By Raj Somadewa & Anusha Wanninayake
This monograph is a result of the survey conducted during a period of five weeks initiated since late July 2020 in the area around Monaragala. The objective of the survey was to make a methodical surface reconnaissance survey in the area defined as the Monaragala administrative district. It deter- mined to understand the total archaeological landscape of that area. At the outset of the fieldwork, it was convinced that an abundance of inscriptions scattered all over the survey area with the ruins of another kind such as ancient buildings, cave habitations, reservoirs, etc. Some of the inscriptions have already been published in numerous instances; however, several other inscriptions remained neglected from the academic focus.
Those records represent different periods of history thus providing important and reliable information about the society in ancient Ruhuna. On one hand, it was inferred that study of the yet un-published lithic records may provide certain textual guidance to understand the time depth and the social affiliations of the total archaeological landscape in the area to be studied. On the other hand, instantaneous action was required to copy those, due to the endangered conditions such important historical records are facing. Uncontrolled land clearance on an intensive scale for the cultivation of the village-farmers and the similar magnitude of the activities held by the treasure hunters had made an unrecoverable destructive impact on them and such threats are still being continued in distinct intensities. Considering these circumstances, the survey team has decided to initiate a copying program
of the inscriptions during the first phase of the survey.
Some of the locations where the inscriptions exist are difficult destinations to reach. In some locations, several inscriptions are available to copy. Those were standing as constraints of the day-to-day activities and it had made an adverse impact on time management during the fieldwork. The team spent long hours and sometimes even a couple of days to make estampages of those locations. During the early weeks of the survey, it is understood that the time allocation of the survey was not adequate to make a complete recovery and copy the whole collection of lithic records in the area under study. Sometimes the expansion of the Covid pandemic has also restricted the free movements by the survey team in the field. Many inscriptions remained to be copied. It’s expected to reach them in the second phase of the survey, which is to be initiated after getting published the results of the first phase. This monograph is an alarming work for the next phase of the survey that is to be launched in mid-2021., The success of phase I of the survey have to be shared with different institutions as well as several individuals. ‘The permission was issued to conduct the survey by the Director General of Archaeology. We owe very much to Dr. Senerath Dissanayake, of the Department of Archaeology. The survey was partly funded by the Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology (PGIAR) of the University of Kelaniya. PGIAR had provided transport facility to the survey team to reach Monaragala. From the initial stage of planning the fieldwork, the coordination was timely and efficiently managed by Dr. Nadun Gunatilleke (MBBS) of the Siyambalanduva Government Hospital. The survey team wishes to highly appreciate his dedication and enthusiasm with pleasure. Our gratitude is also goes to Dr. Rohana Dayarathne, a Senior Consultant Physician of the Monaragala Base Hospital.
Most of the high rank government officers were generous and extended their fullest cooperation toward various activines of the present survey in different perspectives. Thanks must go to the District Secretary of Monaragala together with all the Divisional secretaries of the respective administrative territories of the Monaragala District, Senior Superintendent of Police and the Inspectors of the regional Police Stations, Assistant Director of the Department of Archaeology in Monaragala.
There is a couple of individuals who had contributed their time and energy to make the survey success Mr. T.D. Pathmasin, the Principle of Vadikumbura Maha Vidyalaya, Principle of Buddhama Maha Vidyalaya and his Staff, Principle of Kotiyagala Junior School, Mr. Y.P. Kularathne, a Provincial Council member of Madulla, Mr. K.B. Rathnayake of Dambagalla, Mr. Siripala Rathnayake of Dombagahawela, Mr. D.B. Gamini, owner of Gamini Iron works, Mr. H.M.G. Samantha Priyadarshana, Mrs. K-M. Gunawathi and the inhabitants of the village Galabadda for their voluntary support given to shelter the team members of the survey, all the members of the Voice of Wellassa organization who dedicated to maintain the dailyactivities of the fieldwork in distinct capacities, the members of the Wellassa Vidvath Sansadaya and Mr. Gunarathna Banda of Madagama. Sarath Weerasinghe of Bibila, Mr. T.M.W.S. Thennakoon.
Our grannide must also go to Mr. Chaturanga Ambanpitiya of the Department of Archaeology in Monaragala. He served as an acnve member of the survey team. The remarkable dedication made by Mr. Lasanta Warusavitana to the photographic and digital recording of the fieldwork is also greatly appreciated, We must thankful to Mr. Hasitha Dilshan Amaradsa of Buddhama, Ms.
D.M. Shanika Madhushani, Mr. Nuwan Medawatta of Kahawatta, Mr. Niroshan Dissanayaka for their invaluable dedication to make the survey success.
Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology
No, 407, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7,
3″ March 2021
This report brings together 28 individual inscriptions recovered, copied, and deciphered during the survey of five weeks. The present collection comprises lithic records of three different periods of history viz; inscriptions of (i). Period I (250 BCE -100 CE) (ii). Period II (200-300 CE) and (iii). Period III (900-1300 CE.) There are more inscriptions to be copied which characterize a wider time horizon than the present collection.
Period I — Three inscriptions of this period were copied from three separate locations. One example was reported from a place known as Valaellugodakanda of Siyambalanduva Divisional Secretariat. Valaellugodakanda is one of the well-known archaeological sites in the Monaragala District (CJS (G) IT 23; ASCAR 1951:64; UCR ITT, No 2. 116; ASCAR 1940-45, 149). It is a rock-shelter complex, scattered on the low-height hillock (….. msl) of that name. C.W. Nicholas has furnished the following description of the site in1958.
.–Walaellugodakanda is a small, jungle-covered hill rising about 250 feet above the surrounding ground level, and is reached from Dombagahavela, at the 34th mile on the Monaragala-Pottuvil road, by a path about a mile long, which crosses the Hada Oya and terminates in a parch of cultivation near the foot of the hill. On the occasion on which the writer visited this hill, he reached it near sunset and when he arrived at the first inscribed cave it was already dark: he then made the interesting and useful discovery that cave inscriptions show up very clearly and are as easily read by the beam of an electric torch at night as by the naked eye in daylight. But exploration by torchlight was necessarily restricted and had to be confined to looking for caves and copying inscriptions; other features, such as the remains of thupas and buldings, went unobserved. (/RAS CB. NS, V, part 2: 139).
In 1970, Professor S. Paranavitana (1970: no. 724-733) has revisited the inscriptions observed and published by C.W. Nicholas in 1958. One inscription at the site mentioned a great king named Tissa. The cave in which the king’s name has appeared was donated by a female lay-devotee named Naga, the wife of the Commander-in-Chief of the army of the king. Paranavitana identifies this monarchy as the king Mahachulimaha Tissa mentioned in Mahavamsa. This identification is important because it signals us that the Buddhist monastery -cum-the residential abode at Velaellugadakanda came in to function at least during the time of that king, The inscription records a donation made by a lay-devotee named Pussadeva to the community of Buddhist sangha as usual content of the early Brahmi inscriptions in Sri Lanka.
Another inscription of this period was reported from a site named Devagiri viharaya. It is now being functioning as a Buddhist monastery. This location has a natural rock-shelter utilized by the Buddhist monks during the early days of Buddhism in the country. The iriscription was engraved on the roof of the rock-shelter at the beneath of its drp-ledge. Due to the roughness of the surface where the inscription was engraved, the difficulty has arisen in the copying process. It was further disrupted by the inadequate space that remained at the location resulted from the construction of a new roof by the resident monk of the temple.
The third inscription would have been a work of the terminal phase of the period I. The consonants ‘ta’ and ‘va’ in this inscription resemble a slightly developed form of the early Brahmi script of the country. The vocabulary in the text has also shown a progressive development than that of the preceding phase.
Most of the inscriptions in the present collection belong to period II. The subject of such could be mainly divided into two categories. The objective of the first category was to make assistance to the Buddhist monasteries to maintain a certain ritual. It was known as the “Anyewasa natant which meant for the chanting of Anmyavamsa Sutra. Several insctiptions of a similar period found from the Northcentral and Northwestern provinces in the country have also mentioned this ritualistic performance. Wealthy people have donated dough to Buddhist monasteries and kept encouraged the residential monks of the respective monasteries to perform Anyavamsa perching uninterruptedly during the second and the third centuries CE.
The second major category represents the inscriptions that descnbe the grants made by different people to the Buddhist monasteries to free servants who work for those monasteries by inheritance. The word “anvayata vabal’ in the Galapata vihara inscription refers to a similar class of monastic servants during the tenth century CE, Paranavitana has coined these inscriptions by the name of ‘taharaia’ inscriptions, after the frequent occurrences of that word in the text of those records.
The numbers of the inscriptions that fall into Period III are scanty and only three inscriptions were reported during the present survey. The earliest examples belong to the late 8th or early 9th century CE. Either the fragmentary nature of the inscription or legibility of the letters has prevented us while having a complete idea of their texts. Two inscriptions that can be ascribed to the later phase of this period have concise writings by ordinary people.
Results of phase I of the survey show the potentials of finding more inscriptions from the area which are hitherto unknown by the students of the academia in archaeology and history in Sri Lanka. Phase II is planning to initiate in mid-2021 covering a wider area of the Monaragala District.