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|Year and Month||January, 2013|
|Number of Days||Two consecutive Saturdays|
|Crew||2 (Me & my wife, aged 30-32)|
|Activities||Site seeing & Photography|
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
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Magama, which is presently known as Tissamaharama, is the capital of Ruhuna kingdom (3rd century BC to 11th century AD) which was ruled by regional kings such as Mahanaga and Kawantissa. Archeological monuments scattered around which belongs to Anuradhapura era silently express its ancient glory. Buddhist heritage of Magama is centered around the four main stupas namely Tissamaharama chaitya, Sandagiri vehera, Yatala chaitya and Menik vehera.
Some historians contemplate that the kingdom of Ruhuna is much older than Anuradhapura and also said to be the second largest kingdom of Sri Lanka next to Anuradhapura. The founder of the kingdom was king Mahanaga, brother of king Devanampiyatissa of Anuradhapura (247-207 BC).
The queen of king Devanampiyatissa was anxious to see her son being the next king of Anuradhapura. Mahanaga also anticipated the throne while serving as a sub-king under king Devanampiyatissa. The queen planned to kill king Mahnaga, who was her brother-in-law by poisoning. She sent a basket of mangoes along with a large poisoned one believing that it will be eaten by king Mahanaga while he was engaged in construction of Walas wewa irrigation project. Unfortunately, the young prince (Son of king Devanampiyatissa and queen) who was also with his uncle Mahanaga, had eaten the large mango and died.
Mahanaga was afraid to hold the position of sub-king of Anuradhapura after this incident and escaped to the southern part of the island with his queen. On their way to Magama, queen delivered a prince named Tissa at Yatala, close to Tissamaharama. Later, in memory of the birth of this prince, king built Yatala chaitya there and the prince became Yatalatissa. First record of Ruhuna in Mahawansa, begins with this legend. After the death of king Mahanaga, Yatalatissa was succeeded to the throne.
It is believed that the ancient ethul nuwara with palaces of the kings was located in present Akurugoda area close to Tissamaharama Chaitya. With the restoration of Tissa wewa in 1870s, British government had encouraged settlers to come in to Tissamaharama and the best area for settlers had been Akurugoda area as it was so, since 2200 years ago. Now the area is populated and ruins are in privately owned lands which has prevented further archeological explorations.
A team of German archeologists from the University of Technology, Karlshrue, Germany had done an excavation in Akurugoda until about 2-3 years back and had found a lot of evidence that the palaces and the capital city had been there. During this survey they have found brick walls, evidences of street systems, lot of tools and artifacts used by ancient dwellers, etc revealing that, in size and layout this city is second only to Anuradhapura. Now this pit is closed which was located in a private land.
According to the chronicle, kings who have built these marvels come in the order of Mahanaga (Brother of king Dewanampiyatissa) > Yatalatissa (Son of king Mahanaga) > Gotabhaya > Kawantissa (Son of king Gotabhaya)
As the four main stupas are the leading gateways to the history of Magama, I wish to share some of the facts related to stupas for the ease of presentation of the rest.
Parts of a stupa
A typical stupa usually has six parts.
1. Pesa walalu (Basal Rings)
A stupa consists of three such rings at its base. The three rings rising from the base gradually reduce in size.
2. Gharbaya (Dome)
The hemispherical dome is constructed above the three rings. In the middle of the dagaba there is a relic chamber (Dhathu garbhaya). The Buddha’s relics are enshrined there (In a stupa, relics can be enshrined in Garbhaya or Hathares kotuwa).
3. Hatharas Kotuwa (Square Chamber)
This is the cube shaped structure on top of the dome. Relics are enshrined in this part too.
4. Devatha Kotuwa (Cylinder)
This is the cylindrical neck built on Hatharas Kotuwa. Figures of gods are carved on the surface.
5. Koth Kerella (Spire)
This is the conical structure built on Devatha Kotuwa. Koth wahanse (Or Kotha) is placed at the top of this spire to make it more precious.
6. Kotha (Pinnacle)
This is the pinnacle made of metal of which a precious crystal or a gemstone (Chudamanikya) placed on top. Kotha is located on top of Koth kerella.
In the indian form of stupa, there is a railing as an addition on pesa walalu (Basal rings). Hathares kotuwa (Square chamber) is hollow (not solid as in Sri Lankan form). No dewatha kotuwa, koth kerella and kotha and instead it has the umbrella. A good example is Sanchi stupa of India. It has three chathra (Umbrella) stones. Can have even up to seven chathra stones.
We can see the influence of this in our initial stage stupas (i.e. stupas built by king Mahanaga). With time the shape of Sri Lankan stupa has changed from the Indian form to a form of its own (i.e. stupas built by king Kawantissa), which we see at present.
Types of stupa
Buddhist literature mentions six types of stupas according to the shape of the dome.
1. Dhanyakara – Heap of paddy shape, e.g. Kelaniya stupa.
2. Ghantakara – Bell shape, e.g. Thuparamaya. This is the most common type.
3. Bubbulakara – Bubble shape, e.g. Ruwanweli seya. This is the second most common type.
4. Ghatakara – Pot shape, e.g. Sithulpawwa.
5. Padmakara – Lotus shape, e.g. Indikatu seya, Mihintale.
6. Amlakara – Shape of Nelli fruit, No records exist of the finding of this type of stupa in Sri Lanka.
Now we shall take a look at the great creations of our ancient kings of Magama.
This is the most famous and largely visited stupa, standing up touching the sky within a beautiful paddy field which is a pleasing sight. According to the legend this stupa is constructed by king Kawantissa which was later enalarged by king Illanaga. According to Mahawansa, this stupa enshrines the frontal bone (Lalata dhathu) of lord Buddha while Kirinda inscription reveals that it enshrines a tooth relic of the left jaw of lord Budhdha. This is the largest stupa in the southern region of the country with a height of 156 ft and a circumference of 550 ft.
After the recent restoration in 1800s, some cracks have begun to appear in the dome of stupa few years ago. This is believed to be due to transport of large rocks along the road near by to construct Kirinda harbour and seepage of water through the cracks. Now cables have been laid on the dome to prevent from further cracking.
This stupa located close to Tissamaharama chaitya was constructed by king Mahanaga. Behind Tissamaharama chaitya there is a road paved with cement tiles which leads to Sandagiri stupa archeological reservation. Restoration of this stupa is now being done by the Department of Archeology.
For restoration they have used bricks of original shape and texture. As cement they have used the original plaster prepared by taking Humbas meti (Clay of termite mounds), Alu hunu (Quick lime/Calcium Oxide), Dahayya alu (Ash after burning Paddy husk), and Ulu kudu (Powdered roofing tiles) in equal amounts and mix all together with water and leaving for about two weeks (Note that this does not involve sand). This paste was used as cement to bind bricks. Special feature here is that this paste does not dissolve in water. When it is contacted with water it gets more and more strong. So unlike cement, construction can be done even in the rain as it does not get washed away as cement. So rain water cannot penetrate between bricks and water just flows down along the surface whereas in cement which contains sand, absorbs water. It is the secret behind stability of huge stupas constructed thousands of years back.
Although the stupa is restored now, there is a deviation from its original shape. The correct shape could be observed from the model stupa placed on maluwa.
This is an initial stage stupa which is more close towards Indian form. As a result this does not carry the usual Hathares kotuwa, Dewatha kotuwa, Koth kerella and Kotha. Instead there had been a chathra (Umbrella) stone and a yupa stone on top. Now restoration has been done without installing chathra stone and yupa stone (Original yupa stone could be seen fallen on the ground inside the premises). A model of the original stupa is placed in the premises to show its original shape.
Around the stupa there are clusters of pillars and ruins which are remains of the Sandagiri stupa temple complex.
About 50m away from stupa there is a Bodhigaraya which has housed an ancient bodhi tree.
There is a road branching to right at Sandagiri stupa. When travel along this road for a short distance, can see a pillar inscription and ruins of an image house.
This stupa is located on the left side of the main road when traveling from Debarawewa to Tissamaharama. It was constructed by king Mahanaga during 3rd century BC which is over 2200 years old. His son Yatalatissa was born here and the chaitya was constructed in memory of his birth.
Recent restoration of this stupa has begun during 1880s. Restorations had been done by Local societies and groups time to time without proper archeological involvement, and had collapsed several times. In 1987, under Gam Udawa, this stupa was repaired and restored. But during this restoration some changes had been taken place.
Original stupa had a Hathares kotuwa on top of the dome and on it there had been three chathra stones and a yupa stone (Sandagiri stupa model). As this stupa too was built by king Mahanaga during the initial times, construction of this stoopa too was close to Indian form of stupa. Therefore original shape had been like Sanchi stupa in India which has this hollow Hathares kotuwa and Chathra stone system. During the restoration in 1987, instead of chathra stones and hollow hathares kotuwa they have constructed a solid hathares kotuwa, dewatha kotuwa, koth kerella and kotha changing its shape to usual local style. So that is what we see today. There is a small opening left after restoration to observe different layers.
Emulsion paint is not applied on this stupa as the paint layer prevents release of heat from the surface which may cause cracks. So only lime is applied. So stupa gets discolored soon.
There are ruins of many buildings such as image houses scattered around stupa
Yatala temple is located on the other side of the road opposite to Yatala stupa. One of the largest flower altars made up of stone could be seen at this temple. This is made up of a single stone and has dimensions of approximately 15*6 ft
There is a museum close to the stupa where findings of excavations in and around yatala site are preserved. There are several Buddha sculptures, Heads of Buddha images, Bodhisatwa statues, pedestals, inscriptions, guard stones and many other artifacts. Stones of which these are created are not found naturally in the area and believed they have been brought from Medirigiriya. Here are some of them
This is located just before Yatala stupa on the left side of the main road. This stupa is not large as the other three. This too is believed to be constructed by king Mahanaga and was recently restored in 1890s. Due to new building constructions there cannot see ruins around the stupa.
But when walking along the road a little distance towards Yatala stupa, there is a gate towards left and when entered from it, can see a stone pillar called Etha Bendi Gala which was used to tie up an elephant. It has an inscription too. According to folklore this is where king Dutugemunu had tied up his elephant Kadol.
Next to this there is a pillar site which is a remaining of a four storied building
Debarawewa Pashchimarama Raja Maha Vihara
This is located about 300m before Debarawewa junction if traveling from Hambantota towards Tissamaharama along the main road. This temple also was constructed by king Mahanaga. Special feature here is the Buddha statue carved out of limestone.
Akurugoda Pillar Inscription
Once you travel on Tissa wewa bund towards Kataragama, just passing the access road to Tissamaharama chitya, there is 500m along this road, there is a three way junction. At that point the pillar inscription can be seen towards your right under a huge tree.
This is an octagonal 30 ft high pillar erected on a brick platform. This was discovered broken into two pieces during excavations in 1950s. It is in early Brahmi script dated to 2nd century BC.
There are two major tanks in Tissamaharama namely Tissa wewa and Yoda wewa which fulfilled water requirements of the ancient capital, standing as they were, even today, while adding beauty to the surrounding.
This ancient reservoir too believed to be constructed by king Mahanaga. This tank was restored to its former glory 1876. Excess water from Tissa wewa flows to Yoda wewa.
It is believed that Duratissa wewa mentioned in the ancient sources is this Yoda wewa which was built by king Mahanaga. This is located around 2 km away from Tissamaharama along Kirinda road.