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Home > Heritage > Agbopura monastic site

Agbopura monastic site

The work of treasure hunters at the apex of this Stupa.

Monastic site: The village of Akbopura of the past, and Giritale, today, rests south of Polonnaruwa and the people here, are dependent on rice farming, as it was in times of yore. Here, live 160 Buddhist families, making this village an all-Buddhist setting.

It was a Full Moon Poya Day and the zealous Buddhist Monk, In-Charge of the village temple Ven. Diyasenpura Sumanajothi Thera looked like a grandmaster attending to the spiritual needs of the Dayakas. The respect they have for Ven. Sumanajothi Thera, now for four years, the Chief Incumbent, is noteworthy.

Ven. Diyasenpura Sumanajothi Thera, the Head of the Sellatharanaya Raja Maha Vihara, here, seems a worthy monk in the light of Buddhist teachings. He says that the Buddhist Temple under his care which sits on the ancient Agbopura monastic site is faced with a major cultural catastrophe.

A document of archaeological interest drawn by J.A.W. Jayasinghe and checked by the Director of archaeology, dated, 10 December 2004, reveals the presence of two Stupas (much buried) at the Agbopura monastic site, one Tempita building, 18 unidentified buildings, a moonstone, highland of suffix, ruins of entrance, five stone pillars, a bathing pond, and terraced walls running round an expanse of acres, which made up this monastic site. "Only the pond was excavated," they said.

And in the same breath, people alleged, that all that the Department of Archaeology was interested in, was the location of treasure, here. Legend has it that this location also, Girithara Nuwara in the past, had its agricultural infrastructure built by King Akhbo II. Perhaps, around 600 - 650 AD and somehow, went into ruin.

Ven. Sumanajothi Thera and a Dayakaya at the bathing pond, excavated from the ancient Akbopura Monastic site, Giritale, amidst paddy fields.

Such sites bear rock inscriptions of its date and the builder, but such an inscription was displaced during the flattening of the land 50 years ago, people here, said.

And, Ven. Sumanajothi Thera thinks the historic inscription is possibly buried near the present temple.

In ancient times and even today, the Stupa, symbolises the presence of the Buddha. When near the ruins of a Stupa, a tank for storing water to irrigate rice fields, and the remains of a village are found, it is evident at that place, existed a Buddhist civilisation of the past.

Others, preceding Parakramabahu the Great, followed the norm, but Parakramabahu is known to have said that the Buddhist Temple be built on the highest spot in the village. In this way, rain water which seeped down from the highest point remained pure, when used by man, below. Ven. Sumanajothi Thera said that for the pond below to fill, there had to be high land. And, the old Dayakayas alleged that "bulldozers" had removed the high land.

Restoration of this ancient Buddhist monastery, remains the Ven. Thera's plea. The entrance to this site is over a paddy field, and there is no electricity, here. In the unlevelled land, are two or possibly three Stupas. Treasure hunters have dug out the treasure from one Chetiya, leaving a huge hole at its apex.

Unfortunately, the hole left behind, continues to be filled with branches of trees, which wither away, or with the trees, cut down, to show the presence of a Stupa, by people who come here. Another, deep buried Stupa has towering trees growing on and around it, and little of a dome shape is noticeable.

The Sinhalese kings enshrined treasure in the Stupas for use, in the event of an irrigation tank or what other, in its vicinity, falling under a natural calamity, and necessitating funds for repair.

People here said that there was a treasure hunt in the 1920s and a curse had befallen the treasure seekers, who were from Giritale, and they had to leave the village. A legend says that there was another treasure pilferage, here, "before the Europeans arrived," and a curse had befallen those offenders, too.

Some rock pillars, which would have housed a monastery, are just a few feet above ground level, meaning that the past lay deep down under.

by Elmo Leonard
Daily News, September 20, 2006

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Updated February 7, 2012
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