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 Post subject: Thotagamuwa Sri Rahula
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2005 9:54 pm 
Thotagamuwa Sri Rahula
The monk who charmed spirits to do his bidding

by Godwin Witane

The Thotagamuwa Viharaya was founded at the behest and patronage of no less a king than Dewanam Piyatissa, beloved of the gods in the year 237 B.C. during his reign. The Viharage and Monastery thereafter was chosen to receive favours from a galaxy of Sinhalese Royalty and even from the last unfortunate King of Kandy, who was a person of foreign Nayakkar origin. It is doubted whether any Buddhist living today other than those who are very devout have ever visited this place of great historic and cultural renown from ancient times.

This temple is situated in the village called Telwatta along the Southern sea board between Kahawa and Hikkaduwa but known as Thotagamuwa Rajamaha Viharaya from time memorial. It is also called Rat Pat Viharaya as it was once the abode of monks who had attained the noble stage of Arahathood, that is Rahat-Path, where more than 500 Arahats had lived here at one time during its heyday.

Once when the sea gods inflicked punishment on the kingdom of Kelaniya by creating huge tidal waves and rough seas which began to swallow up both land and dwellings as a result of King Kelanitissa punishing an innocent Arahat Monk by putting him in a boiling couldron of oil this place was favoured by the gods enjoyed their protection. In order to prevent the repercussions of sea erosion, as this area was along the same sea board as Kelaniya, God Sakra ordered Viswakarma, his Agent, who was capable of performing wonderful feats, to create a conciliatory image of the Buddha, which was installed at this temple to arrest the menace of sea erosion.

However even today nowhere does sea erosion attract greater attention than along the section of the sea South of Ambalangoda passing as far as Telwatta upto Hikkaduwa. During the reign of King Wijayabahu I 1070 — 1110 a Monastery was built and gifted to the Sangha. Thereafter this Pirivena was known as Wijayaba Pirivena. King Wijayabahu built here a three storied edifice and later King Parakramabahu III built another two storied one during their reign.

Parakramabahu VI of Kotte 1412 — 1478 renovated these buildings in later years and placed the prominent Monastery in charge of an illustrious and erudite monk named Thotagamuwa Sri Lanka, which rendered it famous. He was an accomplished scholar well versed in six languages and a clever exponent of the Dhamma, the Tri Pitakaya. Thus he earned the plaudits as Sad Basha Parameshwara and Tri Pitaka Vagaswara. Sri Rahula composed several celebrated poetic works and literary publications, some of which are Kavyasekaraya, Selalihi Sandesaya and Paravi Sandesaya.

Most of the Sandesas were verses imploring God Vibishana to grant blessings on the royalty and a special request to grant a son of Udukulaya Devi of Kotte. He was proficient in several languages that enabled him to produce many renowned literary works and also introduced to this country the rituals of Bali and Somashanthi for the benefit of the people to relieve them of ills and ailments by the effect of devil dancing ceremonies which are in vogue even today.

He possessed a knowledge of mystic sciences and occult art of composing Manthras or benedictions and charms in Sinhala by combining phonetical sounds and words in verse for now commonly called Seth Kavi and Vas Kavi, which carried evil or beneficial effects as intended by the author or whoever recited them correctly. His knowledge of this subject was so profound that it is alleged he commandeered a clan of spirits or Yakkas, who could fly through the air and slavishly do his bidding and perform any act envisaged by the monk for his benefit, similar to the Geni of the Lamp in the story of Alladin in the Arabian Nights.

He employed them especially to procure various medicinal herbs found in the Himalayas and elsewhere required by him for the preparation of a very potent and efficacious oil called Saraswathie Thailaya, which conferred wisdom, intelligence and retention of mental power. It is said that a single filament of hair dipped in this miraculous oil and wished seven times if drawn over one’s would immediately gift him with the accomplishments of a wise man.

Sri Rahula also employed these spirits to take him hither and thither on his various missions. They sometimes used to take the Prelate while reclining on his bed holding it shoulder high. Once having completed an assignment with an important person the monk ordered the spirits to take him back to Thotagamuwa. Being carried through the air the gentle breeze lulled him to sleep but suddenly the sound of ripples and the ocean waves made him to open his eyes to find he was ferried over a limitless ocean away from the sight of any perceivable land.

The excited Monk at once questioned the carriers where he was being taken to, they replied that they were taking him to their village according to the orders given to take him to Thotagamuwa, meaning "your village". To the great relief of the Monk they changed their direction towards the Monk’s residential temple when a hurried order was given to take him to "Matagamuwa" meaning by village. The story of Sri Rahula’s childhood days upto the time he was appointed as the Head of the Monastery by no less a person than King Parakramabahu VI of Kotte is a mystery except two legendary episodes connecting his boyhood days.

Once when the learned Monk Veedagama Maithri, his Guru, on his way to an almsgiving came across a cherubin of a boy fishing at the village pond with rod and line in hand questioned the boy as to which hell he was planning to go by indulging in a sinful pastime as taking the life of innocent fishes in the pond. "Koi Wala Yantada"? The boy’s ready answer was "If I fail in this ‘Wala’ I will go to the next" quite ignoring the sarcastic monition intended by the monk.

The browbeaten monk although defeated in his colloqouy with the urchin was highly pleased with the boy’s witty answer that he persuaded the boy’s parents to send the son to the temple for learning letters. The other instance was the boy’s audience with Royalty. The King having seen the bright face of young boy was tempted to question him about his well being to which the boy replied in innocent verse.

"Ma vemi bilinda,
Wara, Wara langata kenda,
Duk sepa kumanda,
Asana Nirindo vena koinda?"

Is there any other regent who would summon a child like me and inquire about his well being?

This verse since has gone into legend and history that the writer learnt it in school in the Kindergarten during school days. Kirti Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy 1747 — 1782 renovated the Rath Pat Viharaya.

He built a dagoba, awasaya and built a new Buduge besides the old one. Thotagamuwa Raja Maha Viharaya was a historically recognised, religiously and culturally distinguised Temple that the people of Kandy in the year 1845 thought it fit to pay homage to this ancient site by donating the Tri Pitakaya written in three Ola Books. These sacred books were brought from Kandy in procession with all pomp and glory on the back of gaily caparisoned elephants.

It is believed that the Lion is shown wearing a Crown along with the Sun and Moon displayed on one side. History records that after the arrival of the Tri Pitaka sacred books and the Flag a great Pirith Ceremony was held for several weeks followed by an almsgiving to hundreds of monks. Due to the munificence of the last King of Kandy, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe had donated many articles of value and gifted 500 gold coins for the needed repairs of the Temple which had been ransacked and valuable books and records of great value completely destroyed by the marauding Portuguese during the period they had coastal areas.

The famous monastery now exists as any other temple but retaining a few of the ancient murals that adorn the walls of the ancient Buduge. The inscriptions on the half broken stone pillars that remain around the Natha Devale if deciphered by any lithographer would reveal much needed proud history and former greatness of this once resplendent national University. The painting which are of recent origin show event in the life of the Buddha and stories from Jataka Kathas. Sri Rahula, the celebrated Prelate when he felt that his days on this earth were nearing its end, he retired to a cave situated at a jungle village close to the town of Elpitiya in the South.

There, he had occasion to try the eficacy of his miraculous oil by immersion himself in a stone though filled with it that when he breathed his last his body remained whole without decomposing. The devout Buddhists of Sri Lanka contest that the body of St. Francis Zaviezr enshrined at Goa in India in surely that of Sri Rahula, which had been taken by the Portuguese Catholics while holding away in this area.

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