The three phases of Thantirimale

By Chris Edirisinghe

The reawakening of Thantirimale can be seen as having three phases in its long and chequered history. The first occurred when Theri Sanghamitta brought the Sacred Bo Sapling, and put Thantirimale, the then Thivakka Bamunugama on the Buddhist map. The second event of significance took place centuries after, when Ven. Kudakongaskada Vimalagnana Thera in 1960 at the tender age of 20 came to Thantirimale with a loaf of bread and a bottle of water in hand, making it his home and developing the village. Then in 2004, Wijeya Newspapers decided to offer an Aloka Pooja for the first time and lit up Thantirimale Temple as well as the adjacent villages.

We see today a developed place of pilgrimage, now officially declared a Sacred City, brimming with life and energy. For several years villagers here had led a hand-to-mouth existence. During years when the dry season was at its height and when there was severe drought, Ven. Kudakongaskada Vimalagnana Thera had to appeal to various authorities to help the villagers find food and sustenance.

The many tanks, water holes and wells had dried up and water was scarce. This sacred site owes its continued existence to the former Nayake Hamuduruwo Ven Vimalagnana Thera and present incumbent Ven. Chandraratana Thera the Nayake Hamuduruwo. People still to a great extent depend on the Temple and most of their daily activities revolve around it.

Just after Arahat Mahinda brought the Teachings of the Blessed One, his sister Ven Sanghamitta Theri brought the Sacred Bo Sapling during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa in the third century BC. She came to Dambakola Patuna, the port at the time and the sacred sapling was received by the Brahmin Thivakka, the Chief of Thivakka Bamunugama, which was earlier called Upatissagama after Minister Upatissa of King Vijaya.

From the day this humble village was transformed with the villagers embracing Buddhism. With time even the name was changed to Thantirimale during the reign of King Dutugemunu.

In 1960 a young Buddhist monk who had done extensive research about Thantirimale ventured into this snake-infested wilderness guided by his determination to see this ancient place.

He began cleaning the area the next day climbing every rock and examining the ancient sites of archaeological interest.

This young monk was Ven. Kudakongaskada Vimalagnana Thera. He soon began to organize the people of the village, cleared a good part of the jungle and the immediate area around the Bodhiya and gradually got a new village built. Around 2700 families lived there. He was also instrumental in having around 81 tanks and water holes repaired.

Thanks to him Thantirimale became known again. For 32 long years he managed this place sometimes with ruthless authority to see that law and order prevailed. Villagers had come to respect him so much that they recognized only his authority in the whole area, until his untimely death in 1992.

Wijeya Newspapers in consultation with the Incumbent of the temple Ven Thanthirimale Chandraratana Thera, decided to start the Aloka Pooja on Poson Poya of 2004. Though the temple could cater to a smaller crowd on Poya days, it lacked the infrastructure to provide for the large crowd that was expected with an Aloka Pooja.

Wijeya Newspapers undertook this with the construction of temporary toilets, provision of drinking water, electricity supply through a mobile generator etc. When Poson dawned at Thantirimale everything was in place. Villagers and children benefited by way of donations, gifts of books and uniform material.

On the occasion of the sixth year of the Aloka Pooja the Management and WNL staff should be justly proud of the achievement of lighting up a temple and massive village, till recently classified as a border village.

With no Tiger threats to fear now, this ancient place of worship, will stand as a beacon of light inviting all pilgrims to throng in vast numbers to meditate, and do good for all.

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