodhi Pooja. Upasaka Appuhami recited Seth Kavi and received blessings from the deities.

After the death of the aged Upasaka Appuhami, the responsibility of maintaining all the rituals and offerings he made daily to the Bo tree was taken over by a devout businessman named Justice of the Peace Martin who owned a shop nearby and his two sons. Mr Martin, who had different characteristics from Upasaka Appuhami, collected the offerings offered by the devotees to the Bo tree and held a procession and Bodhi Puja together with the local Buddhists every Poya day. From time to time Sri Sumedhankara Nayaka Thero of Seruvila Mangala Maha Viharaya was invited to the Bodhi Shrine and conducted Buddhist preachings.

Massacre of Sinhalese of Kiliveddi

Time passed slowly. One dark and rainy night, an unknown group armed with sticks attacked all the houses of the Sinhalese in Kiliveddi, chased them away and burnt them. Only the walls of Mr. Martin’s shop were left unburnt by the fire. He and his family saved their lives by drowning in a mud swamp in the Kallar canal and covering their heads with lotus leaves. All Bodhi Pujas stopped.

Destruction of the Bodhi by Hindus and Desperate Attempts to Save the Holy Tree

This Bodhi tree received the veneration of the Buddhists until 1970. Some of the branches of the Siriwardhana Bodhi were cut down in 1970 on the pretext of providing telephone lines to the residence of Mr Thangadorai, a federal party MP elected to the Mutur seat in 1970. Although the government officials up to the Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike were informed, no action was taken. In 1971, it was reported that a kovil was under construction adjacent to the Siriwardhana Bodhi.

In 1976 the Government Agent of Trincomalee, Mr Eric J, de Silva, had reported to the Superintendent of Police, Trincomalee that it had been brought to his notice that a few more branches of the Bodhi Tree had been cut on 02.08.1976 and plans were afoot to cut more and more branches of the Bodhi Tree with a view to totally destroying it during the last few days of a Hindu festival which was being held in the neighbourhood. He has also added that a tense situation was building up among the Sinhalese Buddhists of the area as a result of these acts.

Two days later Mr Eric J De Silva visited the Bodhi tree all that he was able to see was only a ten-foot stump of the sacred Bodhi Tree which had received the veneration of devotees for centuries. When the Government Agent went to the site on 4th April 1977 for an inspection tour he discovered that not even a trace of the Bodhi tree was in existence at the site. Even the remaining stumps of the Bodhi have been destroyed. A new Kovil was been built on the site where the Bodhi stood, resulting in two kovils at the place where this historic Sri Vardhana Bodhi stood.

After the complete destruction of the Sri Vardhana Bodhi and its surrounding ruins, the government declared this site as an archaeological reserve by a gazette on 14th December 1979. Subsequently, two heads of the Buddha and a few Roman coins were discovered beside the heads. The Buddha heads have been dated to the 4th century CE. In the vicinity has been a Buddhist monastic establishment belonging to the 2nd century CE.

However, today the place where the holy Sri Wardhana Bodhi once stood is the sand-covered courtyard of Kiliveddy Sri Muthtu Maariyamman Temple.

References

  1. Mathew, C., 1983. An Appeal to UNESCO to Safeguard and Preserve the Cultural Property in Sri Lana Endangered by Racial Prejudice, Unlawful Occupation or Wilful Destruction, pVIII.
  2. Medhānanda, E., 2005. The Sinhala Buddhist heritage in the East and the North of Shri [i.e. Sri] Lanka. 1st ed. Colombo: Dayawansa Jayakody & Co. , pp.193-194.
  3. Sirisena, P.L. (2009) මාරි අම්මාට බිලිවූ කිලිවෙඩ්ඩියේ ඓතිහාසික බෝධිරාජයා, තණ්හා සෑඩපහර තරණය. Available at: https://rightmindfulness.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/මාරි-අම්මාට-බිලිවූ-කිලිව/ (Accessed: 28 November 2023).

Also See

Map of Sri Wardhana Bodhi in Kiliveddy

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Travel Directions to Sri Wardhana Bodhi in Kiliveddy

Route from Trincomalee town to Sri Wardhana Bodhi in Kiliveddy
Through : Muttur
Distance : 40 km
Travel Time : 1 hour
Driving Directions : see on Google map

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