Kurundi Rajamaha Viharaya


The Kurundi Rajamaha Viharaya, situated in the ruins of Kurundumale in the Mulathivu district, holds immense historical significance. This site has been a subject of contention among politicians, with debates surrounding its identity as either a Buddhist site or a Hindu Kovil. The ruins of Kurundumale were first extensively documented in an archaeological report dating back to 1905. Although an inscription recorded at the site has since disappeared, it was officially declared a protected archaeological site in August 2013 through a gazette notification.

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The Kurundi Rajamaha Viharaya is a site of historical importance located in the ruins of Kurundumale in Sri Lanka's Mulathivu district. Over the years, this site has been debated and controversial due to conflicting claims regarding its religious affiliation. The ruins of Kurundumale have a rich history that dates back centuries, and their preservation and exploration are crucial to understanding the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.

The Controversy Surrounding Kurundi Rajamaha Viharaya

The controversy surrounding Kurundi Rajamaha Viharaya arises from differing opinions on whether it is primarily a Buddhist site or a Hindu Kovil. Some assert its Buddhist heritage, linking it to the arrival of Mahinda Thero, while others argue for its Hindu significance. Despite these debates, the site has been officially recognized and declared a protected archaeological site, emphasizing its historical value.

Historical Documentation of the Ruins

The ruins of Kurundumale have been extensively documented throughout history. One notable account is the archaeological report compiled in 1905, which provided valuable insights into the site's significance. Unfortunately, an inscription once recorded at the site has vanished over time. However, recognising its importance led to its designation as a protected archaeological site through an official gazette notification in August 2013.

The Arrival of Mahinda Thero and the Helatuwa Collection

To fully grasp the importance of the Kurundi Rajamaha Viharaya, we must delve into the arrival of Mahinda Thero in 250 BC. During this period, the teachings of the Buddha were primarily conveyed in the language of Pali. The Atuwa, which consisted of texts written in Pali, provided detailed explanations of the deeper aspects of the Tripitaka. When Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka, local priests began documenting these profound analyses in the local language of Hela Basa. This collection of texts was collectively known as Helatuwa and encompassed three Attakatha: Maha Attakathawa, Pachchari Attakathawa, and Kurundi Attakathawa.

The Kurundi Attakathawa was believed to be documented at the Kurundavashoka Viharaya, also known as Kurundashoka Viharaya, in Kurundumale. According to the Mahavamsa, the Kurundavashoka Monastery was constructed by King Kallatanaga (109-104 BC). The historical records further highlight various donations from King Aggabodhi I (575-608) and King Vijayabahu I (1070-1110) to this monastery.

Significant Ruins at Kurundumale

The first detailed report on the ruins of Kurundumale was presented by Mr J. Penry Lewis, the Government Agent of the Northern Province, in his 1895 report on the Vanni district. The most significant ruins in the province can be found at Kuruntanurmalai, or Piyangala, located at the southern end of the Kuruntankulam tank embankment. It is speculated that the Buddha visited this spot during his second journey to Ceylon. A flight of stone steps leads from the bund's end to the hill's summit, which is flat and elliptical. A retaining wall made of squared blocks of hard altered gneiss, approximately 7 to 8 feet high, encircled the hill's side facing the bund.

The hill bears several ruins, including those behind the northern part of the bund. Unfortunately, many of these structures have suffered dilapidation, primarily due to intentional defacement by later Tamil occupants rather than the passage of time. Approximately halfway between the southern end of the bund and its southernmost point lies the site of an ancient temple featuring a stone representation of a five-headed cobra.

Beyond the bund are ruins of at least three temples or significant buildings, such as Madukanda, Mahakachetkodi, and Iratperiyakulam. These structures boasted three parallel rows of squared stone pillars, with some having had more than three rows. Among the essential elements are two standing doratupla stones adorned with carved figures of guardian goddesses, resembling those found at Madulcanda. However, these stones were partially buried, and the space between them, which likely housed a flight of steps, has become completely submerged, with a tree growing in its midst. (Stones from Kuruntanurmalai were removed, presumably in 1858, to construct the Mullivaykkal temple. The temple's doorway is built from carved stones from this site.)

One of the two makara torana stones, which form the bahistiacle of the steps like at Madukanda, now lies on the surface, turned on its side. The other stone is likely buried nearby. The top step was uncovered upon excavation, indicating that the entire structure is probably in situ. Additionally, a large inscribed slab can be found at the site. Another section of the ruins features a roughly executed figure of a bull, with its head broken but still present, alongside a figure representing a worshipper. These figures are undoubtedly remnants of the Hindu temple constructed after the Tamil invasion.

Moreover, a considerable heap of bricks, potentially the remains of a dagoba, can be found on the premises, accompanied by pillars scattered in various locations. The inscription refers to the town or large village built on the barriers, known as Kurungama, with the Tamil name Kuruntanur. The later Tamil residents erected a temple in this area, demolishing the vihara initially built by Sanghabodhi and other structures. Almost all the bricks and stonework were transferred to the newly constructed temple. The precise time when the tank was breached, and the town was abandoned remains unknown. However, habitation has not been indicated since the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

In conclusion, the ruins at Kurundumale, also known as Kurundumalei, in the Mulathivu district hold significant historical and archaeological importance. Despite debates regarding its religious affiliation, the site has been recognized as a protected archaeological site. With its roots dating back to Mahinda Thero's arrival in Sri Lanka, Kurundumale is believed to house the Kurundi Attakatha, a valuable Buddhist text. The ruins present a complex landscape with various structures, including temples, pillars, and inscribed slabs, indicating the existence of a thriving ancient town. These historical remnants provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka and serve as a testament to the nation's vibrant past.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Is Kurundumale a Buddhist site or a Hindu Kovil? Kurundumale has been debated, with some claiming it to be a Hindu Kovil and others asserting its Buddhist heritage. However, it has been declared a protected archaeological site, signifying its historical significance.

Q2. Who built the Kurundavashoka Monastery? According to the historical records, the Kurundavashoka Monastery was constructed by King Kallatanaga (109-104 BC).

Q3. What are the significant ruins at Kurundumale? The significant ruins at Kurundumale include the hill of Kuruntanurmalai, Madukanda, Mahakachetkodi, Iratperiyakulam, stone pillars, carved figures of guardian goddesses, a makara torana stone, an inscribed slab, a figure of a bull, a worshipper figure, and remnants of a Hindu temple.

Q4. Why did the structures at Kurundumale suffer dilapidation? The structures at Kurundumale suffered dilapidation primarily due to intentional defacement by later Tamil occupants rather than the passage of time.

Q5. When has Kurundumale declared a protected archaeological site? Kurundumale was officially declared a protected archaeological site in August 2013 through a gazette notification.


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