HERITAGE IN PERIL

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Mallakam ruins (Mallawagama)

Mallakam is a little town in Jaffna that has great historic importance. Situated in the ancient Nagadeepa, Mallakam’s history and importance link to the visit of Buddha to Nagadeepa. According to the history and folklore of the area, Mallakam was originally known as Mallavagama. Gama in Sinhala which means the village has become Kam in Tamil. Mallava in Sinhala means, martial, thus making Mallavagama meaning the village or place where war happened.

Now, what is this war?

As Purawidya Chakrawarthi, Purawidya Paryeshanashuri Most Ven. Ellawala Medhanandha Thera explains, Mallavagama is the place where the two Naga kings, Chulodara and Mahodara have arrived for the war.

The two Naga kings, at this place, were attacking each other verbally. It was then Buddha intervened and stopped them. As folklore says, Buddha created darkness (Andhakaraya) to stop the angry kings from attacking each other.

After realising and agreeing to stop the war, the kings built a stupa at this place to commemorate this incident. The stupa was known as the Andhakara Chethiya.

The stupa built to commemorate the place where Buddha created a great light (Alokaya) to comfort the Naga kings was known as the Aloka Chethiya. However, today these stupas cannot be seen. It is not sure during which time exactly the stupas were destroyed. As Most Ven. Medhanadha Thera writes, ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery can be seen near the Mallakam Railway Station, including a head of a Buddha statue that was unearthed through excavations.

The Thera also says that a boundary of a stupa was to be seen, but they were not in a good condition. The Thera also mentions a pond at Mallakam forest which is today referred to as Katipokanai. Katipokanai is the mutation of the Sinhala word Gal Pokuna. As ruins can be seen here, the monk says that this entire area was a vast spread Buddhist monastery during the Anuradhapura Period. The place where the ancient Aloka Chethiya was built is today known as Thelippaalei and it has faced the same fate as Mallakam Andhakara Chethiya.

Most Ven. Medhanandha Thera points out that these two places were developed by the kings of Anuradhapura by donating the income of surrounding villages and paddy fields.

The Department of Archaeology (DoA) should intervene, take necessary measures according to the Act and protect this place. They also must urgently conduct research at Mallakam, conduct excavations to unearth more archaeological evidence take measures to preserve them.

Vulnerable heritage of the North and East

The violent behaviour of racists at Mullaitivu Kurundi Temple on 21 September, once again makes us terribly fear the fate of Sri Lanka’s ancient heritage of the North and East. All these acts of violence are due to the belief in a mythical homeland of purely one ethnic race. This myth, as we have presented strong and valid archaeological and textual evidence in our previous articles, is clearly a baseless myth and only adds fuel to Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict. It spreads hatred between the Sinhalese and Tamils, thus is high time to put an end to this baseless myth. This myth has also been the cause of severe damage to Sri Lanka’s heritage in the North and East.

Lethargic DoA and Sri Lankan archaeologists

The act of violence by racists at Mullativu Kurundi Temple today (25 September) also makes us fear that the threats faced by ancient Buddhist monasteries in the North and East will not end in the near future and instead will be rapidly risen. As the DoA does not intervene in such issues, to protect the heritage, these places are more vulnerable. The DoA fleeing away from their duty and responsibility disappoints and disheartens us further.

Even though these sites will be further destroyed, as they have been done during the past decade, recording these places, and revealing the correct history of the places will at least be a testimony in the future.

Surprisingly and sadly, the many scholars in archaeology in Sri Lanka, including those who claim to be professors of the discipline, are least bothered to hear of these destructions, except for a few. Some of them, a very few, even go to the extent of criticising the acts of those who make an attempt to protect the heritage of North – East as unwanted, unnecessary, and useless. The writer often wonders how their thinking is wired, as any other logical and rational explanation cannot be given to justify their bizarre claims and silence.

Most Ven. Medhanandha Thera writes that the destruction of the many heritage sites in the North and East during recent times by racists and terrorists only can be compared to the damage caused by Kalinga Magha at the beginning of the 13th century. If the DoA took measures to protect these places during the early years, the damage would have been lesser.

Even now, if the Director General of Archaeology does take brave measures, to prevail law and order according to the Archaeology Act, the remaining heritage places of the North and East could be protected.

Damaged caused by the Elam myth

Jaffna or ancient Nagadeepa is a place where its history has been brutally erased for centuries and its identity being brutally replaced. However, as we have an emphasis in our previous article, as we acknowledge the current ethnic and religious identity of Jaffna, it is of utmost importance to accept the original ethnic and religious identity of ancient Jaffna and not deliberately erase and replace it.

The myth of a homeland of the North and East is the root cause of this distortion of Jaffna’s history. Due to this, an ethnic cleansing occurred resulting in thousands of Sinhalese and Muslims being forced to leave Jaffna and even subjected to massacre. In an attempt to erase the Sinhala identity from the peninsula, many historical places were destroyed. Ancient place names were mutated. However, through the current Tamil place names, it is not difficult to identify the original Sinhala name. Also, the scattered archaeology evidence, that has withstood the tests of time, is silent testimonies of Jaffna’s past. Yet, they can be completely erased. Unless the DoA intervenes, these priceless archaeological ruins can be completely erased.

Ancient chronicles are our land deeds

Nevertheless, the countless number of precious historical texts we have inherited from our ancestors is our strongest witnesses. They cannot be destroyed. They are studied, printed, and preserved. Ancient texts such as Mahavamsa, Deepavamsa, Vansattappakasini, Saddharmalankaraya, Saddharmarathankaraya, Poojawaliya, and many more, are our precious land deeds of this little island of Sri Lanka. They are the testimonies of the Sinhalese. Even though the last ancient brick and the last pillar are turned into little particles of dust, these ancient Sinhala, Pali, and Sanskrit texts will narrate the true history of Sri Lanka.

Mahavamsa hatred and the Elam myth

This is the very reason that hatred and disbelief are created against our chronicles and ancient texts. Especially, this is why Mahavamsa is being attacked. Sadly, this hatred and disbelief started at the school level to university education. The attack on Mahavamsa and our ancient chronicles is a topic that Ceylon Today has discussed before and therefore, we shall not repeat it here. In those previous articles, we have also pointed out the link between the mythical homeland of the North and East and the Mahavamsa hatred.

Prof. Paranavitana and the Elam myth

Among the man local historians and archaeologists who fought against the Elam myth or the mythical homeland of the North and East, Prof. Senarat Paranavitana tops the list. His fascinating research on the Aryachakravartin kings and the Jaffna Kingdom clearly explains if an independent Tamil Kingdom existed in Jaffna or not before the 13th century. He also proves with solid evidence about the ethnicity of the Aryachakravtin kings which was of Malay identity. This, once again Ceylon Today has presented to you in a lengthy article. Prof. Paranavitana was an archaeologist who set the perfect example of how an archaeologist is responsible to protect the country’s heritage, being bothered about the threats it faces, and to be responsible for revealing the true history based on facts and not being biased. Also, he set up an example that an archaeologist can play an important role to contribute to clearing misunderstandings about a country’s history and identity, past, and also to ethnic issues. Unfortunately, except for a few, many of today’s archaeologists are least bothered about the country’s heritage, its territorial integrity, threats to the national identity, and its inheritance of land, as the majority are bothered about securing their positions and status.

As Prof. Paranavitana fiercely stood by the truth and against the Elam myth through archaeological evidence, he was seen as a threat, just as Mahavamsa was seen as a threat. Therefore, in a very subtle and shrewd way, prof. Paranavitana’s work started to be criticised, creating disbelief in his work among young irrational scholars. Without even closely analysing his work, young scholars would repeat what they are taught. Recently, a young archaeologist was telling the writer that Prof. Paranavitana was mentally unstable during his old age, hence the research of his last years are all mere fables. By creating disbelief, and disrespect in his research, it is easy to easily debunk his research on the Jaffna Kingdom and the early history of the Sinhalese.

As we have repeatedly said, countless heritage places in Jaffna have been deliberately destroyed. Although ancient books and records of the Europeans mention a large number of ancient places, archaeological evidence of Jaffna of these places is scarce. However, based on the remaining evidence, Most Ven. Medhanandha Thera has listed a few places that Buddhist ruins can be seen;

  • – Nallur,
  • – Uduwil,
  • – Uduppidi,
  • – Walikamam,
  • – Thunukai,
  • – Uurathota (Kytes)
  • – Achchuweli,
  • – Wadukkode
  • – Sambuthurei
  • – Urathurei
  • – Pinwatta
  • – Chunnakam
  • – Puththur (Budugama)
  • – Chulipuram
  • – Thisamalai (Thissa Maluwa)
  • – Manipai (Mini – Paya)
  • – Nagachchakovil
  • – Thiruadinelei
  • – Mawaddipuram
  • – Maraththamadam
  • – Punkudutivu (Puwangu- Deepa)
  • – Elawativu
  • – Thenaweli
  • – Buddhathottam
  • – Karaitivu
  • – Delft
  • – Analativu
  • – Neelawarai
  • – Kodiyawatta
  • – Puloli
  • – Mahiyapiddi
  • – Ponnalai
  • – Aneikottei
  • – Gothamaluwa Watta (note the name Gothama here)
  • – Ariyalei
  • – Punarin
  • – Changane
  • – Nagarkovil
  • – Chakaweli
  • – Walwatithurei

The Thera also says that the remains of Buddha statues, pillars, bricks, stone artefacts, Brahmi inscriptions, and coins are found in many places, including private lands in Jaffna.

Before we leave the Jaffna District, we must once again emphasise that unless the DoA intervenes, these places cannot be saved from further destruction.

As we will be celebrating the death anniversary of Prof. Paranavitana on 4 October, it will be the greatest tribute to him, to follow his vision and fulfil his mission.

We shall next meet you at Kilinochchi.

To be continued…

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy