Tamil Householders’ Terrace Inscription of Early Anuradhapura Kingdom

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Tamil Householders' Terrace inscription of Ancient  Anuradhapura Kingdom - පැරණි අනුරාධපුර අගනගරයේ දෙමල ගෘහපතිගේ සෙල්ලිපිය
Tamil Householders’ Terrace inscription of Ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom – පැරණි අනුරාධපුර අගනගරයේ දෙමල ගෘහපතිගේ සෙල්ලිපිය

As you move along the Watawandana Road from Abhayagiri Stupa passing its main refectory, Ratna Prasada and the grand moonstone, you will find the direction board to the turn of to the Deeghapashana Cave Complex named Sudassana Padanagaraya. Just opposite this turn off you will see a low rocky area on a flat plain ground which also belong to the Deegapashana rock. One rock cut in to a form of a seat carries a very rare type of a inscription found in this era which has been named as Tamil Householder’s Terrace Inscription by prof Paranavithana. The man made cavities cut in to the surrounding rock indicates that there had been a roof over this structure.

Dighapashana (Deegapashana) is a long rock outcrop stretching for over 10 kilometers in Anuradhapura staring from around current Vessagiriya ( this is the real Isurumunya before the name mix-up) extending through Ranmasu Uyana, Abhayagiri monastery and extending passing the north of the ancient Vijayarama monastery. At different times in the past, this rock outcrop has been called “Digupahana” and “Digugalvila“. Research has revealed that settlements have existed along this rock with caves which appears at various places since the the Early Iron Age (1200 BC – 600 BC). In addition, it can be observed how this rock had become a source for all the Buddhist granite structures of the Anuradhapura kingdom with the number of ancient quarries spread long the rock.

This early Brahmi inscription belonging to the pre christian era, the 3rd century BC. Mahavamsa, the Great Chronical of Sri Lanka refers to many interactions with Tamils in various situations such as invasions and settlements, very little of their life can be traced from the inscriptions. Even though there are many thousands of rock inscriptions found all over the country, there are only a handful of inscriptions giving glimpse of the Tamil community in this pre christian era. The Tamil Householder’s Terrace Inscription in Anuradhapura is one of these very few.

This inscription is inscribed on the vertical rock face of a terrace to the north west of the ancient Abhayagiriya stupa and the inscription reads:

  1. Ilubaratahi Dameda-Samane karite Dameda-Gahapatikana pásáde
  2. Sagasa ásane
  3. Nasatasa ásane
  4. Ka _ _ _ Tisaha ásane
  5.  _ _ _ ásane
  6. Kubira Sujhataha
  7. Návika Káravaha ásane

It translates as:

  1. The terrace of the Tamil householders, caused to be made by the Tamil Samana of Baratha
  2. The seat of Saga
  3. The seat of Nasata
  4. The seat of Ká _ _ _ Tissa
  5. The seat of _ _ _
  6. Of Kubira Sujáta
  7. The seat of Kárava, the mariner

This inscription shows that they preferred to use the Sinhala language of the time and that their names did not differ from the names found in other inscriptions e.g., Sujata and Tissa. However, they were conscious that they were a separate people for they called themselves Dameda. Among them was a mariner and a merchant which agrees with what we know of early Tamils from other sources. This terrace appears to have been the floor of an assembly hall where council meetings were held by a group during the Anuradhapura period. The terrace floor is of different levels and the inscription engraved in parts below each level of the terrace indicates the seating order.

This inscription mentions gahapati. It is an unusual inscription and this word is not used as a title but is used of a body of people. It refers to some “Tamil householders” for whom a terrace (pasade) had been built by a “Tamil Monk” (Dameda-Samane). The name of the monk is not identified in the script. This probably was a meeting hall for the group of Tamils. Its also interesting to note that one of the raised seats on the terrace was reserved for Karava the mariner (navika). These were probably men of means and may have been merchants. However it is not possible to say whether is group of people were traders and whether they belonged to a guild organisation.

Tamil Householders' Terrace inscription of Ancient  Anuradhapura Kingdom - පැරණි අනුරාධපුර අගනගරයේ දෙමල ගෘහපතිගේ සෙල්ලිපිය
Tamil Householders’ Terrace inscription of Ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom – පැරණි අනුරාධපුර අගනගරයේ දෙමල ගෘහපතිගේ සෙල්ලිපිය
source : PARANAVITĀNA, S., 1970. Inscriptions of Ceylon :Volume 1 : Early Brahmi Inscriptions.


  • PARANAVITĀNA, S., 1970. Inscriptions of Ceylon :Volume 1 : Early Brahmi Inscriptions. 1st ed. Colombo: Department of Archaeology, p.7.
  • Perera, L., Kiribamune., S. and Senanayake, P., 2001. The institutions of ancient Ceylon from inscriptions (from 3rd century BC to 830 AD) – Volume 1. Kandy: International Centre for Ethnic Studies.
  • Indrapala, K., 1965. Dravidian Settlements in Ceylon and the Beginning of The Kingdom of Jaffna. Ph.D. University of London.
  • Raaj de Silva, n.d. The ancient ‘Kaurava Pavilion’ at Anuradhapura. [online] Defonseka.com. Available at: <https://defonseka.com/front-page/early-history-beginnings/karava/k06/> [Accessed 23 July 2021].

Also See

Tamil Householders’ Terrace Inscription Map

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Driving Directions to Anuradhapura

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Bus

Anuradhapura is easily reached by bus, train or private transport. Air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses start at the Colombo Fort Main Bus Station. There are luxury busses which start from various places in Colomb travelling past Anuradhapura, to Vavuniya and Jaffna. However, you need to search the web and book a seat. These luxury buses mostly travel at night reaching their final destination early in the morning.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Train

5 daily trains are starting from Fort Railway Station to Anuradhapura. Generally, the first train leaves at 9.40 am and the last train at 8.30 pm. Travel time is 4-5 hours depending on the number of stops of the particular train.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Car or Van

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

Route 01 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura
Through : Negombo – Chilaw – Puttalam
Distance from Colombo : 210 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo : 223 km
Travel Time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Route 03 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute from Kandy to Anuradhapura
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Narammala – Wariyapola – Padeniya – Thambuthegama
Distance from Colombo :203 km
Travel Time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katugastota – Matale – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo :136 km
Travel Time : 3.5 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map

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