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Mahaweli River Ancient Pilgram Route


Ancient Monuments Polonnaruwa On Ancient Pilgram Route


  • Pilgrimages linked with the craze of artifact worship have been an old tradition from the time of the establishment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The pilgrim route from Seruwila to Sri Pada touches important shrines. Port of Seruwila was a famous place for international trades between the West and the East. The settlers used river valley to migrate. Therefore, this river valley turned into an important economical, political and religious route and contained a large number of small and big religious sites.
  • The Mahaweli River is spread over about 20 percent of the area of the island. The river originates in the mountain range of Sri Pada and runs in a northern direction.
  • The Sri Pada is a pilgrimage location which has been held sacrosanct by the followers of 4 religions namely Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. Muslims call it the Footprint of Al-Rohun (Soul) or Adam, a prophet as per Islamic principles. Christians believe that it is Adam’s footprint when he arrived on earth after his exile from Eden. Therefore it’s called Adam's Peak. Hindus believe that it is Lord Shiva’s footprint. Buddhists trust that the Lord Buddha left a mark of his left footprint at the top on a gemstone.
  • The presence of a pilgrim route from Seruwila to Sri Pada led to the engraving of legends, construction of preaching halls in shrines, monuments and resting locations or Ambalamas. The mile stones created were proof of the popularity of the route. Throughout the history from time to time the growth of different kinds of relic monuments and proof of cross cultural exchanges also happened in the island and these are also noted at various places of the path.
  • Presence of many engravings and religious places at nodal sites along the banks of the Mahaweli River and visits by King Gotabhaya in the 2nd century BC clearly indicate that the route was used and inhabited all through the history since pre-Christian times. From the details in the records as well as the archaeological proof, the final climb of the pilgrim route past Gampola was via Ulapane and Ambagamuwa. Construction of Ambalamas (way side rest houses) by king Vijayabahu I (1055 - 1110) is backed by his engraving at Ambagamuwa. Alms halls for the pilgrims were also built by the king. King Parakramabahu II (1236 - 1271) built the bridges across the streams and renovated the pilgrim route.
  • Proof to the multi religious nature of this pilgrim route is provided by the existence of Hindu shrines at Kandy, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee, etc. Further evidence to the fame of this pilgrim route is provided by the location of many existing and ruined religious sites along the tortuous route.
  • There are over 200 such locations having some type of link to strengthen the trace of the route linking the main relic enshrines at Sri Pada, Gampola, Kandy, Mahiyangana, Polonnaruwa, Somawathie and Seruwila, each of which site has importance.

Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara

  • It is a Buddhist temple in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. It’s among the 16 divinest Buddhist shrines in Sri Lanka.
  • It was constructed during the rule of King Kavantissa and it contains the sacred forehead bone of Lord Buddha. It can be reached by sea and land.
  • As per the late Dr. R. L. Brohier, the Seruwila area was a villu or huge area of low-lying land in which the flood waters of the Mahaweli Ganga accumulated. During migratory time this villu was the home of big herds of teals (seru). That possibly was the reason that this place was called as Seruwila.

History and Development

  • It’s thought that 3 viharas were at this specific place constructed during the periods of 3 former Buddhas named Kassapa, Ko?agamana and Kakusandha with their remnants preserved. Gautama Buddha, who was the last Buddha in this era, had visited this place personally and offered 8 handfuls of 'sapu' flowers, after that he wished that the temple which would be constructed in future must be named as Mangala vihara.
  • South Indian Pandya and Chola attackers threatened the Kingdom of Ruhuna later on during the reign of King Kavantissa so the king needed to develop a policy to avoid the disaster.
  • The King Kavantissa could exploit the respect and loyalty of the Sinhala noblemen and the general public had for Buddhism to win over Princess Abhaya and Shiva, his ally. The Buddhist monks told that holy artifact of Lord Buddha that was possessed by King Kavantissa had been predestined to be protected by him in a stupa to be constructed at Seru; Lord Buddha made prediction that this would take place. Then, King Kavantissa paraded towards Seru with his army and proclaimed the resolve of his visit requesting all the landlords within and around Seru to come to his help. The holy remnants of the Lord Buddha were protected in the stupa. Soon after the building of the stupa, King Kavantissa united the whole part of the country to the south of the Kelani and Mahaweli rivers and then set up his capital at Mahagama. In the meantime, the reputation of the Seruwila monument had spread everywhere and it turned out to be an important location of pilgrimage and worship.
  • Under the pressure of the Tamil attacks from the north over the years, the stupa decayed. There are proofs that this area was in the range of operation of the Kandyan territory during the existence of this stupa in the 17th century.
  • Priority was accorded to productive western portion of the island during the Western Colonial occupation, so consequently the unfertile dry zone was ignored and left into wasteland.



Ancient Monuments Polonnaruwa On Ancient Pilgram Route


Present state of conservation   

  • Ven. Dambagasare with assistance of the Archeological Department re-discovered the dagaba in 1922. He used remains of ancient structures around the stupa. The conservation work was finished in 1931. In 1962 the stupa as well as its surroundings was declared as an Archaeological Reserve. After this conservation work was performed by the Department of Archaeology in stages. Due to the importance of this sacrosanct shrine the Department of Town and Country Planning devised a plan during the 1970s for the development of a new city complete with market areas, pilgrim rests, etc.
  • Under the supervision of a minister, Dinesh Gunawardane, the National Physical Planning Department spent roughly 25 million Rupees for renovation. The city was officially opened for the worship of a number of devotees in June 2009.

Trincomalee

  • Trincomalee is situated    at the eastern sea board. The Mahaweli River goes into the sea here. It’s among biggest natural deep-water harbours of the world.
  • The Hindu shrine of Koneswaram, called the Swami Rock is situated on the top. The engravings as well as other details describe the ornamental features of the temple. The Portuguese demolished the shrine in 1624 to reuse its material in strengthening the heights. Some idols were saved and shifted to the Pagoda of Tamblegam. A series of ceremonies is performed once in each year by crowds of devotees at the place where the rock projects above the ocean.



Ancient Monuments Polonnaruwa On Ancient Pilgram Route