(Image Courtesy- Gayan Alahakoon)
The Department of Archeology has failed to stop encroaching and destruction of artifacts at Dewanagala Raja Maha Viharaya located 5.6 kilometers away from Mawanella, in clear breach of its obligations under Antiquities Ordinance No. 9 of 1940.
Devanagala situated about 5.6 km away from the Kandy Road Mawanella town towards Hemmathagama, was said to have been spread over 72 acres. Located in the Medapattu of the Galbada Koralaya of the Satara Koralaya , the archeological site is located in the Aranayaka Divisional Secretariat Division of the Kegalle District of the Sabaragamuwa Province.
According to the 1876 Ceylon Archeological Survey, this sacred area of Devanagala was declared to be an Archeological Buffer Zone of 72 acres.
(Image Courtesy- Chamara Perera)
Located on the magnificent Devanagala Rock, the Temple is said to have its links to the Anuradhapura Era and up to the Kandyan era. According to legend that Deity Aluthnuwara visited Kirungalpa in Hingula first because then Devanagala. This rock is also called the Immortal Rock (Amara Gira) in the sense of the hillock where a deity took rest. According to some folklore that two gold mortar have been buried. Some villagers believe that another reason why the rock is called Devanagala is that the rock was the second tallest in the area next to Bible Rock (Bathalegala).
The Mahavamsa mentions a temple built by King Dhatusena at ‘Dasen Pawwa’ in the Anuradhapura Era. Furthermore, in the Polonnaruwa Era, King Parakramabahu the Great awarded the Devanagala village as a Keerthi Nagaragiri who was the commander-in-chief for the victory gained during the Burmese war in. After conquering Kusumiya Citadel (Pathein in modern Myanmar).
The golden era of this sacred place was during the Kandyan Kingdom. A monk called Ven. Dewanagala Rathanalankara Thera of Dewanagala who helped King Wimaladharmasooriya I to become the monarch rewarded with making lot of donations to the temple. At the top of the rock is a rock inscription which spells out about the donations made by the king to the temple for the betterment of the temple and its monks. The foot imprint nearby is considered to be one of the largest rock foot imprints in the Kandyan Era. The image house (Tampita Pilima Geya) built on the top of the rock was spearheaded by Ven. Rathanalankara Thero under patronage by King Wimaladharmasooriya I. It is said that the Sacred Tooth Relic on its way to Kandy was hidden inside a Bran Mortar (Kurahan gala) said to be buried in this temple.
It is believed that the original Pagoda (Dagoba) was built during the reign of King Dhatusena and as it had been totally dilapidated reconstructed during the reign of King Wimaladharmasuriya I of Kandy. Again during the reign of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe, the Dewanagala Vihara and the villages belonging to the Vihara were developed.
On one of the slopes of the Devanagala rock exists a cave or an opening into the rock which is said to have been used as an ancient tunnel. The view from the top of the Devanagala rock is breathtaking.
Apathy by the authorities
It is regrettable to note that the Devanagala Temple historic site is prone to encroachment and destruction of artifacts by illegal squatters. It is alleged that some encroachers with vested interests have poured acid in order to destroy rock inscriptions.
Media teams that visited the premises were shown the artifacts that were allegedly subject to vandalism by Ven. Medirigiriye Punyasara Thera.
Officials from Archeological Department told media that surveyors were unable to complete the demarcation of the archeological site as they were hindered and threatened by the squatters.
Under Section 40(c) the Director General of Archeology is obligated to protect and maintain such archeological heritage and under Section 40(g) to conduct archeological impact assessment of areas that may be affected by development, industrial or other projects proposed by the Government or any person and implement any mitigatory measures that may be required.
Ancient monuments situated on state lands and ancient trees growing in state land or any other land are declared as ancient monuments in terms of Sections 16 and 17 of the Antiquities Ordinance No. 09 of 1940 in order to secure the preservation or protection of them.
Ancient monuments situated on private land will be declared as protected monuments in terms of section 18 only after calling for objections in terms of section 19.
Section 21 emphasizes that proper authority and intervention of this department is essential to commence or carry out any work of restoration, repair or addition in connection with any protected monument subsequent to they being declared in the above manner.
Any person who destroys, injures or defaces shall be guilty of an offence under the said ordinance and shall be liable on conviction after a trial before a Magistrate to a fine not less than Rs.50,000.00 and not exceeding Rs.250,000.00 or to imprisonment of either description for a term not less than 2 years and not exceeding 5 years or to both such fine and imprisonments. The law further states that persons accused of the offences cannot boiled out until hearing of the case is finalized.
Subsequent to declaration of monuments, taking into consideration the importance of the monuments and their associated environment and with the objective of alleviating possible threats to the historicity and archaeological value of such monuments, orders have been made in terms of Section 24 ( 1 ). Accordingly a prescribed zone of 400 yard from the monument will be reserved and erection of buildings, carrying on of ruining, quarrying or blasting operations will be prohibited within such reserved zone.
(Image Courtesy- Shalaka Gamage)