Category Archives: Sri Lanka

An island’s damaged heritage

The reclining Buddha at Danagirigala, Sri Lanka which lost an eye and suffered other damage in 2005. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

The reclining Buddha at Danagirigala, Sri Lanka which lost an eye and suffered other damage in 2005. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

The Nation
Doreen Fiedler
Deutsche PresseAgentur
Colombo, Sri Lanka March 9, 2015 1:00 am

The reclining Buddha statue in Danagirigala, Sri Lanka now only has one eye. Treasure hunters pulled out the other one. The stone pillow on which the Buddha rests his golden, curly-haired head has a hole in it.

“The perpetrators were hoping to find gold, silver, precious stones or ivory,” says Senarath Dissanayake, director general of Sri Lanka’s Department of Archaeology. Destructive treasure hunting is a major problem in the island country off the tip of India.

“Treasure hunting is based only on folklore about great riches. It has no scientific basis,” Dissanayake says.

The culprits in Danagirigala went home empty-handed, as did the ones who damaged a stupa (Buddhist burial mound) in Danowita and in Nurwarakanda where treasure-hunters drilled into the chest, belly button and pedestal of a seated Buddha statue.

Over the past two decades, police have come across more than 4,000 cases of such vandalism. The situation was particularly bad in 2012 and 2013 with the floors of caves dug up, the houses of former chieftains torn down and monks’ dwellings destroyed.

On average there was more than one such act every day.

“The trend is a consequence of the fact that people no longer have morals and ethics,” Dissanayake says.

The remains of a brick and plaster Buddha statue at Hebessa that was destroyed by treasure hunters. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

The remains of a brick and plaster Buddha statue at Hebessa that was destroyed by treasure hunters. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

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Film on greatest religious icon

DSC_0655‘Migettuwatte Gunananda Himi’ is the lyrical title given to the first film ever to be based on the life story of a Buddhist monk of recent times. Director and co-producer Sisil Gunesekera who is best known as a playwright, explained that he chose this particular prelate, the leader of the Buddhist revival of the 19th century, as protagonist for his film because “I feel (this story) will enlighten the present generation.”

He called the Ven. Gunananda “the boldest, the most brilliant and most powerful champion of Sinhala Buddhism.” His intention however, he reiterated, is not to hurt “the sentiments of any religious group.” Indeed Gunesekera, who is now domiciled in Australia, is filling a void with this film not only because the Ven. Gunananda was the hero of the Panadura debate, which sparked interest for Buddhism in the West, and was known for academic brilliance apart from exceptional oratorical skills but also because Buddhist biographical films are such a rarity.

The character of the religious and national icon will be played by Roger Seneviratne. The rest of the cast comprises Suranga Ranawaka, Priyankara Rathnake, Lucky Dias, Wimalindra Kumari, Vasanthi Chathurani and Budhdhadasa Vithanachchi. Kaplia Sugath handles the camera, Upatissa Akurambada the art direction, Harsha Manjula the makeup, Nilatha Sri Pathirana the music, Mahinda Bandara Dissanayake the costumes while sunil Edirisinghe and Uresha Ravihari will be contributing as playback singers.

Suranga Ranawaka is the line producer and Lasanka Madhushan is assistant director. The movie is co-produced by Kamal Karunanayake and Sisil Gunesekera.


Ancient Buddhist Monastery unearthed in Sri Lanka

The remains of the ancient Buddhist Monastery unearthed at Sithulpawwa [Credit: Daily News]

The remains of the ancient Buddhist Monastery unearthed at Sithulpawwa [Credit: Daily News]

Ruins of a flat building have been discovered at Sri Lanka’s Sithulpawwa archaeological site, Archaeological Director General Senarath Dissanayake said.

The Director General said archaeologists believe that the ruins of the building could be an ancient Buddhist monastery dating back to second or third AD. Gold plated pieces of urns have been found from the Sithulpawwa site for the first time.

This ancient building was situated in the Aimira cave at the Sithulpawwa site. The ruins emerged when a group of workers of the Archaeological Department in the Southern Province were excavating the site under the guidance of the Archaeological Director General recently.

Sithulpawwa site officer-in-charge and archaeology research assistant Buddhi Nanayakkara said that the building could be of multiple stories. The length of the building is 13.5 m while it is 11 m wide. It is believed that the building is the oldest among others buildings at the Sithulpawwa monastery site.

Pieces of gold plated urns, coloured urns, old tiles, old coins and old iron nails were also found beside the building.

Archaeological Department officials have taken steps to conserve the site after excavations.
Source: Daily News [November 04, 2014]


Cinematic revival of Buddhist revivalist

The Sunday Times

MG_5018‘Anagarika Dharmapala Srimathano’

‘Anagarika Dharmapala Srimathano’, a film based on the life story of Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist and writer Anagarika Dharmapala is now being screened at MPI circuit cinemas. Produced by Ven. Kirama Wimalajothi Thera and Sunil T. Fernando, the film stars Palitha Silva (playing Anagarika Dharmapala), Sriyantha Mendis, Gayan Wickremathilaka, Hyacinth Wijeratne, Lucky Dias, Sandun Wijesiri, Kamal Deshapriya, G. R. Perera, Austin Samarawickrema, Chris Harris, Madhawa Wijesinghe, Dayasiri Hettiarachchi, Prasad Samarathunga, Ruwangi Ratnayake and Sanjaya Amarasinghe in the stellar cast.

One of the founding contributors of non-violent Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism and Buddhism, the movie showcases how Anagarika Dharmapala pioneered in reviving Buddhism in India after it had been virtually extinct there for several centuries. Depicted as the first Buddhist in modern times to preach the Dharma in three continents: Asia, North America, and Europe, the film shows his crucial role as a major reformer and revivalist of Sri Lanka’s Buddhism and how he carried out the mission of Western transmission of Buddhism together with Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Blavatsky, the creators of the Theosophical Society.

Cinematographed by Sujith Nishantha, art direction by Suneth Nandalal, make up by Sameera Madu Kindelpitiya and Manoj Laksiri, the costume designing handled by Heenatigala Premadasa. Rohana Weerasinghe wrote the musical score, ‘Anagarika Dharmapala’ is directed by Sanath Abeysekara.


Saving Buddhism and Buddhist culture

The Nation
Sunday, 06 July 2014 00:00


There’s a song by Mohideen Baig Master that goes like this: ‘Ninda prashansava minisaatamai – saadanne bindalanne daive thamai’ (Both praise and blame are the lot of man, and they are produced and destroyed by fate and fate alone). This song, written by Karunaratne Abeysekera ends this way: ‘sepa aththe nivane amaa—thun loke guru Buddha dharma thamaa’ (True happiness is nirvana and the great teacher, guru, of the three worlds is none other than the doctrine of the Buddha). Baig Master’s world of music was full of songs like this. Baig Master, let us not forget, is said to have prayed five times every day at the mosque.

Baig Master’s voice, which some might argue, has the compassionate power to quell all fires of religious extremism wafted over land and sea, through valley and over mountain and travelled towards the galaxies. It echoed around in the after-world mansion of D.S where he was sitting reminiscing with that other great grandfather D.M. It inspired D.M. to observe, ‘I am wondering how this song which subdues and subdues could not put out the fires of Alutgama. I remember even you, D.S., being imprisoned way back in 1915 after being caught in the thick of a similar fire.’ Continue reading

Sri Lanka’s Kuragala ancient caves abode of pre-historic man?

Daily News
Priyanka Kurugala
06 June 2014

Officials at the Beta Analytic Institution in the USA has sent a report to the Archaeological Department recognising that the stone caves in the Kuragala ancient Buddhists monastery which belonged to the 3rd BC – 1 AD period were habitations of the pre-historic man.

z_p03-Kuragala.jpgA full skeleton of a man was unearthed at an excavation recently. The skeleton was sent to laboratories of the Oxford University in Britain for further investigation and DNA tests. This skeleton will be handed over to Sri Lanka after further studies.

According to officials at the Beta Analytic Institution, the Kuragala site’s pre-historic earth layers belonged to a time dating back 16,000 to 6,000 years. This site is the first archaeological site which belongs to the inter medium zone.

The most important revelation is that the Kuragala pre-historic man lived with a close connection to the sea supporting claims that the area was surrounded by the sea at the time. Archaeological Director General Senerath Dissanayake said another excavation would be launched in 2015.


Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple to be built in historic Thai city

Colombo Page
Jun 5, 2014

June 05, Ayutthaya: A project to build a Sri Lankan Buddhist temple in the historic Ayutthaya City in Thailand’s Ayutthaya Province will be launched, according to a report by the Thailand National News Bureau.

The Ayutthaya Governor Witthaya Phiophong and Sri Lankan Ambassador to Thailand General Shantha Kottegoda have recently surveyed Wat Krachai, Ayutthaya Province, the intended site to construct the Sri Lankan Temple.

According to the Ayutthaya Governor, the Sri Lankan Temple will be built following an international relationship agreement between Ayutthaya Province and Sri Lanka for an exchange of temple constructions in both countries, in order to strengthen their international religious relationship.