Significance of Samudragiri Pichchamal Vihara

by damith
September 24, 2023 1:14 am 0 comment 967 views

Text and pix by S.K. Tissera, -Chilaw Group corr.

The Samudragiri Pichchamal Vihara at Kuchchaveli is a unique Buddhist place of worship where the signs of the once – glorious Buddhist culture in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka are well manifest in ruins on a small rocky outcrop and its surroundings facing the sea ringed with the azure world.

This archaeological site by the sea is about 33 kilometres to the North of Trincomalee.

This is also deemed a Samudragiri temple, a category of temples in Sri Lanka such as the Lankapatuna Samudragiri temple, the Mullaitivu Samudragiri Rajamaha Vihara considering that temple has been built on a high ground bordering the sea.

The temple must have been a prestigious Vihara during the Anuradhapura era.

The foundations of an image house, bhikkhus residences and several other buildings have been unearthed from the excavations at the site. A rock inscription written in Sanskrit was found in the temple premises. Some scholars said that it is the first rock inscription in Sri Lanka to be written in Sanskrit. Prof. Senarath Paranavithana endorses this view by considering it to be the earliest Sanskrit inscription in Sri Lanka. The inscription consists of eight lines and the characters used in it belong to a script not known from any other document.

In the temple precincts is a special rock with its flat surface facing the sea. An area of about four feet square of it has been partitioned into 16 compartments of equal proportions and 16 stupas have been engraved on each one of them in bas- relief. It is on the left side of the rock that the Sanskrit inscription belonging to the 6th century AD has been engraved. This rock that may have been upright at first has been overturned later.

The sculptor may have been a Mahayana Buddhist devotee because the record states his wish of becoming a Buddha in the future with the merits accumulated by carving the stupas on the rock.

There is also a popular belief that the Pichcha flowers used to offer to the Ruwanweliseya Stupa in Anuradhapura were brought from this place in horse -drawn carriages during the reign of King Dutugemunu ( 161- 137 BC ) and hence the name Pichchamal Vihara.

After the Department of Archaeology began its archaeological excavations first in 1978, many artefacts and Buddha statues of paramount importance were uncovered from the site. Among them are a standing Buddha statue, which dates back to the 2nd century AD, limestone and dolomite Buddha images, seated Buddha images, Bodhisattva heads, stone-carved footprints of the Buddha Siri Pathul Gal, old brick walls, the ruins of an ancient pagoda, Roman coins and many other remains.

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