Ceylon Archaeologia

Anuradhapura Excavations: The Citadel (1989-94)*

Directors: Professor Robin Conningham, University of Durham; Dr Raymond Allchin, University of Cambridge

The UNESCO world heritage-site of Anuradhapura is one of Sri Lanka's most celebrated religious places. The historical and archaeological importance of Anuradhapura centre on its role as a royal capital between the early centuries BCE and the eleventh century CE after which time it was largely abandoned.

Engraved seal from Anuradhapura,
early centuries CE. Courtesy of the British Museum

In contrast to the concentration of projects which have examined the development of urbanisation in the north and northwest of the South Asian subcontinent, there have been few excavations in Sri Lanka examining the earliest phases of its history, the general assumption being that the island’s cities grew through contact with the Mauryan empire from circa 250 BCE. In order to test this assumption and to provide a structural and archaeological sequence, trench Anuradhapura Salgaha Watta 2 was excavated between 1989 and 1994. Measuring 10 metres by 10 metres and 10 metres deep, the Anuradhapura team recorded 1,887 contexts, 118 stratigraphic phases, 515 postholes, 77 pits, 42 walls, 38 slots, 17 ovens, 3 wells, 30 structural phases and 11 structural periods. Our sequence has provided a unique section through the site's development from an Iron Age village to a Mediaeval metropolis, allowing a re-evaluation of Anuradhapura’s growth as a city. Significantly, growth occurred before 250 BCE as the city’s trade and exchange networks expanded beyond its own hinterland to the island's coast to link with trading communities as far as Vietnam and Egypt.

Anuradhapura. Ruined stupa, late nineteenth century photograph


  • The Sri Lankan Archaeology Department
  • The Society for South Asian Studies
  • The British Academy
  • The Ancient India and Iran Trust
  • The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge

Project Members and Affiliates

  • Dr Cathy Batt, Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford
  • Dr Osmund Bopearachchi, CNRS, Paris
  • Dr Daniella Burroni, Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford
  • Dr Shelia Canby, The British Museum
  • Mr Steven Cheshire, School of Design and Technology, North Warwickshire & Hinckley College
  • Dr Paul Cheetham, School of Conservation Science, University of Bournemouth
  • Dr Randy Donahue, Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford
  • Dr Louise Ford, Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford
  • Dr Chris Knusel, Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford
  • Dr Gerry McDonnell, Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford
  • Mr Kalum Nalinda, Sri Lankan Wildlife Trust
  • Mr Jude Perera, Sri Lankan Archaeology Department
  • Dr Ruth Young, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester


We are most grateful to the three Directors-General of Archaeology, Dr Roland Silva, Mr M. Sirisoma and Dr Siran Deraniyagala, who held office during the first phase of fieldwork at Anuradhapura between 1989 and 1994. Together, and singularly, they provide excellent support and collaboration for the team. We are also extremely grateful to Dr Roland Silva for his continued assistance as Director-General of the Cultural Triangle. Special thanks is reserved for Dr Siran Deraniyagala, first as Director of the Anuradhapura Citadel Archaeological Project, and later as Director-General of Archaeology. The pioneer of scientific investigation at the Citadel of Anuradhapura, he acted as a mentor to the field team and was an exceptional source of knowledge about the archaeology of the citadel and the island itself.

Thanks must also go to the Directors, officers and staff of the Cultural Triangle Jetavana and Abhayagiri projects in Anuradhapura, especially Dr Hema Ratnayake and Professor Hetterachchi. Dr Bridget Allchin, Dr Raymond Allchin, Dr Janet Ambers, Mr Robert Janaway, the late President J.R. Jayewardene, Mr Rukshan Jayewardene, Dr N. Kemp, Mr Nimal Perera, Dr Martha Prickett, Dr Sudashan Seneviratne, Dr Colin Shell, Professor van Andel and Dr Wijepala also provided great assistance.

A great debt of gratitude is owed to the members of the field teams of officers, students and staff from the Archaeological Survey Department, the Cultural Triangle and the universities of Bradford, Cambridge, Keleniya, Peradeniya, the Post-Graduate Institute of Archaeological Research and Sri Jayewadenapura who worked at the site.

Whilst there are too many to name individually, in particular the Project directors would like to thank the following: Dr Bridget Allchin; Mr Kalum Nalinda Manamendra Arachchi; Claudia Beukmann, M.A.; Steve Cheshire, B.Sc.; Masaki Choya, B.A.; Paula Coningham, M.A.; Gary Dooney, M.A.; Luxman Chandra, M.A.; Antonia Douthewaite, M.A.; Rukshan Jayewardene, M.Phil.; Dr Carl Knappett; Mr Alfred de Mel; Mr. P.D. Mendis; Halawthage Jude Perera, B.A.; Mr P.R. Premachandre; Simon Weston, M.A.; and Sarah Wilde, B.A. The Anuradhapura Citadel Archaeological Project lab teams also provided an excellent back-up and support for which the team is very grateful. The project directors would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the lab teams and experts who have helped prepare the field data in the UK for publication.



(A.S.I. No. 488)


This inscription has been noticed by Dr. E. Müller in his Ancient inscription in Ceylon p.46. He says: The only inscription that has been discovered among the ruins is one of five lines in the alphabet of the fourth century[1], but very much defaced, so that nothing can be made out of it. I believe to have deciphered in the second line the word wahana, and this may possibly be an allusion to Skanda, the god of war, to whom the temple is dedicated[2]

The slab now stands to a height of 6ft. above the ground level; and the inscribed area measures 4ft. 9in. by 2ft. 10in. There are five lines of writing, engraved vertically from the top downwards. The letters, on and average, are about 4½ inches in height. The stone, being of a loose grained variety, is very much weathered; but, thanks to the deepness of the engraving, all the letters are legible except the first two of line I and the last letter of line 3. As stated above Dr. Müller ascribes this record to the fourth century; but the script, our only guide in dating the epigraph, agrees in every detail with that of dated inscriptions belonging to the first or second century A.D.

As regards grammar, the change of ca to ja is noticed in bikujarana for p. bhikku-ācariyān. In the from vadita (Skt. varddhita), the cerebralization of a dental when preceded or followed by an r, a feature almost universal in Sinhalese, is not observed. The modern equivalent of this word vädi goes back to a from vadita where the dental had been cerebralized. An instance of sandhi (euphonic combination of letters) is seen the from bikujarana which also supplies us with the only known example of an accusative plural termination in a document of this period. The two past passive participle verbal forms vadita (1. 3) and atadi (1. 5) are used here in an active sense. This is not the only instance in which this feature is noticed in old Sinhalese; and in the medieval and the modern forms of the language, the past indicative of the active voice in formed regularly by the addition of the personal suffixes to the p. p. p. form[3].

The contents tell us that a certain elder of the Buddhist Church, by name Nanda, enlarged the caitya (i. e. the modern Kirivehera) and got the monks at Akujuka to construct the flights of steps at the four entrances.


1. (Si )[4] Kadaha(va)p[i]- gama Daka-

2. -vahanaka-vasiya-Nada-

3. tere ceta vadita [ll*] Akuju(ka)-

4. bikujarana samatavaya catara-

5. dorahi patagada atadi [ll*]


(Hail)! The elder Nanda[5], residing at Dakavahanaka in the village Kadahavapi enlarged the cetiya; [and] laid the steps at the four entrances having made the chief monks at Akujuka acquiesce [therein].


[Line 1] Kadahavapigama. In this name, the reading vapi is somewhat open the doubt. If the above reading be accepted, the name is equivalent to Pāli Kaṭāhavāpigāma which in the modern Sinhalese would take the from of Kaṭavägama. Possibly, the place is identical with Kaṭagamuva, a village five miles south-east of Kataragama.

[Line 1-2] Dakavahanaka seems to have been a part of the village Kadahavapi. In the modern Sinhalese, this name would be Diyavāna. Vahanaka, it may be mentioned is the original from of the mod. Sin. vāna ‘ the spill of an irrigation reservoir ‘. It is plausible that the name was applied to that part of the village close to the spill of the village tank.

[Line 2] Vasiya = P. vāsika; mod. Sin. väsi.

[Line 3] Ceta= Skt. caitya, P. cetiya. In the next inscription, the word has been further corrupted to ceya. In the ninth - century language, it occurs in the forms sey and . Mod. Sin. säya.

[Line 3] Akuju[ku]. From the context this appears to have been a place name. An unpublished rock inscription of Gajabāhu I at Situlpavuvihāra in the Māgam Pattu contains the name Akuju Mahagama (the great village of Akuju).

[Line 4] Bikujarana. Accusative singular of the compound formed of the two words biku (P.bhikkhu) and ajara (P. ācariya). The second word occurs in the oldest stage of the Sinhalese language as acariya and in the classical speech as äjara.

[Line 4] Samatavaya. P. sammatāpayitvā , the causal past participle of the root sam-man. The medieval Sinhalese from of the word was samanvā.

[Line 5] Dorahi. The locative singular of dora (Mod. Sin. dora, P.and Skt. dvāra) ‘door’.

[Line 5] Patagaa. This word occurs in the inscriptions of circa second century B.C. as Padagaa ; in an inscription of about the seventh century as patagaa and in Sinhalese literature as Piyagäa. Its Pāli from is padagaṇṭhi (see Mahāvamsaṭῑkā , Colombo edition of 1894, P. 214) which seems to be a word of Ceylon origin as it is found only in such pāli works as were written in Ceylon.

[Line 5] Ataini. Skt. āstṛta, P. atthaṭa, Mod Sin. ätirῑ.


[1] As regards this statement, see the next paragraph.

[2] As will be seen from the text and translations which follow, the three syllables vahana from part of a place-name and, therefore, there is no allusion to Skanda.

[3] For instance, the verb keē (he did) is formed by the addition of the third person singular suffix ē to the from kaa which is the p.p.p. of the root kar to do.

[4] The syllable si is faintly visible in the impression; and between that and the letter ka there is some space where, possibly, there was a vertical stroke used as a punctuation mark. Between the auspicious symbol and the next word, there is usually some space left blank in the inscription.

[5] P. Nanda.


- A comparative study.

The Dipavamsa, the earliest extant chronicle of Sri Lanka, of unknown authorship, deals with the history of the island from earliest times up to the reign of Mahasena (325-352)

By Aryadasa Ratnasinghe [Source: The Island - 28 May, 1998]

The Dipavamsa, the earliest extant chronicle of Sri Lanka, of unknown authorship, deals with the history of the island from earliest times up to the reign of Mahasena (325-352). Erudite opinion holds that it is not the work of a single author but of several authors. Considering the nature of ancient chronicle of the island, we can believe that there is a certain element of truth in it, particularly calculated to be the vehicle of history in early times, when literary facilities were scanty. There is also the opinion that Dipavamsa was the work of two nuns Sivala and Maharuha from India.

As the title indicates, the Dipavamsa contains the history of the island. The preamble to the chronicle, (as translated into English by B. C. Law) reads: "Listen to me! I shall relate the chronicle of the Buddha's visits to the island, the arrival of the Tooth Relic and the Bodhi tree, the advent of the Buddha's doctrine, the rise of the teachers, the spread of Buddhism in the island and the coming of (Vijaya) the Chief of Men".

According to B. C. Law, "Dipavamsa contains many stages of development concluding at different important historical events. There is an apparent lack of uniformity, an unevenness of style, incorrectness of language and metre and numerous repetitions, apart from many other imperfections which indicate it to be the outcome of a series of traditions collected together as a first attempt to record a connected history of the island".

The chronicle embodies the oral tradition of the country handed down from the time of the advent of Buddhism to the island. With all its drawbacks, both literary and grammatical, it is a very useful source of information dealing with the ancient times, and written in Pali.


The Mahavamsa, similar to the Dipavamsa, is written in Pali. It deals with the history of the island, from legendary beginnings, also up to the reign of Mahasena. This great chronicle is said to have been written by Ven. Mahanama Maha Thera, an uncle of king Dhatusena (460-478), who lived in the Dighasanda Senapathi Pirivena, which belonged to the Maha-vihara Fraternity in Anuradhapura. His work ends with Ch. 37:50. The rest of the Mahavamsa is known as Culavamsa, especially after Prof. Wilhelm Geiger, who is said to have made the division.

The preamble to the Mahavamsa reads: "Having made obeisance to the Sam-buddha the Pure, sprung from a Pure Race, I will recite the Mahavamsa, of varied content and lacking nothing". (Rendered into English by Prof. Geiger). When Maha-vamsa appeared after the Dipavamsa, it assumed such popularity and importance that it not only superseded the earlier work, but also prompted authors to gradually produce supplementary work based on it.

The later chronicles of the island, written from time to time, are the Attana-galu Vihara Vamsa, the Dhatuvamsa, the Elu-Attanagaluvamsa, the Elu-Bodhivamsa, the Maha Bodhivamsa, the Thupavamsa, the Daladavamsa, the Viharavamsa etc.

In the Culavamsa, it is stated that king Dhatusena, ordered the Dipavamsa to be publicly recited at the annual Mihindu festival held in Anuradhapura (Ch. 38:58). This indicates that at time it was available in some coherent form. The authors of Culavamsa, who made additions to it from time to time, were Ven. Mugalan Maha Thera of Thupa-ramaya in Polon-naruwa, Ven. Dharma-kirti Maha Thera who lived during the Dambadeniya period (1220-1293), Ven. Tibbotuwawe Sri Siddhartha Buddha-rakshita Maha Thera, who lived during the reign of Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747 - 1780), and Ven. Panditha Yagirala Sri Pragnananda, the Chief Sangha Nayaka of Gonagala Sudharma-kara Pirivena.


Oriental scholars are of opinion that the Mahavamsa is more authoritative than the Dipavamsa, and when compared there are dissimilarities which are clearly evident. According to the Dipavamsa, the three visits of the Buddha to the island were in the 1st, 5th and 8th year after Englightenment. The Mahavamsa refers to the visits by the respective months, i.e. on the Duruthu fullmoon day, Bak newmoon day and Vesak fullmoon day. The Dipavamsa does not make any specific reference to the 'minipalanga' mentioned in the Mahavamsa.

The Mahavamsa says that the Buddha, during his third visit to the island, had visited nine places, i.e. "Kelaniya, Samanala-kanda (Sri Pada), Divaguhawa, Digha-vapiya, Maha Megha-vanaramaya, Sri Maha-bodhi Isthanaya, Swarnamali Chaitya Isthanaya, Thuparama Isthanaya, Sila chaitya Isthanaya." Dipavamsa mentions the places as Kelaniya, Digha-vapiya, the place where the Bo-sapling was later planted within the Maha Mewna-uyana and the Megha-vanaramaya. It does not make any mention of the Buddha's footmark atop the Sama-nalakanda. We cannot construe with assurance the reference to Maha Meghavana-ramaya, since it was a place later presented to Arahat Maha Mahinda, the great apostle of Buddhism, by king Devanampiyatissa (BC 247-207), after the demise of the Buddha in 543 BC.

According to tradition, it was an Aryan who first came over and settled down in Sri Lanka. The circumstances under which this first Aryan, prince Vijaya by name, happened to come to the island, are mentioned in the Mahavamsa. Aryan is a name given to a broad division of the human race who are supposed to have inhabited the vast stretch of country from Central Asia to Eastern Europe, and to have reached India about 3000 BC.

According to the story in the Maha-vamsa, the country of Vanga was ruled by the king of Vangas, whose queen was the daughter of Kalingas, when a daughter was born to them, it was predicted that, when she comes of age, a lion would cohabit with her. Fearing what was foretold, she left the palace one day in disguise and joined a caravan going from Vanga to Magadha. As the caravan was going through a forest in Lala country, it was attacked by a lion, and took the princess away. With their union, she gave birth to twins whom were named Sinhabahu and Sinhasivali. (Ch. 6:8).

The author of the Dipavamsa has, however, tried to be more factual in referring to the husband of the princess as a man named Sinha who was an outlaw that attacked caravans en route. In the meantime, Sinha-bahu and Sinhasivali, as king and queen of the kingdom of Lala, "gave birth to twin sons, sixteen times." The eldest was Vijaya and the second was Sumitta. As Vijaya was of cruel and unseemly conduct, the enraged people requested the king to kill his son. But the king caused him and his seven hundred followers to leave the kingdom, and they landed in Sri Lanka, at a place called Tamba-panni, on the exact day when the Buddha passed into Maha Parinibbana in 543 BC.

The Dipavamsa mentions that the children of king Panduvas-deva (BC 504-474) were Abhaya, Tissa, Uttiya, Asela, Vibha-taya, Rama, Siva, Matta, Mattakala and Ummadachitra. The Mahavamsa does not give weight to these names, as mentioned in the Dipavamsa. The children of king Mutasiva (BC 367-307), according to Mahavamsa, were Abhaya, Devanam-piyatissa, Mahanaga, Uttiya, Mattabhaya, Mitta, Mahasiva, Suratissa, Asela and Kira. But, the name of his daughters are simialr in both chronicles.

The union of prince Gamini and Umma-dachitra, the childhood days of prince Pandu-kabhaya, the building of the Mahamewna-uyana, the questions asked by the Arhat Maha Mahinda from king Devanampiya-tissa, the ordination of Anula and other women, the stone pillar erected within the precincts of the Ruvanweliseya etc., are not mentioned in the Dipavamsa, but the Mahavamsa describes them in detail. The Pirivenas Kalapasada, Lohapasada, Suna-hatha, Dighachan-kamana, Phalagga and Therapassa, built by king Devanampiya-tissa, are not mentioned in the Dipavamsa, but the Mahavamsa makes mention of them to prove the spiritual zeal of the king.

Sect Rivalry

The Dipavamsa does not mention the cause for the separation of the Abhayagiriya fraternity from that of the Mahavihara, and the formation of the Dhammaruchi sect of the Mahayana tradition. As regards the schism and rivalry that prevailed between these two sects, and the mischievous activities of Sona and Mitta in planning the destruction of the Hinayana bhikkus of the Mahavihara, are not properly accounted therein.

Although the Mahavamsa mentions the names of those who came to the island along with Arhat Maha Mahinda, it does not refer to those who came along with the Theri Sanghamitta carrying the Bo-sapling from India. Dipavamsa mentions them as Uttara, Hema, Masaragalla, Aggi-matta, Dasika, Pheggu, Pabbatamatta, Malla and Dhammadasi. Most of the bhikkunis who assisted Theri Sanghamitta in the propagation of the Dhamma and Vinaya are found in the Dipavamsa only. The planting in the soil of Sri Lanka the Bo-saplings of the three previous Buddhas is not mentioned in the Mahavamsa though Dipavamsa makes reference to them.

The Mahavamsa covers ten chapters pertaining to the activities of king Dutugemunu and his religious zeal, but Dipavamsa does not contain more than ten stanzas and makes the story short. The Sirisanghabo story is well described in the Mahavamsa, but the Dipavamsa says that the king ruled for two years only. The arrival of the heretical bhikku Sanghamitta, during the reign of Gotabhaya (302-315), and the establishment of the 'Vaitulya' doctrine in the island is not mentioned in the Dipavamsa.

The controversy that arose between the two Naga kings Mahodara and Chulodara, to possess the jewel-throne, and how the Buddha averted a serious offensive by reconciling the two contending factions, during his second visit to the island, is not clearly mentioned in the Dipavamsa, although Mahavamsa mentions about it (CH. 1:47).

Prof. Geiger is of the view that the "defects in the Dipavamsa, which, naturally, could neither nor should be disputed, concern the outer form and not the contents. But, that the author of the Dipavamsa, simply invented the contents of his chronicle, is a thing impossible to believe. The Dipavamsa is a sort of chronicle of the history of the island from the legendary beginning onwards and presents the first clumsy reaction in Pali. The Mahavamsa is a new treatment of the same thing distinguished by greater skill in the use of the Pali language by more artistic composition and literal use of the material contained in the original work."

When Sir Alexander Johnston (1811-1819), Chief Justice, desired to obtain the most authentic information that could be obtained relative to Buddhism, usages, manners, and feelings of the people who professed the faith, he was presented with the two books Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa as the main authority. These two chronicles, according to their considered opinion, "contained the most genuine account of the origin of Buddhism, its doctrine, its introduction into the island and of its effects, both moral and political. With the displacement of the Dipavamsa, as a result of the appearance of the Mahavamsa, the authority and the value of the latter chronicle has always remained the outstanding treatise."

Buddha Maitreya

According to the account found in the chronicles Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa, the earliest period to which reference is made deals with the time of the Buddha Kakusanda, the first of the Buddhas belonging to the maha Bhadra Kalpa, during which five Buddhas appear to relieve mankind from the evils of suffering. The present Buddha Gautama is the fourth in lineage. The last is Buddha Maitreya who is supposed to come into the world in another 2500 years time. The chronicles also say that Sri Lanka, during the dispensation of Buddhas Kaku-sanda, Konagama, Kasyapa and Gautama, was respectively known as Ojadipa, Varadipa, Mandadipa and Lankadipa. The capital cities were Abhyapura, Vaddha-mana, Visala and Anuradhapura respectively.

In 1874, the then Governor, Sir William H. Gregory, having consulted the scholars of oriental studies in England, assigned the translation of the Mahavamsa, from Pali into Sinhala, to the reputed and erudite scholars who were Ven. Hikkaduwe Siri Sumangala Nayaka Thera of the Vidyodaya Pirivena, and Ven. Batuwantudawe Sri Devarakkhitha Maha Thera (later known as Panditha Batuwan-tudawe). Their work was highly commen-ded and honoured by those scholars who were not proficient in Pali. However, the initiative to have the chronicle translated into Sinhala came first from the Governor Sir William Henry Robinson. In the meantime, George Turner had translated the first 37 chapters of the Mahavamsa into English, having secured the required information from the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters in Kandy.

According to Mahavamsa, the monastic institution next in importance to the Mahavihara of the Theravada tradition is the Abhayagiri Vihara built by king Vatta-gamani Abhaya (AD 78-88). When he became the undisputed ruler of the country, he demolished a monastery belonging to the 'nighanta' Giri, and built in its place the Abhayagiri vihara, enjoining the names Abhaya and Giri.

Later, a faction of bhikkus broke away from the Mahavihara and formed themselves into a new sect known as the Dhammaruci Nikaya. The thera Mahatissa, who helped king Vattagamani Abhaya to recover the lost sovereignty, was given the incumbency of the newly built Abhayagiri Vihara. The Mahavihara, which assumed in no time a supreme place in the religious and educational life of the country, held its authority until the Abhayagiri Vihara entered into the scene.

The second famine known as 'beminitiya-says', lasting twelve years, is said to have occurred during the reign of Vattagamani Abhaya. The Maha-vamsa does not mention of such a famine, but says "in the fifth month after Vatta-gamani ascended the throne, a brahmin in Rohana named Tissa, encouraged by a prophecy of another brahmin, that he was destined to be the ruler of the country, revolted against the king. At the same time seven Tamils from India came to the island and marched against the king, who managed to escape with barely his life." The Rajavaliya mentions of the famine, said to have occurred" due to the curse of a brahmin woman whose husband was unjustly killed on the orders of king Milinda because he coveted his wife."


By- Dr, D.K. Jayaratne.

University of Peradeniya
Director, Archaeology - Sigiriya project.

The Back-ground and Aims:
The Veheragala Reservoir was constructed by “Manik Ganga” within the Yala sanctuary in order to supply water to the Lunugamvehera Reservoir which was generally prone to be starved of a full water capacity. The new project is expected to inundate about 3,000 acres of the sanctuary which is expected to contain a considerable amount of archaeological artifacts. In order to recover and study these artifacts the Tissamaharama project of the central cultural fund commenced this project in October 2007 as a rescue attempt.
This Project is aimed at;
i. Documentation of archaeological information about this area.
ii. The conservation of the artifacts that way be found.
iii. To collect material for the Kataragama museum expected to be constructed as part of the Tissamaharama project.
iv. To train student in archaeology and
v. To gain experience is rescue archaeology.
The Veheragala project was authorized by the Department of Archaeology under the patronage of the Central Cultural Fund, the Irrigation Department and the Netherlands Cultural Corporation programme. It was headed by the CCF Tissamaharama project, and the Archaeology graduates of the Universities of Sri Jayewardenepura, Peradeniya, Rununa and kelaniya and the CCF participated. It functioned from 28th October to 25th December 2007.

Historical back-ground
Recent evidence indicates the occurrence of pre-historic humans in this locality 125,000 years ago. In the Bundala region (between Hambantota and Tissa) and within the perimeter of the Yala sanctuary (in Minihagalkanda) there lived Sri Lanka’s most ancient humans. The Veheragala area is not too far from those sites. In addition, proto-historic settlements have been located in Allengala, Tambarava and, Akurugoda; and burial ground pertaining to that era were discovered at Kataragama, Mahapalassa, Mahagal Vava, Habaratteva, Tambarava, Bambava and Ranchamadama. Historic artifacts such as pottery, coins, metal object, bead etc., and evidence of hearths and furnaces, and inscriptions are not unknown here. Some of these, no doubt, point to relation with other countries, with Godavaya being on record as a sea port.Earlier, Magama was the focus of human habitation which appear to have shifted to wards the South owing to contemporary environmental and other changes. Demographic shift towards the SW during the 13th century and after turned the Raja Rata into a desolate wilderness. Ruhuna faced the same fate. Until recent settlements occurred during the 20th century these historic regions were less occupied by humans and more by wild beasts.

It was to large an area for a survey with very limited time, and hence, only a few places were chosen at random, specially points at which large excavators had removed the top - soil. There artifacts could be picked up with relative ease. In the preparation of maps, the GIS method was employed. With the help of 1:50,000 survey maps printed by the Survey Department and the use of the ARC GIS 9.2 soft-ware the identification of places was facilitated. The open excavation method was employed for the excavation of the chosen sites.

Results Obtained:
Through the surveys conducted in the Veheragala region 12 archeological sites identified.
In settlement No. 01 located about 50m. to the East of the Manik Ganga, an area of about 500sq.m. building artifacts were found.
In settlement No: 02, an area of about 250sq.m. mainly earthen-ware found. In the settlement No: 03 is a location from which earth has been removed for the construction of the Veheragala Reservoir.Within an area of about 300sq.m. earthen-were artifacts were found.
In the settlement No: 04 The Gonagam Ara, a tributary of the River, has on item right band, an area that provided earthen-were artifacts.
In the settlement No: 05 is located on the left bank of the River, 500m. away, from which bits of tiles and bricks in considerable quantities were found.

In the settlement No: 06 were earthen-were re
mains along with thecoin, a flat bead and a fragment of an iron tool.
In the settlement No: 07, which evidently has been a large habitation, were found fragments of clay pipes, and fair amount of iron slag likely connected with an industry.
In the settlement No: 08, are the remains of a monks’ abode, and this is located on the right bank.
In the settlement No: 09, a location which would be submerged by the Reservoir, two rock structures enciveled by a wall is evident.
In the settlement No: 10, located on the right bank, is solitary building.
In the settlement No: 11, are the remains of what may be suspected as a bodhigara or a asanaghara.
In the Lunugamvehera Reserve Varaluvapudama were the remains of a shrine room, a stupa and other ruins, and is identifiable as a centre of worship in the past. From Mahakemgala two Brahmi inscriptions were found. It is evident that a tank-based agricultural community lived in the area under study from the remains of pottery, iron producing sites, ruined land sites, etc. The pottery was found to belong to the 7th and 8th centuries. This study of the region of Manik-ganga indicates that the upper and lower regions would have had a developed civilization and therefore, these regions must be investigated in the near futures.

Exploration Team
Ven: Pathberiye Gnanaloka thero - Project Manager,Tissamaharama Project.

Dr. D.K. Jataratne - Department of Archaeology, University of

P.B.N.Abewardena - Department of Archaeology, University of Peradeniya.

T.M.C.Bandara - Exploration Officer, Departme
nt of Archaeology.

Lakshman Chandana - Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund. Kandy Project.

R.Upul Nisantha - Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund. Abayagiriya Project.

T.G.S.A. Gamage - Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund. Tissamaharama Project

Sumedha Priyantha - Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund. Tissamaharama Project

P. Pushpa Kumara -Training Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund. Tissamaharama Project

Archaeology Graduates
Thilina Pallethenna - University of Peradeniya.

Thusitha Herath - University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

M.Chanaka - University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

Sandhya Nawarathna - University of Peradeniya.

H.Piyathilaka - University of Ruhuna.

Manjula Karunathilaka - University of kelaniya.

Sarojani wijenayaka - University of kelaniya.

Plans - Dammika Siriwardena, Central Cultural Fund.
Photography - Suresh Sanjeewa , Central Cultural Fund.

* Heritage Achievements 2007 ,Central Cultural Fund,2008,p'52,Publication No:455


“The science of archaeology is problem-oriented and is
sue-related. It is essentially a multi disciplinary study investigating, documenting, interpreting and presenting human expressions, experiences and behaviour patterns of the past to its rightful inheritors, the next generation. The archaeologist investigating the past is a scientist who is objective, unbiased and unprejudiced. Above all, an archaeologist is a humanist and social activist who does not fear the past or compromises the future”

[professor.Sudharshan Seneviratne]

Director General. Central Cultural Fund

Professor of Archaeology, University of Peradeniya

* Heritage Achievements 2007 ,Central Cultural Fund,2008,p'60,Publication No:455



KATARAGAMA [1] is one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimage in Ceylon, sacred alike to the Buddhists as well as to the Hindus. To the former, it is one of the ‘sixteen great places’ at which the Buddha, during his third visit to the island, set is meditation. To the latter, it is the abode of Skanda, the youthful and fiery god of war. Kājaragāma, as the place is called in the pāli writings, was one of the earliest settlement of the Sinhalese in this island. In the third century B.C., it was already the seat of a kŞatriya clan whose representatives were among the distinguished personages assembled at Anurādhapura to pay homage to the branch of the sacred Bo-tree brought to Ceylon by Sańghamittā, the daughter of the great Indian emperor AŚoka [2]. One of the eight shoots which sprang up from this Bo-tree was planted at Kataragama; and thus the place became a centre of the Buddhist faith [3] at very early date. The foundation of Mahāgāma, about ten miles to the south, by Mahānāga, brother of Devānampiya Tissa, seems to have eclipsed the fame of Kataragamal ; for , from that time up to the eleventh century, the place is mentioned but once in the Mahāvamsa. Dappula I, one of the best known of the rulers of Ruhuṇa, who had also a brief tenure of authority at Anurādhapura (642 A.D), is said to have founded a monastery at Kataragama[4] .

In the first half of the eleventh century, Kataragama was, for a short period , of some moment in the affairs of the island. It was the last stronghold of the Sinhalese leaders of the time against the irresistible tide of Coḷa imperialism; and from there stared that movement which, after varying fortunes, resulted in the liberation of the island from the Coḷa yoke. Kataragama was, the scene of several hotly contested battles between the Sinhalese generals and the invading Coḷas on the one hand; and one of the other, of Kassapa the Kesadhātunāyaka against Kitti, the rising young hero who afterwards restored the sovereignty of the Sinhalese and ascended the throne of Poḷonnaruva as Vijayabāhu I. During these campaigns, the town was sacked by the invaders; and owing to this reason, as well as to the extension of Vijayabāhu’s activities to a wider sphere, the place seems to have sunk into comparative insignificance for it never again figures in the history of the island [5]

The shrine of the Kataragama god (see plate 20) which attracts such a large number of votaries annually from all parts of the island as well as from India, is a structure of modern origin [6]; and has no pretensions whatever to architectural beauty. It stands in the centre of a spacious enclosure within which there are also an old Bo-tree supposed to be identical with the one planted during the reign of Devānampiya Tissa, a Buddhist image house of modern style and several minor shrines dedicated to the worship of Skanda’s wives and brother. An inscribed pillar (A.S.I. 490), of which more will be said in the sequel, stands in front of image house. A number of ancient stones are lying about the place; but these have all been brought here, a few years ago, from the grounds of the kirivehera.

The dāgäba known as Kirivehera (see plate 21) about half a mile to the north of the devāle , is traditionally said to have been founded by Mahānāga (circa third century B.C). On some of the bricks fallen down from the dome, there are Brāhmi letters of about the first century B.C., inscribed as masons marks. And, as will be seen later, one of the inscriptions at the place records its enlargement in the first or second century A.D. Therefore, this stūpa may well be ascribed to a very early date, though we may not accept the tradition in its entirety. The monument itself is about the size of the Mirisaväṭiya dāgäba in Anurādhapura and stands on an artificially raised terrace, to which flights of steps lead on the four cardinal points. The harmmikā and the chatrāvalῑ have fallen down and the facing of the dome, too, is incomplete. Restoration work has recently been started and has now proceeded about half way up the dome. There are two inscriptions near this stūpa: one (A.S.I. 488) on a slab standing some 50 ft. to the south of the main entrance, and the other (A.S.I. 489) on a slab lying on the pavement now broken into four fragments of which one is missing.

[1] The Temple of Kataragama has been often described. For a good account of the place, giving references to previous writers, see Manual for Uwa Province by Herbert White, Colombo, 1893, pp.35-53. See also The Worship of Muruka by the late Sri Ponnambalam Arunachalam in the J.R.A.S., C.B., No-77, p.234 ff.

[2] Mahāvamsa, ch. xix, v. 54.

[3] Ibid., v. 62.

[4]see Mahāvamsa , ch. xiv, v. 45.

[5] Mahāvamsa , ch. lvii, vv .2, 67, 68, 70, 74, ch.lvii, v. 5.

[6] According to the tradition, a shrine of Skanda was built at Kataragama by Duṭṭagāmai in the first century B.C. in fulfillment of a vow made by him to that deity when he started on his memorable campaign against the Tamil usurper Elāḷa who was ruling at Anurādhapura. The literature, both Sinhalese and Tamil, connecting Skanda with Kataragama, is of recent origin; and there are, at the place, no vestiges whatever of the prevalence of a Hindu cult in early days. Therefore, this tradition may well be doubted; especially in view of the fact that there is a tendency among the Sinhalese villages to ascribe every possible religious foundation to the munificence of that pious monarch. The shrine has always been, and still is, under the supervision of Sinhalese priests (Kapurālas) ; and in the annual festival, I was informed by the priest the ceremonies connected with the Bo-tree and the dāgäba take precedence to those of the god. Some of the legends associated with Kataragamadeviyo are not known in India about Skanda; and the prevailing belief among the Sinhalese is that he is one of the four guardian deities of Ceylon and is destined to become a Buddha in the future. Therefore, we may be justified in concluding that Kataragamadeviyo was originally one of the local deities or Bodhisattvas of the Sinhalese Buddhist; and in process of time was identified with the Purāṇic deity Skanda, some centuries ago.