Paramakanda Buddhist Temple, an archaeological treasure trove | Sunday Observer

Paramakanda Buddhist Temple, an archaeological treasure trove

16 July, 2023

No satisfactory or considerable in-depth studies on historically important Buddhist places of worship and other archaeologically significant sites in the Puttalam District have yet been carried out by historians and archaeologists. Consequently, some important, historical and archaeological sites still remain unexposed to the world.

Many historical sources and legends related to the story of Vijaya and Kuveni are popular in the area. Without proper exploration of archaeological ruins and other sources, an important period of our history is still lingering underground. The historic Paramakanda Raja Maha Vihara in Anamaduwa is one such place, abundant in ruins, artefacts and murals of a bygone era, speaking volumes about the grandeur of the ancient Buddhist civilisation in the area.

Serene environment

The historic Paramakanda Buddhist temple, which is in a serene environment with tranquility, is about four kilometres away from the Anamaduwa town and dates back to the period of King Valagamba who reigned in 89- 77 BC. But Thonigala stone inscription two kilometres away from the Paramakanda temple indicates that a bhikkhu known as Mahaatissa built the temple.

Some legends associated with the ancient remains found in the area are indicative of the fact that it was built during the reign of King Dutugamunu or Saddhaatissa.

Also, according to some legends, it was Nandimithtra, one of King Dutugamunu’s giant warriors, who was instrumental in building the temple.

The temple is at the foot of several rocks. In the upper courtyard is a Buddha image house built right under a rock which is an ideal natural formation. Inside this shrine room is a reclining Buddha image. There are ancient murals on the interior walls of the shrine room. 

Outside the Buddha image house is a Sri Pada (a footprint of the Buddha) engraved on the rock. A dagaba has also been built three metres East of the image house.

It is eight metres in height and its diametre is 6 metres. There are six drip ledge caves near this image house. Several ruined buildings and an inscription have also been found. The stone inscription near the pond of the temple has been identified as one belonging to the first century AD.

Old temple

Paintings belonging to the Kandiyan period and later paintings inside the image house have been entirely made of clay. The Buddha statues in the shrine room are a testimony to arts and crafts of the Kandyan period. The Buddha image house has been renovated from time to time during different royal eras.

The temple ground spreads across a rock system and there are climbable and unclimbable peaks. There is a dagaba and a pedestal on the top of one of the rocks.

There is an old tunnel in the temple ground. It is said that it is about 16 kilometres long.

The tunnel is believed to end at the Mullegama Rajamaha Vihara in Nawagattegama. However, the tunnel entrance is closed.

According to archaeologists, the Paramakanda temple, which is said to belong to the Valagamba era, is the Akasha Chetiya mentioned in the Mahavamsa.  Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera, who is a world-renowned expert on archaeology, also endorses the fact that the Paramakanda temple can be thought of as Akasha Chetiya mentioned in the Mahawamsa.

Treasure hunters have destroyed several important places here. It is the duty and the responsibility of the authorities to take measures to safeguard this archaeological treasure trove.