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|Year and Month||August, 2014|
|Number of Days||1st day of a 2 days visit|
|Crew||4 (Me, NG, Yohan and Priyanjan)|
|Activities||Archaeology, Sightseeing, Photography|
|Weather||Excellent. Clear and Sunny|
|Route||Thalawathugoda -> Kottawa -> Bandarawela -> Wellawaya -> Monaragala -> Kodayana Junction -> Kotiyagala|
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
** Special Thanks ** to Ashan, Priyanjan, NG and Yohan
|Related Resources||Trip Report: Heritage around battered Kotiyagala and Hidden Frescoes of Mailla|
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
“Good morning and very sorry for the delay” I got in to the jeep apologizing Yohan and NG, whom I kept waiting for me for more than 20 minutes. It was a little bit of unusual setup for a journey for me; a journey in the middle of the week – yes, a working day -, strangely decided to wait for the early morning bus – which for my disappointment wasn’t there – and late! – no, I’m not late all the time. My work schedule which usually does not allow me to roam around during weekdays, surprisingly gave me a break. Anyway it was –as I told to our team later- was a journey that I would not have wanted to miss at any cost. It was a chance that did not want to miss. All in all, perfect, everything happened in favor of me, I joined the convoy to take part in an unforgettable expedition.
The third one of our team was picked on the way and we headed towards Monaragala, met Ashan who had concluded his day’s duty. After the lunch we proceeded without Ashan who promised to catch us on the following day to join our main expedition. We reached Kotiyagala in the afternoon and met the guide who was prepared to take us to Mailla – our first day’s plan.
“Six miles into the thick jungle to the right from the Kotiyagala Colony, a cave temple with a reclining Buddha image and paintings is found. The reclining Buddha had been constructed in brick and clay mortar and plastered with lime.
Parts of the reclining Buddha statue had been destroyed by treasure hunters. The cave roof is decorated with attractive paintings and over the head of the Buddha image on a red backfall, the floral motifs and the figures of tuskers are painted. The paintings of this temple comprise those of various floral motifs, figures similar to the damsels of Sigiriya, various forms of humans and animals.”
Source – www.archaeology.gov.lk
The road the Mailla – if one can call that a road – was along the chena cultivations. Thanks to Yohan’s jeep it wasn’t too difficult for us to reach Mailla hill after tackling some kilometers along what was hardly a road.
We stopped the vehicle at the foothill where a monastery was, with a monk living alone. We met the monk who wasn’t very welcoming and gave all our details and explained our purpose. The monk’s vigilance is great in one way though it was a bit irritating to us. He even had went on for trying out our mobile numbers we gave him and once he found one of us had written down only 9 digits – obviously by a mistake – had called 119. But considering the number of treasure hunting activities happening in the area we cannot blame him for doing that. Luckily we had informed the local police station about our visit and had given our details, so the police just verified if we were the same group.
The cave where the paintings were just a few meters away from the hermitage. A drip ledged cave almost opened to the air – not a very protective place was where the frescoes were. It was a large reclining statue of the Lord Buddha what we saw as soon as we came out of the small jungle patch, vandalized by the treasure hunters – smashed, dug, wounded and then repaired using clay probably by the archaeologists. All the grass and plants on the rock surface were dried due to the many months long drought prevailed in the area. The Buddha statue blended with the dry surroundings was nice scenery though.
The famous frescoes were on the ceiling of the cave above the Buddha statue. There were a hundreds of paintings on that medium sized cave ceiling. It was clearly seen that there had been many layers of painting on top of each other hinting that the paintings have been redone several times over the years.
Some of these paintings are said to be very old. As it seemed all of those were pre-Kandyan era paintings. Some of those said to be closely related to the world famous Sigiriya frescoes. There was one clear painting which very closely resembled a “Sigiri Apsara”.
There were four beautiful figures of elephants and tusker paintings. Three out of those four were very clear and a part of the fourth one is damaged. The damaged elephant figure is different and special than the others. An elephant inside a circle surrounded by some hundreds of circular figures, all within one large rectangle was that painting. This painting is believed to resemble the Queen Mahamaya’s dream. The large rectangle is explained as the Anotattha Vila and the circles are as lotuses.
These paintings and the cave have taken a lot of battering over the centuries. At some places the entire plaster is gone. Most places had many damages on the plaster and the paintings.
On the other side of the cave there were some ruined rooms made out of bricks. On the plaster of those walls too were the paintings – mostly damaged – only a little remaining. Compared to the paintings on the cave’s ceiling, these paintings were large. But only a few places here and there could be seen.
There were a couple of Weddah paintings on another cave too
Mailla / Mayilla cave is known as one of the best places to study ancient Sri Lankan paintings. But it didn’t look like taken care of very well. Not by at least the ones who study this place. The place has had a several attacks by the treasure hunters. Natural forces are slowly erasing the unprotected paintings. It is obvious if the authorities do not act fast, these magnificent frescoes will be lost forever. Soon it will only be a historical place in study materials.
Here’s a small video clip made out of the footages taken during our visit
Thank you for reading.