WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

Somawathie Chetiya

The Somawathi Chaithya is located by the bank of the Mahaveli River within the Sanctuary named after it and nearly 20 km north east of Polonnaruwa. The flood plains of Mahaveli River have been inhibited by a large number of wild animals ranging from elephants, wild buffalo, deer and other grass-eating animals fed by the luxuriously growing grasslands. The animals are protected by the declaration of Wasgomuwa Strict Natural Reserve, Flood Plains National Park, Trikonamadu Natural Reserve and the Somawathi Chaithya Sanctuary all located to embrace low laying banks of the mighty river.

The ancient place of Buddhist worship lying within the Polonnaruwa District was a casualty of war and had been deserted for 15 years. When the villagers and the temple priest flew the area in fear, the restoration work of the Chaithya had to be abandoned.

Five years ago, it was reported that the Pinnacle Gem of the Dagoba (Chuda Manikyaya) was missing and feared to have been stolen. But recently the villagers who cleared the Dagoba compound found the Pinnacle Gem in the nearby thicket. The Department of Archaeology states that most likely the Gem would have fallen off the pinnacle due to corrosion. The Dagoba and the temple that was deserted for 15 long years have been spared of being ravaged.

The proud Sri Lankan cultural heritage is intimately linked to the Wewa and Dagaba (Stupa), symbolising the twin heritage we have in Sri Lanka - a glorious series of stupas and reservoirs. Nestling on the banks of the Mahaweli Ganga (The River of Great Sands) is the historical Somawathie Chetiya in Polonnaruwa where Lord Buddha’s right Tooth Relic is enshrined.

Ancient chronicles of Sri Lanka state that the very first Arahant of this country Ven. Aritta, visited the abode of Gods and brought back to Sri Lanka the Sacred Right Tooth of the Enlightened One. This Holy Relic was handed over, in turn, to king Giri Abha and his consort Queen Somawathie who was King Kavantissa’s sister. Queen Somawathie had a yearning to construct a Stupa in adoration of the Buddha.

The King himself agreed to this idea with undiminished enthusiasm. Giri Abha explored a possible site to construct this Stupa. In the course of his survey, he came upon an area, where Bhikkhus led by Arahant Mahinda resided. When the Vice King suggested his idea to Arahant Mahinda, he silently gave his consent to the Stupa building project. This location was known as Somapura. There were companions, Stupa-s named Kumbanacchaduwa (Identified as the place where Kadol Elephant died) Gal Amuna, Sangabodhigama and Vihara Surangala.

The drift to the South West of the ancient Kingdoms from Polonnaruwa to Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunegala, Gampola, and Kotte signalled the deterioration of Rajarata.

After the advent of the Portuguese the Dutch and the Britishers, the plantation economy over-shadowed the agrarian economy. By this turn of events, our irrigation systems deteriorated and the cultural values changed.

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka