WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

Dematamal Viharaya

By D.B. Kappagoda

Ruhuna or Rohana in the deep South of Lanka has many Buddhist monasteries scattered throughout the entire area steeped in history. Dematamal Viharaya is one such monastery that lies four kilometres from Buttala town on the road to the historic Maligawala Bodhisatva statue.

The viharaya, frequented by pilgrims from distant places , can be seen from a distance amidst paddy fields. The viharaya has become increasingly important because of the historical findings within the monastery premises. The other reason is the historical background dating back to the times of the two Princes Dutugemunu and Tissa.

The early period of the viharaya can be dated to the times of King Mahanaga who ruled Ruhuna in the 3rd century BC. The buildings of the viharaya went into ruins and King Kavantissa, father of Prince Dutugemunu and Prince Tissa, whose suzerainty extended from Magampathuwa renovated the viharaya to its former state.

After his death, the struggle for power began between his two sons namely Prince Dutugemunu and Prince Tissa, each claiming the right of ownership of the royal tusker Kandula and the queen mother Viharamaha Devi. It resulted in two battles in which one was won by Prince Dutugemunu and the other by Prince Tissa.

The legend relates how Prince Tissa lost and fled to Dematamal Viharaya where the chief incumbent Ven. Gonashanka Tissa Thera who saved the life of the prince. Prince Dutugemunu it is said, after entering the vihara premises, inquired from the chief incumbent the whereabouts of his brother who at that time was hiding underneath the bed of the Maha Thera.

Prince Dutugemunu realized what happened and politely asked the Thera for his brother. The VenerableThera was not willing to accede to his request and remained silent. The prince thereafter placed his soldiers in vulnerable places to prevent the hiding prince from escaping.

Prince Tissa stayed within the viharaya for some days and a plan was drawn up for him to escape. Accordingly he was carried on a bed in the guise of a dead monk. The samaneras carried the bed, on seeing this act it was said, Prince Dutugemunu remarked, "Tissa, never get carried on the shoulders of monk." Later the chief monk brought about unity between two brothers and this unity remained throughout their life time.

After sometime, the brothers with their mother Queen Viharamaha Devi cultivated the area surrounding Digamadulla and made Ruhuna prosperous. It is said to test the prosperity of the people a man was sent with a winnowing fan (kulla) full of paddy, from house to house.

No one came forward to buy the paddy. On hearing the prosperity of the people Dutugemunu had said to his brother. "Govithan Kala Athimale" (its enough that we have cultivated younger brother) and this remark later came to be called, "Athimale."

Another story relates, Prince Dutugemunu who saw his brother which came to be called "Dutumal," later became Dutumal and Dematamal. The present viharaya has ruins of Seemamalaka (boundaries of poyage), stupa, bodhighara (Where Bodhi tree was worshipped) and a rare Muragala (Guard stone).

The Muragala has a figure of a man and a woman in a pose showing the state of intimacy. Behind the man's head are "Na pena" (cobra heads) giving a sense of mystery to the stone carving of the figures. In the figures of Muragala of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa the Naga King is shown.

He is "a beneficial being guarding the waters and other celestial as well as terrestrial" says Anuradha Seneviratna. The Naga figures are commonly carved a rock slabs near wevas in Raja Rata. They are depicted as animal and human beings and the hoods of cobras form as a head dress.

The guard stones are placed in front of balustrades leading to monasteries. The figure of the guard holds a vase with flowers is a decorative figure meant to prevent evil influences and to bring about prosperity on those visiting the shrine. (Source: Daily Mirror)

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