Vesak Post 2: Ramukkana Raja Maha Viharaya and Rock Inscription

Ramukkana Raja Maha Viharaya, situated close to Bandaragama along the Horana Road, may not be as large as some other temples in the area. Not having referred in ancient literature repeatedly it may not also be that well known. However, this is a unique place in the history of Raigampura kingdom. It is from the land of this temple that perhaps the oldest rock inscription in the Western province was discovered in 1997 during the renovation of the temple.

This inscription is now named as ‘Ramukkana Raja Maha Vihara Puvaru Lipiya’ – because it is written on a ‘stone slab’(gal puvaruva) In 1998, it was read by Raj Somadeva of the Post Graduate Institute of Archeology at University of Kelaniya. With the style of the Brahmi letters he dates it to the period 1st century BC to 1st century AD. In other words it is quite possible that this was done by the time Jesus Christ was alive and preaching his new found religion in another land.

As only part of the rock slab is available it is not clear what the message is. All what we know is it mentions about two ‘Bhanakas’. These were the learned Bhikkus of the day who memorized Dhamma before it was documents during the time of king Walagambahu. There were different groups (guru kulas) of such monks who memorized parts of Sutra Pitaka, ie. Dhiga Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Sanyuktha Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya and Khuddaka Nikaya. The two Bhanakas mentioned here seemed to have memorized Sanyuktha Nikaya. (Sayutha Banaka) One was named ‘Maha Chittha’ (Machitha) and lived in a temple called ‘Maha Vihara’ – this may be a temple in the same premises but we will never know for sure.

It is reasonable to think that practice of memorizing scriptures have gradually died after the documentation began. So the ‘Bhanaks’ the inscription refers to should be from a period earlier than King Walagambahu’s (89-77 BC)

Interestingly there could be another twin inscription nearby. However the different interpretations given makes it difficult to date accurately. This was found at ‘Diyagama’ an ancient port of Kalu Ganga, about 3 km from the river mouth. It was also known as the ‘Pelunu Gala’ inscription because the rock it was written has been split in the middle.

First discovered in the late 19th century, by Ven Vaskaduve Sri Subhuthi thero, it gained attention of the archeologists after Prof. Muller read and published his interpretation in 1891 AD. He dated it to 5th Century AD based on the message and the style of the characters. However not everybody agrees with his dating and interpretation. Both C. W. Nicholas and C. Jayasinghe who read the inscription later relate it to an earlier period than 5th Century AD. So these two inscriptions could have been done during the same period.

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