The most ancient name of the present Rajagala or the Rassahela is Girikumbbhila.
1 Thereafter it has been identified as Ariyakara Viharaya.
2 Several ancient books have identified this monastery as Ayiyakooti Viharaya
3, Kumbalthispav Ariyakara Viharaya
4, Ghirithimbilathispav Viharayas such 5 or AriyakaraViharaya.
According to all these names identified in the ancient text it is now evident that the name of this monastery-Grikumbhila Thissa Pabbatha Viharaya has been derived from the name of the mountain identified as Grikumbhila and adding the names of the people such as ThissaPabbatha. Sincethe monastery has been built by the patronage King Lajjatissa in the mountain identified as Kumbhhila, the name Tissa might have been used. Kumbhila is the name identified for a Crocodile in the Pali text. 6 Since this mountain looks like a Crocodile to the distance this name may have been used. Ariyakaththa means the suitable for the nobles or most suitable for nobles. According to ancient texts this monastery has been famous for the preaching of Ariyavansa. As such these names also may have been used in ancients to identify this monastery. Therefore it is very clear that the all these names depicted in the ancient texts are the names used for the identification of the present Rajagala Monastery.
According to the ancient text as well as inscriptions found in the area the King who is responsible for the establishment of this Rajagala Meditation Forest Monastery is King Lajjatissa. The explanations given in the ancient text Deepavansa it has been noted that the King Lajjatissa did establish a monastery named Grikumbhila. 7 In the ancient text Mahavansa it has been noted the during the period of when King Saddatissa living in Deegavapi, Lade the eldest son of Saddatissa, Lajjatissa to established a beautiful monastery named Girikumbhila while the second son Thullathana established the monastery named Kandara.8 This note in the ancient text Mahavnasa is very important to establish the period in which the commencing of the establishment of this monastery. It has been identified that the King Saddhatiss was living in Deegavapi during the rule of King Dutugemunu which is between 167 – 137 BC. As such it is evident the King Lajjatissa commenced the establishment of this monastery during the period of 167 – 137 BC when he was a prince living in the Eastern Province with his father King Saddhatissa – the brother of King Dutugemunu – while he was ruling as provincial king of the Eastern Province. During the latter period of King Dtugemunu, King Saddatissa went to Anuradhapura with his second son Thullathana. 9 As such it could be identified that Prince Lajjatissa has remained in Deegavapi and continued the establishment of the monastery. After the period of 18 years of ruling the country by King Saddhatissa, his second son attained the throne with the help of Buddhist Monks without informing his brother Lajjatissa. After the period of rule of one month and eight days of King Thullathana, Lajjatissa came to Anuradhapura and dethroned his brother and became the King of Sri Lanka. The explanations given in the ancient text Mahavansa with regard to the services rendered to the Buddhist Affaires during the period of ten years rule of King Lajjatissa, it has been noted that the King has donated noble wearing cloths to 60,000 Buddhist priests to mark the occasion of donating the completed monastery to the Buddhist Society.10 But according to ancient text the King Lajjatissa did not had good terms with the Buddhist Monks with in the first three years of his rule. As such the completion and handing over the completed monastery to the Buddhist Priest might have happened in between the period of 116 – 109 BC.
The above records in the in the ancient texts have been proven by the inscriptions found from Rajagala. According to the seven inscriptions found in Rajagala three of them states about the elder princes of the Chief King GaminiTissa.11 Next three of them states about the son named Tissa of the Chief King GaminiTissa.12 Final one clearly states King Lajjatissa is the son of King Saddatissa. 13 All these inscriptions states about the donation of caves to the monks to use as residences. They are –
The donation of a great cave constructed by the son of the great king of GaminiTissa named as Tissa (inscription No. 424)
The donation of a cave constructed by Buddhist follower Samika the wife of the son of the great king of GaminiTissa named as Tissa (inscription No. 426)
The donation of a cave constructed by Buddhist follower Abhijatha the wife of the son of the great king of GaminiTissa named as Tissa (inscription No. 427)
The donation of a great cave constructed by the eldest son of the great king of GaminiTissa (inscription No. 423)
The donation of a cave constructed by Buddhist follower Yasassani the wife of the son of the great king of GaminiTissa (inscription No. 422)
The donation of a cave constructed by Buddhist follower Buddhadatta the wife of the son of the great king of GaminiTissa named as Tissa (inscription No. 425)
The donation of a twenty five cool caves constructed by the son of the great king of GaminiTissa named as King Lajjaka (inscription No. 428)
As such it is very clear about the association of this monastery with the King Lajjatissa who ruled Sri Lanka from 119 – 109 BC.
After the donation of this monastery in the 2nd century BC by King Lajjatissa there are no records in the Mahavansa for a period of 700 years. But several inscriptions found in the area provide evidences of the existence of this monastery. They are –
Donation of a village name Atusba for the uses of the monastery in 44 BC during the period of sub king KuttakannaTissa 14
Donation of Avasa and demarcation of the boundary by golden plough and donation of a reservoir named Maragama to the monastery, Donation of a part of the water tax of the Maha Raja Canal and donation of paddy fields to the monastery, Construction of a Bo-tree shrine and establishment of asana in the monastery, Donation of reservoirs and water taxes to the monastery, by King BathikaTissa during 136 – 143 AD 15
Donation of privately owned reservoir named Kabaduka to the monastery, by deputy King Naga during the period of King BathaikaTissa (136 – 143 AD) 16
Donation of 100 Gold Coins to obtain the interest to the continuation of the Ariyawansa Preaching, by the Naga the son of Kabadhara Naga of Deegavapi 17
Donation of 1000 Gold Coins to provide the offerings to the temple, by the Naga the son of Kabadhara Naga of Deegavapi 18
Donation of 100 Gold Coins to the continuation of the requirements of monks of the temple by the King Mahasen (274-301 AD) 19
Donation of income of the Maltthe, Gulawelle and Vivangamuwetoobtain the Milk and Oil for the Monks of the temple, by the nobleman Dathasiva during the rule of King Mahinda (777-792 AD) 20
Donation of the income of Saratwega and Mahawegana to obtain the needs of the Monks, by Veerankura during the rule of King Mahinda (777-792 AD) 21
Donation of the income of Soruyur of the Digamadulla of the Southern Bank of Galoya and Kalweli of Lamjanawuwe to obtain the needs of the Monks, by Weerankura of LamjanawuweVeerankura by the order of seena during the rule of King Mahinda (777-792 AD) 22
Next identification of the monastery is during the period of King Dappula I (659 AD). It has been noted in the Mahavamsa that King Dappullathe I has constructed a beautiful Image House in the monastery and donated the village named Malawatthu.23 The final identification of this monastery is stated in the Mahavansa during the period of King Udaya I (797-801 AD) as it is stated as the King Udaya has repaired the Monastery and constructed two new buildings which were identified as missing. 24 Thereafter during the period of King Mahinda I the country experienced the invasion of the South Indian Chola Kings and finally during 1215 due to the invasion of Maga the Rajarata Civilization was completely fallen and the entire population was moved southwards and as a result the Rajagala Monastery, which was in existence and inhabited by Buddhist Priests for about a period of 1000 years was also was depopulated and became ruined. As such the monastery has a great historical significance thus have a great Historical Value over 10 centuries.
After the establishment of the archaeological survey of Sri Lanka in 1890, the main emphasis was to document and protect the archaeological remains in the ancient capitals. During 1933 several inscriptions which were found in Rajagala were read by Prof. SenarathParanavitha. But the systematic identification of the inscriptions was carried out only in 1969. Thereafter no attempts have been made by the Department of Archaeology to carry out a systematic identification of archaeological remains in Rajagala up to the year 2012. On the other hand the ethnic conflict that was prevailed in the North and East also prevented the Department of Archaeology to commence any archaeological activities in the area since 1979. The ancient Sri Lanka was divided to three administrative sections namely – Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti. Degavapi or DigamadullaDristrct is part of the Ruhunu administrative section. It had been identified that there are about 100 different archaeological sites in the Digamadulla District. Out of these 100 identified archaeological sites about 60 were located in the Gal Oya Basin all are belongs to the Anuradhapura Period. Out of these the Rajagala has been identified as the best preserved meditation forest monastery in the region which is yet to be archeologically conserved. After the completion of the civil war in 2009, department of archaeology commenced its archaeological activities in the Eastern province and one of the sites which were to be attended was the Rajagala Monastery. The preliminary investigations carried out by the department of archaeology have identified the following archaeological remains in the monastery scatters over 400 hectares.
Eastern Stairway leading to the top of the mountain which is 1340 meters long
Northern Stairway leading to the top of the mountain which is 1090 meters long
Stairway connecting the Northern and Eastern Walkways at the top of the mountain
Walkway connecting the in completed Buddhist statue to the Stupa platform in which two Stupas are located
Two Stupas in a Single Platform
Asanaghara near the Stupas in a single Platform
Walkway connecting the area where two stupas are located to the area where common buildings are situated
Ruined Building believed to be the Refectory
Ruined building believed to be the Uposathaghara
Ruined building believed to be the Janthaghara
Building in which stone bowls are situated which was used for the collection of spring water to the cooking purposed of the Refectory
Unidentified ruined building behind the Uposathaghara
Ancient Tank of Rajagala used for the collection of water for the purposes of the monastery
Walkway connecting the Stupa to the Buddhist Statue
Ancient Spill way of the Tank
Eight Ponds located in various locations caved in natural rock to collect the spring and rain water
Five small Stupas located in different locations
Sixteen ruined buildings located in various locations
Specially carved Cave
Small resting places within the water way
Inscription near the stone bowl building
Six stone stairways caved in natural rock
Pathway leading to the cave residences of Buddhist monks
Specially constructed stone entrance way to a cave residence of meditation monk (may be the chief priest)
Twenty Eight caves used as the residences of the meditation monks
Three meditations cells build using stone blocks
Two caves used as resting places in the stairways
Toilet located in a cave
According to the above identifications it could be observed that there are about 80 different archeologically important Monuments in the area which are to be conserved and maintained for the sake of future generations. Apart from the above significant monuments the resent archaeological explorations has revealed that there are about 700 archeologically important remains within the area. All these remains have to be carefully studied and identified to propose the suitable interventions. As such the archaeologically significant value also transforms into an Educational and Academic Value.
Rajagala Monastery complex has been identified as one of the three distinctive types of monasteries build during the early Anuradhapura period. As is has been identifies as a PubbathaVihara Type but no distinctive sacred edifices is identified. Instead of such edifices the common buildings are located in the flat plain in the top of the mountain. The monastery has been constructed as a meditation monastery in which number of monks who has attained the enlightenment was residing. In the one of the stories stated one of the texts it has been noted that there was an enlightened monk named MahaDattha who was living in the monastery.25 In an another text it has been stated that 300 ordinary people became monks in this monastery after hearing the Ayiyavansha preaching and became enlightenment after hearing the Satipattana preaching.26 In a story stated in another text, 500 monks who were residing in this monastery became enlightenment during the period that they were observing religious observances in a year.27 In another text it has been stated that the chief monk Dammaguptha had a 300 enlightened students who were residing in the monastery.
28 According to these stories it could be identified that the Rajagala meditation monastery was famous for the Ariyawansa Preaching and there had been about 500 enlightened monks thus having a Cultural, Religious and Spiritual Value.
According to the ancient texts and inscriptions Rajagala meditation monastery has been associated with Kings, Deputy Kings and Noblemen who has donated villages, paddy fields, taxes from water streams and reservoirs, Golden coins and has also constructed building for the development of the monastery thus having a significant Cultural Value.
On the other hand the significant feature of this monastery is that the ordinary people have climbed up to the flat plain of the mountain and gathered in that area were the common buildings are located in order to offer various donations to the meditation monks of the monastery and in return the monks have provided religious blessings to them. This could be identified as a significant Social Value of this monastery.
The monastery has been built in a mountain creating stone stairways, religious buildings, service buildings, path ways and monks residences in caves dwellings blended with the natural environment. When approaching the monastery through the eastern stairway the approach has been constructed to admire distant landscape in the area. The path ways leading to the cave dwellings and the other build residences are constructed in a way to admire the distant landscape in the vicinity. As such this monastery could be named as a monastery of a mixture of PubbthaVihara Type and VanawasaVihara Type which is very rare in Sri Lanka. As such the monastery could be identified as a special Buddhist Monastery with a significant Aesthetic Value.
As explained above the Monastery has been built in a mountain which consists of 400 hectares of natural forest. The entire area has been declared as a forest conservation area by the Department of Forest Conservation under the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance No. 2 of 1937 subsequent amendments and Act No. 44 of 1964 and No. 1 of 1970. The forest of Rajagala contains several species of Flora and Fauna. According to the preliminary investigations the site contains 76 different species of Flora and 61 different Species of Fauna. As such it had been revealed that a separate study has to be made for the proper identification of these species and their protection. The entire monastery has been laid to blend with the natural environment. All access paths to the monastery and monuments have been constructed with the minimum damage to the natural environment. All water ways have been preserved and simple stone bridges have been constructed when laying foot paths across the water ways. The stone boulders identified with in the site have been preserved and the foot paths have been created by blending the stone boulders. As such the entire site is created as site which has a valuable cultural landscape thus having an exceptional Ecological Value.
The remains identified so far in the monastery has provide evidences of stone build structures, brick build structures, construction of stone stairs ways blended with the natural hill slopes, Ponds carved out of natural rocks, cave dwellings constructed using natural or manmade caves with stone walls constructed in the 2nd Century BC, paintings in cave walls, etc thus having a potential Scientific Value to identify and learn the ancient construction technology and methodology.
After the end of civil war in 2009 the site has now being declared safe for the visitors. As such the site has now being visited by national and international visitors. The entire visit to the site takes about a half a day and the site is closed for visitors by 5.00 pm as there are several wild elephants in the area. As such it has an economic Existence Value. The government of Sri Lanka together with the Department of Archaeology has decided to invest in the site preservation and had allocated financial provisions through its annual budget. Since the department is short of human resources, the site has now being handed over to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura to carry out the Archaeological activities commencing from the 1st September 2012. As such the site is now equipped with an economic Optional Value. Since the commencement of the archaeological work in the site by the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, not only the Department of Archaeology but also the different government department in the area together with the clergy and the ordinary people has come forward to join hands in the preservation of this rare monastery in the aim of handing over it to the future generations thus having an economic Bequest Value. Since the monastery is a rare example of an ancient mediation forest monastery, it may be developed as a possible destination of a Cultural and Eco Tourism for the national and international visitors after its conservation and provision of services. As such the site is potential of having an economically viable User or Market Value.
As such the site could be identified as an ancient meditation forest monastery having a very significant Socio Cultural and Economical Values.
1 Deepavamsa (ed), Dr. C. B. Law, Mahragama Ceylon (1959) Chapter 20, 10
2 Chulavamsa, (tras.), Wilhelm Geiger, New Delhi (2003), Chapter 45 : 60 -61, Chapter 49: 32
3 Ppanchasuhani (ed), SayimanHewavitharana, Colombo 1933, Section 1, page 44-45
4 Sahassavathtuppakaranaya (ed), BuddhadattaMahanayakaThero, Colombo (1959), Page 187
5 Rasawahini, L.Gunaratna, Colombo 2007, Pages 56 & 238
6 Pali Sinhala Akaradiya, PolwathheBuddhadattaThero, (1998), Page 163
7 Deepavamsa (ed), KirielleGhanawilmalThero, Colombo (1970) Chapter 20, 11
8 Mahavamsa (ed), H. SumangalaThero, Batuvanthudawa, Colombo 1946, chapter 33 (14-15)
9 Mahavamsa (ed), H. SumangalaThero, Batuvanthudawa, Colombo 1946, chapter 33 (16-17)
10 10 Mahavamsa, Wilhelm Geiger, New Delhi (2007), Chapter 33 : 26
11 Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 1, Ins. No. 422,423,425
12 Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 1, Ins. No. 424,426,427
13 Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 1, Ins. No. 428
14 Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 11, part 1, pages 4 – 5
15 Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 11, part 1, pages 17 – 21
16 Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 11, part 1, pages 15 – 16
17 Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 11, part 11, pages 259
18 Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 11, part 11, pages 260
19 Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 11, part 11, pages 194
20 EpigrphiyaZelanica, Volume iv, pages 169-176
21 EpigrphiyaZelanica, Volume iv, pages 169-176
22 EpigrphiyaZelanica, Volume iv, pages 169-176
23 Chilavamsa, Giger Wilhelm, New Delhi, (2003) Ch. 45:60-62 Sinhala translation of Mahavamsa, Chapter 43, 58-62
24 Ibid, Chapter 49: 32-33
25 Ppanchasuhani (ed), SayimanHewavitharana, Colombo 1933, Section 1, page 44-45
26 Sahassavathtuppakaranaya (ed), BuddhadattaMahanayakaThero, Colombo (1959), Page 187
27 Rasawahini, L.Gunaratna, Colombo 2007, Pages 581 & 583
28 Old Sinhala Preacing Stories, PolwatteBuddadathaThero, Colombo, Page 145
- BuddhadattaMahanayakaThero (1959)- Sahassavathtuppakaranaya (ed), Colombo
- BuddadathaThero, Polwatte – Old Sinhala Preaching Stories, Colombo
- BuddadathaThero, Polwatte (1998) – Pali Sinhala Akaradiya, Colombo
- Department of Archaeology – EpigrphiyaZelanica, Volume iv
- Department of Archaeology – Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 1
- Department of Archaeology – Inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 11
- GhanawilmalaTheroKirielle (1970) – Deepavamsa (ed),Colombo
- Gunaratna, L. (2007) – Rasawahini, Colombo 2007, Pages 56 & 238
- HewavitharanaSayiman(1993) – Ppanchasuhani (ed), Colombo
- SumangalaThero, Batuvanthudawa(1946)-Mahavamsa (ed), Colombo 1946,
- Wilhelm, Giger (1973) – Chulavamsa, London