and to know
Visitors to the Ruwanveliseya will have an opportunity
to savour the rich history of the dagoba, through exquisitely crafted
What do we, as we gaze in wonderment at the Ruwanveliseya
in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, bathed in the mellow light
of the setting sun or the ethereal gleam of a full moon night, know
about this colossus?
For most of us Sri Lankans the only knowledge
we have is that it was built by King Dutugemunu. That is also the
only information on a small wooden board hanging on a tree at the
entrance to this dagoba, one of our most prized possessions.
|Carvers hard at work
This is the vacuum that an enthusiastic group
of people are attempting to fill by undertaking not only a laborious
task, but also meticulously collecting each and every scrap of information
available on the history of the Ruwanveliseya.
One by one, stone slabs with Ruwanveliseya’s
history carved on them – shila lekanayak –both in Sinhala
and English, are appearing by the pathway leading to the dagoba,
so that by the time the white-clad devotee or the visitor walks
up to this monument its history is at their fingertips.
“We are planning to have six stone slabs,”
explains Nalaka Lankasena of the Ariyamagga Organisation, which
came up with the idea of setting up the stone inscriptions. The
organisation which works under the guidance of well-known meditation
monk, Nauyane Ariya Dhamma Thera hopes and aims to promote Buddhism
among the youth in the country.
How did it all start? Nalaka recalls the day that
his group of friends held a mal pooja at the Ruwanveliseya. “It
was the poya of March 14, and we made large wooden frames right
round the Ruwanveliseya and covered those with nelum, both red and
white. We used 300,000 flowers,” he said.
It was during the arrangement for the pooja that
the idea blossomed into the major project now underway with the
blessings of many monks, including their mentor and also the Nayake
Hamuduruwo of the Ruwanveliseya, Pallegama Hemarathana Thera. “The
Archaeology Department and the Central Cultural Fund are very supportive,
while we are being advised by Mrs. Chandra Ariyaratne and Prof.
Nimal de Silva of the Moratuwa University,” said Nalaka.
The 8’X5’ stone slabs will cost Rs.
3 million, he said, adding that the sandblasting technique is used
to get the outline of the inscriptions, followed by careful hand-chiselling.
Donations for four slabs have been collected from Sri Lanka itself,
while the other two will be funded by the people of Japan and China.
According to Nalaka, in Sri Lanka the teaching
of three past Buddhas – Kakusanda, Konagamana and Kassapa
– who appeared on earth during the Maha Bhadra Kalpa or Great
Auspicious Aeon, was established. Thereafter, the land was sanctified
as a Land of the Buddhas by the visit of the Gautama Buddha on three
occasions. Later when Arahat Mahinda arrived in Sri Lanka to establish
the Buddha Sasana, during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa, he
had forecast that a stupa would be built enshrining the Buddha’s
relics by King Dutugemunu, a grandson of the king, at the hallowed
spot. “Overjoyed by this proclamation, Devanampiyatissa installed
an inscribed pillar on that spot and had the forecast inscribed
on gold-leaf placed in a casket, which was deposited in the royal
palace,” says Nalaka.
The rest is history most of us know – King
Dutugemunu who ascended the throne in 382 BE (Buddhist Era) arriving
in Anuradhapura from Magama, fighting invaders and uniting the country
under one banner… revival of Buddhism… construction
of Mirisavati stupa, followed by the Lovamahapaya (Brazen Palace)…
and delighted on reading the inscription on the stone pillar set
up by Devanampiyatissa, resolving to build the great Ruvanmali.
However, there is a lot more history that most
of us still do not know about the Ruwanveliseya. It will all be
there cut in stone and crystal clear very soon. “The work
is due to be completed by September,” he says.