Remembering Aranthalawa bhikkhu massacre | Sunday Observer

Remembering Aranthalawa bhikkhu massacre

11 June, 2023

It is 36 years now since the Aranthalawa bhikkhu massacre took place. The  bhikkhu  massacre  that  took  place  on  June  2, 1987 will  forever  be  etched  in  the memories of  the people  of  Sri  Lanka  as  a  day  of  tragedy  and  sorrow  that  shook  the  nation to  its core.

Bhikkhus  faced this  tragedy  while  they  were  on  their  way  from the Mahavapi temple to Kelaniya on a pilgrimage under  the  guidance  of Ven. Hegoda Indasara Thera, Chief Adikarana Sanganayake of the Northern and the Eastern  Provinces.

The massacre is considered one of the most heinous crimes committed by the LTTE terrorists.

Religious ceremonies 

Head of the Aranthalawa Indasara  International  Buddhist Centre Ven.Kirindiwela Somarathana Thera  said that religious ceremonies  are  held  annually  on June  2 to commemorate the dead.

Ven. Hegoda  Indasara  Nayaka Thera, 30  novice  bhikkhus between  9  years  and  24  years,  the  driver and the  conductor of  the  bus were  among the dead. Eleven  Bhikkhus  had  escaped  death  with  critical  injuries  and  three  bhikkhus are  living  with  medical  aid and another bhikkhu is permanently  disabled.

Ven. Rideemaliyedde Indusumana Thera, (then a novice bhikkhu) one of the escapees related the incident.

He said, “In the early morning of June 2, 1987, we woke up at 4.00 before the  sun rose. We were at Mahavapi Vihara.

The morning started with our usual religious activities in the Bo-maluwa which included the daily commitments. After our morning meal, Ven. Hegoda Indasara Nayaka Thera ushered us to the Maluwa to complete our religious activities before the trip.

Kandy through Mahaoya

Ven. Indusumana thera said,  “At 5.45 a.m., the Ampara Depot  bus  bearing  No. 60 Sri  3599  left the temple with 43 bhikkhus of whom 30 were novice bhikkhus and four lay persons.  First we wanted to go to Kandy through Mahaoya and Mahiyangana. The bus was reaching Aranthalawa. At once the bus was stopped by two persons in Army uniforms.” “One  of  them  ordered  the  bus  driver  to  turn  the  bus  into  the  jungle. Then another 15 armed persons got into the bus and started attacking us with swords. They also shot us with machine guns. With a gunshot I fell. I became unconscious. After about one hour, Army personnel came and took us to the hospital.”

In 2013, a  memorial  museum  was  built  at  the  location  using  the same  bus  in  which  these  monks  were  travelling  by  an  artist. The gruesome last minutes of these novice bhikkhus had  been re-created in the bus and is open to the public.