The Lost World: Hidden Wonders of Ancient Ceylon

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This article is based on our forefathers, excellent engineers and craftsmen, who possessed exceptional skills. How many of our present generation is conversant of the activities of Ceylon engineers in the bygone years who amazed the whole world. During the remarkable Parakramabahu reign, construction of the tallest buildings commenced. King Mahasen also did the peak constructions. The world’s first hospital was constructed during BC 367-437 during King Pandukabhaya’s reign. No wonder how foreigners became dumbstruck when these were built between the second and fourth centuries using metal veins.

Our ancestors created palaces following the ancient masterpieces of Ramayana during the Ravana epoch. During the Gampola era, our forefathers produced the world’s first pair of spectacles, a unique design known as ‘Diyatrippu’. Wood carving craft came up during the Ravana era. According to Ramayana, our ancestors designed aeroplanes during the Kingdom of Ravana. ‘Dandumonara’ was a typical example before the Wright brothers invented the plane in 1903.

The history on Sigiriya goes back to King Kasyapa’s era. Sigiriya is today well known as one of the world’s wonders. The king built a palace on an ancient rock, and today it has become the most historical place in Sri Lanka. It is popular because of the Lion’s entrance, the verses written on stone, the mirror wall, and old pictures drawn on rocks preserved to date. The top of the rock was converted into an ancient palace. Numerous water sprinklers spread through pipes in the waterpark attract visitors. Usually, these sprinklers operate during the rainy season.

In ancient Ceylon, steel technology was widespread. Artisans made high-quality steel by melting iron and using up to 70-degree wind power and the heat-suction method. Fourth Buwaneka Bahu King, who captured the Gampola Kingdom suddenly went blind. When the King could not see anymore, an ancestor of a family tree of the Royal family, Gunasoma, invented the ‘Diyatrippu’ spectacles for the King. It only nine days took Gunasoma to manufacture the spectacles. These spectacles had a cooling effect on the eyes, and anyone who used the ‘glasses’ would not suffer from cataracts. Spectacles, in general, became popular in the 16th century in Europe.

Our forefathers were versatile in many ways. They were involved with thunder technology. They invented a unit named ‘Wajra Chungbatta’ to protect the Gem placed at the peak of the historical Stupa at Ruwanweli Seya. Jetawanaramaya and Abayagiriya followed next. All Ceylonese irrigation was done at the base of a waterfall. Our forefathers took pride in art management and developed a colossal technical civilisation.

Mahaweli Excavation

The Mahaweli project was built recently by foreign engineers using modern and up-to-date satellite technology for excavation. They experienced a technical setback in constructing a dam in Maduru Oya. Then suddenly, they came across a dam constructed during the Anuradhapura era. At the opening ceremony of the Maduru Oya waterway, foreign engineers paid the highest tribute to our forefathers, who had created a barrier many centuries ago. They were naturally flabbergasted. They wondered how our ancestors managed to create a dam using their (ancestors) ancient techniques!

Ancestral engineers created gigantic reservoirs such as the ‘Maha Parakramabahu Samudra’. Moreover, when King Parakramabahu built this reservoir, he urged people, “Don’t waste a single drop of water that falls out of the sky but make use of every drop rather than allowing it to flow into the ocean”. Our forefathers created the most superior water management systems in the year 1155. During this period, there were 4,000 waterways, and irrigation technology became a vital feature to befit the dry zone as new development.

There is no other country in the world with a gradient of one inch to a mile when it comes to drainage. Our forefathers built Yoda Wewa; a supreme technological marvel. They designed a unique structure to prevent the overflow of water from lakes known as the Bisokotuwa.

Ceylonese ancestors built the world’s first multi-storey building Lowamahapaya during the King Dutugemunu’s era. It was an abode for Buddhist monks and consisted of nine levels. The roof was made out of copper sheets. It had a length of 400 feet and with forty stone pillars. On the first floor, it contained 1,600 stone pillars.

Our ancient engineers constructed the first hospital in the world in Mihintale, Anuradhapura and Medagiriya.  Jetawanaramaya Stupa was built with burnt bricks to a height of 120 meters, which is regarded as the highest Stupa globally.

The majority decision

The majority of the people believe that the advancement of the world took place in the West! Nevertheless, Ceylon had a much more advanced civilisation when the western civilisation was in the ‘crawling’ stages. Many folks keep on admiring and flattering the West because they cannot realise what a great nation Ceylon had been! Suppose, if Sri Lankans wish to pave the way for the future generation as an independent, self-sufficient and advanced nation, then we should have the fortitude to realise how Ceylon was conquered by every foreign ruler and plundered all Ceylon’s assets.

Our forefathers created craftsmanship in both Wood and Stone. Only a unique design that remains so far is ‘Sandakadapahana’ amongst the present generation. Our forefathers had travelled by air and also communicated with the universe! At present, the universe has become the vogue among folks. There are so many holy men and women who seem to communicate with the universe. They do come out with the fact that the universe has been furious for years because the present generation pays no heed to nature!

Every reader of this column will be able to fathom the aptitude Ceylonese forefathers possessed just by looking at or visualising the ruins of the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa era, or by gazing at the gigantic stupas. It is hard to know how our forefathers managed to get the symmetricity on buildings and massive constructions such as stupas? Wonder whether they had unique equipment to measure those in an equal manner!

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(The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Ceylon Today)

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando