Category Archives: Buddhism

Kiribath Vehera, Anuradhapura

Kiribath vehera is an archaeological site situated in Anuradhapura, the once glorious capital city of Sri Lanka.

Situated in the far North of the Ancient city, out of the citadel, Kiribath vehera is in a sad state. To reach the site, one must pass the sacred city, traveling towards the North, taking the Sangamitta road, and pass the ruins at Wijayarama.

Kiribath vehera literally means the ‘Milk rice monastery’. It is not understandable how it got this name. This can be identified as the ancient ‘Uttara Megha-giri viharaya’ mentioned in old scripts and inscriptions. When translated, Uttara Megha-giri vehera gives the meaning, ‘Northern Rain-cloud hill temple’. One pillar inscription found at this place mentions the name, ‘Uthur Megiri watthata’. This pillar inscription can be dated to the 9th or 10th century.

What could be seen here are remains of an ancient Buddhist monastery, including an image house and a stupa. Ruins of the image house are located in front of the ruined stupa.

The ruined stupa is covered with vegetation and hardly can be identified as a stupa. The bricks are spread all over and the top of the stupa there was a large pit dug by robbers when I first visited the site in 2009. The damage caused by robbers and negligence cannot be considered as minor.

As the stupa is collapsed and covered with trees and shrubs, it is difficult to understand its original shape. The stupa can be roughly measured as 30 feet in height and 400 feet in diameter.

The pillars and the brick foundation in front of the stupa can be identified as an image house. However, though smaller in size this demonstrations similarities with the Jethawana image house. The scattered parts of a stone figure can be recognized as a Buddha image.

At present, a positive change cannot be seen as still the site is in a depressed state. Bricks, scattered stones and broken pillars can be seen everywhere. If not conserved soon, the ruins will be destroyed further.

Based on the pillar inscription the place can be identified as the ancient Uttara Megiri wattha monastery or the Uttara Megha-giri viharya.

Ancient scripts records that Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha first visited the Dakunu Megha-giri monastery kept the tooth relic at the temple and sent a messenger to the king. Once receiving the message, the king arrived at the temple and received the tooth relic with royal honour. The couple stopped from entering the citadel or meeting the monarch as soon as they arrived, thus they stayed at the Dakunu Megha-giri monastery and a monk enlightened the monarch with the good news. The Dakunu Megha-giri monastery can be identified as the present day ‘Isuru-muniya monastery’. Scholars assume the ‘Dakunu Megha-giri monastery’ where the couple kept the tooth relic for the first time should be this ‘Uttara Megha-giri vehera’ considering the geographical locations. The Dakunu Megha-giri monastery should surely be located in the Southern part of the capital, which means one must pass the citadel where the most important and secured buildings are located. The ancient main road to Anuradhapura, from North, was across the Malwathu oya. If one takes this road, the citadel must be crossed before reaching the Dakunu Megha-giri monastery. However, the Uttara Megha-giri vehera can be reached easily without crossing the citadel and other important buildings, as it is located out of the boundaries of the most important area of the ancient capital. As the couple landed at a port somewhere in the North, they must have taken this ancient main road to reach Anuradhapura. Furthermore, the royal couple was new to the country and they were escaping the unsafe political situation in their own country, the Kalinga. Considering these reasons, the royal couple must have not chosen to cross the citadel of a kingdom where they are alien to.

© සියලූම හිමිකම් ඇවිරිණි. කතෘගේ ලිඛිත අවසරය නොමැතිව මෙහි සඳහන් කිසිවක් හෝ උපුටා ගැනීම,ගබඩා කර තැබීමනැවත ප්රකාශයපලකිරීම සපුරා තහනම්ය.

Copyright © All Rights Reserved. The words, ideas and images are the intellectual property of Ama H. Vanniarachchy. All work published (words and images) here is copyrighted. If you wish to reproduce the work published here, please inform the writer, to get her written permission and acknowledge this site as the source.

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Dakkina stupa, Anuradhapura

A stupa to commemorate a warrior king 

Dakknia stupa or Dakunu dagaba is located in Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura, the longest surviving capital of the Sinhalese is one of the greatest cities of the ancient world.

Location – Dakkina stupa is one of the earliest Buddhist stupas, located in the southern part of the ancient capital Anuradhapura, out of the citadel, close to the Thissa wewa.

Name – The name ‘Dakkina stupa’ means the Southern stupa.  Other names for this stupa are Dakshina stupa or Dakunu dagaba, which means the ‘Southern dagaba’.

Present situation / remains – At present, what we can see is a ruined brick structure of the ancient stupa. The stupa’s basal rings and dome have survived but not the upper part. There are remains of the ayakas and some stone pillars with carvings. The floor is paved with stone slabs.

History – The stupa once belonged to the Dakkina vehera or the Dakkina monastery, which was built by Utthiya, a minister of King Watta Gamini Abhaya, during the 1st century BC. The name of the stupa and monastery is identified as Dakkina vehera as it is mentioned in a stone inscription, found in 1948 by Prof.Paranavithana. As the stone inscription clearly mentions, the stupa can be identified without any confusions as the Dakkina vehera and stupa. Mahavamsa records that king Watta Gamini Abyaya’s minister Uttiya built a vehera named Dakkina. In the above-mentioned stone inscription, it refers to a king of the name ‘Pitha Maha raja’, which is another name of King Watta Gamini Abhaya.

Later kings extended the Dakkina monastery during times to come. King Kanitta Thissa built a ‘daana shala’ (alms hall), and expanded its boundaries. In addition, this king has built a ‘kanchuka’ for the stupa. He extended the monastery land and cleared a new pathway leading to the stupa. King Voharika Thissa constructed the ‘prakara’ or the wall of the monastery.

There were buildings attached to the ancient monastery such as the ‘Upostha gharaya’, ‘Sanghawasa’ and ‘ Daana shala’ which are not yet identified.

Stupa to commemorate a warrior king – Prof.Paranavithana claims this stupa was built in the place where the heroic Sinhalese king Dutta Gamini Abhaya was cremated, giving evidences of ashes being discovered after excavating the stupa. After scientifically examining the ashes, he exposed that they are human bone ashes and belongs to the period of Dutta Gamini Abhaya, concluding them as the ashes of the warrior king. It is obvious that the ancient Sinhalese built a stupa housing his ashes to commemorate Dutta Gamini Abhaya, for he is considered as one of the greatest rulers of the island.

The notable archaeological features are the remains of ayakas with beautiful carvings. One stone pillar has a carving of a ‘Kalpa wruksha’, which is one fine piece of stonework. Another figure can be identified as ‘Kuwera’, the god of wealth.



Plate 1 – Remains of the Nothern Aayaka. Another beautiful stonework at Dakkina stupa location. This is a carving of the ‘Kalpa wruksha’. A seated figure holds a pot on his head and the kalpa wruksha comes out of the pot. This symbolizes wealth and prospers.

Plate 2, 3 , 4, & 5 –The basal rings and the dome of Dakkina stupa. The stupa is built in bricks. The upper part of the stupa cannot be seen making it hard to understand the shape of the original shape.

Plate 6 – Remains of the Northern Aayaka. This carving is identified as Kuwera, the god of wealth, also the guardian god of the Northern quarter of the universe. Harsh environmental conditions and time has caused enough damage to this beautiful stonework. Cracks can be seen all over the figure and the details of the face are not clear.

There is a second figure beneath the main figure. He is kneeling down and spreading coins on the ground. This helps us to identify the standing figure as Kuwera.

If not protected, we might lose this beautiful stonework in near future.

Plate 7 – The three basal rings cab be seen clearly.


Stone pillar at Dakkina stupa

Dakkina stupa base and dome

Dakkina stupa

Dakkina stupa dome

Dakkina stupa

Dakkina stupa

Dakknia stupa

The Stupa

Kuwera carving

Carving at Dakkina stupa

Basal rings

Dakkina stupa, basal rings.

© සියලූම හිමිකම් ඇවිරිණි. කතෘගේ ලිඛිත අවසරය නොමැතිව මෙහි සඳහන් කිසිවක් හෝ උපුටා ගැනීම,ගබඩා කර තැබීම, නැවත ප්‍රකාශය, පලකිරීම සපුරා තහනම්ය.

Copyright © All Rights Reserved. The words, ideas and images are the intellectual property of Ama H. Vanniarachchy. All work published (words and images) here is copyrighted. If you wish to reproduce the work published here, please inform the writer, to get her written permission and acknowledge this site as the source.

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The Monk and the Tusker

The Monk and the Tusker

(Based on an ancient Buddhist tale)

Retold by Ama H.Vanniarachchy

Long time ago a monk lived alone in a forest. The forest was a beautiful place and to the monk all the animals and plants were his family. A rock cave was his dwelling. Forest berries was his diet. He spent the day meditating and practicing what he has learned.

Humans in the nearby village used to hunt and sometimes capture these animals for their own needs. There lived a she-elephant in the other end of the forest. Every time her baby elephants were captured by humans in the nearby village. She was very sad about this. One day she took her newborn baby elephant and walked to the other end of the forest where the monk lived. She went to the monk and gave her new born baby elephant to him and asked him to protect the baby elephant. The monk who was kind to all living beings, accepted the poor helpless mother’s request and adopted the baby elephant. The mother returned to her home, back to her herd.

From then on, the baby elephant grew with the monk as his son. The monk used to feed him, wash him and even play with him few hours a day. As the monk grew older and elephant grew younger, the elephant took care of the monk as a son would take care of his old father. The elephant used to follow the monk everywhere. If the monk is resting in the cave, the elephant would rest nearby. He would bring fruits to the monk.  Keep the monk on his back and take him to the river and bathe him. The young mighty elephant was like the monk’s shadow.

One day, a hunter lost his way and wandered in the deep forest. Accidently he walked in to the area where the monk lived and he saw the mighty young elephant. He was surprised to see such a magnificent young tusker. He thought to himself, “If I tell the king about this mighty beast, I will be rewarded.” With such evil thoughts he went to the king and told the messengers about the giant beast. Soon the king’s huntsmen entered the forest in search of the giant tusker. They entered the other side of the forest where the monk and tusker lived and set elephant traps all over the forest.

That morning the monk was meditating in his cave and the young tusker set off into the forest to bring breakfast for both of them.  Unknowing the evil intentions of the humans, the young tusker gaily roamed around the forest in search of food. He stepped on a trap and alas, he was caught!  He couldn’t move his legs and the giant creature fell on the floor. He started to cry. His eyes were red with anger and agony. Tears started to roll off his eyes. He couldn’t understand what was happening. He tried his best to break off the ropes but they were hard as iron. It was a sad sight to see. Soon the king’s huntsmen reached there. They threw an arrow at the tusker’s shoulder which was soaked in a tranquilizer. How helpless he was!

Soon the giant creature was taken to the king. He was tied using hard ropes and iron chains. He soon gained conscious and was furious. His eyes searched the monk. He couldn’t see him anywhere. This is not the forest. He could see hundreds of people staring at him and some of them standing around him with spears and arrows pointed towards him. He was angry and started to shout. It was like the thunder. He moved his giant feet, trunk and body. He threw the bucket of water as hard as he can. It splashed and the bucket was in pieces. He took the food from his trunk and threw it up in the air. As he struggled the iron chains and roped hurt his feet and neck.

The king and all his men were wondering how to tame him. They pricked him with spears, threw water over him, shouted harsh loud words and tightened his chains but nothing calmed the Tusker. The king thought he has never seen such a huge elephant till now and such beautiful and long tusks. His voice was like thunder. This one surely is going to be the royal elephant. And he will be the best war elephant. But nothing could tame the tusker.

Meanwhile the monk was wondering where his elephant is. Why is he late? What could have happened to him? The monk left his cave and wandered in the forest in search of the tusker. The monk called out his name. Seeing his huge footsteps the monk followed them and came to the place where the tusker was trapped. The monk realized that his son, the tusker, was in great trouble and he needs help. The monk left the forest and entered the village. He asked the villagers about the tusker. They told him that a magnificent tusker had been captured today by the king. The monk visited the king. On the way he could hear the thunderous cries of the tusker. The monk felt his agony. As soon as he visited there, the tusker became calm. He bent down on his knees in front of the monk and cried. His warm tears washed the dust covering the monk’s feet. The monk placed his palm on the tusker’s forehead. He felt no fear and pain anymore.

The king saw this miracle. The wild beast was tamed by this monk from the forest. The king walked towards the monk and said, “The beast is tamed to you. How hard we tired, my men who are experts, couldn’t tame the beast. How did you do that?”

The monk replied, “This tusker whom you call as the beast, is my son. He lives with me in the forest. He is my family. Even animals feel love and compassion. They respond to kind words. And I must request you to release him back to where he belongs. He doesn’t belong here. The wild belongs to the wild. Besides, staying here will not make him happy he will remain stubborn and wild. And if you separate him from me, he will not be able to bear the separation. I am his family.”

“Dear monk, I want him to be the court tusker, he will be the pride of the kingdom. And he will make an excellent war elephant.”

“My dear king, these animals too have feelings. They feel fear, pain and sorrow. When they are separated from their loved once, from their homes they feel fear and sorrow. They miss their families, just as you and I do oh king. They too must be loved and cared, and treated with kind worlds. Just as you and I fear harsh words and physical punishment, these animals fear harsh words and physical punishment too. Dear king, please be kind to every living being, no matter what the size they are. Animals are not ours to use as we want to and they have all the rights to live a fear free life just as we do. We are just another part of Mother Nature and we all are one family. Do no harm to animals and plants, because every life is precious.  Talking about this tusker, he will not survive if you separate him from his home and family. I want you to release him back to where he belongs. He grew up with me since he was a baby elephant. His mother requested me to take care of her newborn baby elephant because all of his babies were captured by humans. It is my duty to protect him and I will stand by him no matter what you do oh great king.”

The king was moved by the monk’s words and he ordered to free the tusker.

Happy and free, the giant tusker gently followed the monk back to his home, the forest.

© සියලූම හිමිකම් ඇවිරිණි. කතෘගේ ලිඛිත අවසරය නොමැතිව මෙහි සඳහන් කිසිවක් හෝ උපුටා ගැනීම, ගබඩා කර තැබීම, නැවත ප්‍රකාශය, පලකිරීම සපුරා තහනම්ය.

Copyright © All Rights Reserved. The words, ideas and images are the intellectual property of Ama H. Vanniarachchy. All work published (words and images) here is copyrighted. If you wish to reproduce the work published here, please inform the writer, to get her written permission and acknowledge this site as the source.

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