WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka


Archaeological eminence of the Ramba Vihara

by Ravi Ladduwahetty

Maha Nagakula was the capital of medieval Sri Lanka in 11th century AD.

The Ramba Vihara was the temple of the Maha Nagakula city where a large number of artifacts have been found, leading to research studies on the new Southern Cultural Triangle encompassing Tissamaharama, Moneragala and Hambantota.

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The proposed area of excavation

Here, retired Senior Professor of History and Archaeology of the Sri Jayawardenapura University, Editor of the Sinhala Encyclopedia and Coordinating Director of the Ruhunu Cultural Triangle Prof. Mendis Rohanadheera speaks to Daily News Heritage, spelling out the historical and archaeological significance of the Ramba Vihara and the proposed explorations surrounding that area aimed at finding the role of Maha Nagakula as the Southern capital during medieval times - 11th and 12th Centuries AD, a landmark in the contemporary history of Sri Lanka.

Eminent historians and archaeologists such as Dr. Senerath Paranavithana and Charles Godakumbura (who were both Commissioners of Archaeology) have identified this venue as Mahanagakula of medieval Sri Lanka during 11th century.

The Ramba Viharaya was the Royal Temple. It was also the venue where King Vijayabahu I arrived at in the year 1055 and stayed for 15 years who was planning to house the Chola empire there. Sri Lanka was under the Chola hegemony for a period of 53 years.

He was canvassing for anti Ramanna Desas such as Burma, Kalinga and Pandiyan countries to form an alliance against the Cholas. He effected a three pronged attack to surround Polonnaruwa and evicted the Cholas. z_ramba2.jpg (56280 bytes)

His son Vikramabahu continued to reign from where he stopped and Prince Parakramabahu continued. These are the facts which have provoked the historians and archaeologists to delve into research. There have been a large number of monuments scattered in a land area of 200 acres of dense jungle.

Prof. Rohanadheera proposed to Mr. Lakshman Jayakody the need to commence explorations there and with it, the Souther Cultural Triangle was launched.

The projects is within Sri Lanka's first capital city- Magampura which is a part of the Southern Cultural Triangle. The three ends of the Southern Cultural Triangle are Tissamaharamaya, Moneragala and Ambalantota.

There are only monuments relating to the religious establishment. Archaeologists are expecting to make more discoveries on the subject.

The location is on the left bank of the Walawe Ganga. On the right flank of the Ramba Vihara is the Ridiyagama Wewa.

With the excavations in progress, it has been revealed that there has been a massive civilisation in the Ridiyagama Wewa, which has been built during the British period.

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The restored Ramba Vihara dagaba

Prior to that there had been a very good civilisation where there had been a large number of artefacts which had followed some research explorations done by some scholars during the dry season. There had been a multitude of artefacts which were found at this site. The venue itself is unique as there had been an ancient international harbour at Godawaya with evidence to support it. Traders were in the habit of travelling from China to the Arab seas and Sri Lanka served as an ideal venue for entrepot trading for which Customs duties were levied.

Inscriptions had been found at this venue during 1st Century AD. which King Gajabahu was believed to have donated as Customs Duty for the welfare of the temple.

It is from the mouth of the Walawe Ganga that ships used to travel to Mahanagakula.

Although the excavations were commenced at the Ramba Viharaya, the entire complex has a trade centre. Archaeologists involved in the Project are confident that they will be able to find substantial discoveries further.

A very strange Buddha image has been found excavations which had been made out of white sand stone. It has been refined and preserved. This is different from what we have got from other venues.

This has been hollow. We have small plates and other shapes of pottery on which medicine could have been ground. They have to be researched and classified.

The ideal situation is to have these expanded. According to Dr. Paranavithana and Godakumbura, the entire areas which span the project area are Beminiyanwela, Rote, Pahala Rote and Mamadala. These reveal details of the 11th Century.

There has been a similar project started at Tissamaharama around three months ago on the Tissamaharama- Magama area.

When one talks about the Ramba Vihara, one has to talk about the Manawulu Sandeshaya, which is a Pali poem which comprises about 30 stanzas, which was a reply to a Buddhist priest from Ramanna Desha by the name of Maha Kashyapa who sent a letter in Pali language to the High Priest of Ramba Viharaya, inquiring about the activities in Sri Lanka.

The Manawulu Sandeshaya had been written by King Parakramabahu's heir, King Vijayabahu 11. It is believed that it was at that time, According to the chronicles, the Chief Priest was Nagasena. There is an inscription is written in Pali about the Ramba Vihara.

It is under the Ramba (Kadali-Banana) trees at Samanera priests were learning their religion.

It is due to that derivative that the Ramba Vihara has been also referred to Kehelgamuwa.

It is during that period that ships were arriving from Ramanna Deshaya (lower Burma) at the Southern ports such as Godawaya in the 11th Century.

There has also been an inscription of the King Nissankamalla touring the South beginning from Devundera through Mulkirigala and Kasagala.

The period of Nissankamalla, who succeeded King Parakramabahu, was the last King of Polonnaruwa whose reign was significant. This area was economically flourishing during the 15th Century AD. During the Portuguese and Dutch periods, a Chief Priest by the name of Maha Kappinna had lived there. Remains including vestiges of parapet walls and water wells with clay rings and their derivatives were found during the excavations.

The aim of the project has been to find the role of Maha Nagakula as the Southern capital during medieval times - 11th and 12th Centuries AD and the Ramba Vihara is the role model monastery at Maha Nagakula during that period.

We are hopeful that there would be concrete evidence would surface and help us to identify the location of Maha Nagakula which could be a landmark in the contemporary history of Sri Lanka. However, the activities of the Central Cultural Fund has been hitherto limited to the North Central and Central Provinces, some thing has to be done in Ruhuna as well.

It with this in mind, Prof. Rohanadheera had presented a memorandum to former Minister of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs Lakshman Jayakody of the need to explore and research into the priceless artifacts in the Southern Cultural Triangle and also with a special emphasis on the Ramba Viharaya. Vestiges of a Buddha statue destroyed by treasure hunters

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka