War is tearing our beautiful little country into shreds. War between brother communities, who share so much of each others cultural and religious heritage. War worn factions act like zombies in the name of rights and privileges. The misunderstandings and misgivings, arise from their very own akin-ness. Ruthless decisions, accumulating in devastating consequences.
This is the atmosphere we live in today. But like everything, we are getting used to it all - the tension, the suspicion, the bloodshed and massacre.
Long ago two such warring factions realized the uselessness of such carnage and called it a day with a peace agreement writ on rock, atop a local mountain.
When we were told of the Sangamuwa Viharaya in the Gokarella division of Kurunegala we thought its lesson appropriate for today and worth a visit to the location. We were told that there is a rock inscription believed to be one of the oldest peace agreements in the world between two warring local factions.
It was one early morning that we met our good friends Aloye Premathilake and Daya Ranasinghe, the previous Pradeshiya Sabha chairman of Ibbagamuwa, who told us about this place and had volunteered to take us there.
The turn off to the site was along the Dambulla road, past Gokarella.
The inscription chiseled on the rock floor of the hill overlooks fertile valleys and the picturesque Meddaketiya Wewa with its fringe of coconut palms. It is indeed a beautiful setting to have been chosen by the ancients to witness an important agreement.
According to the information given at the site the inscription of medieval Sinhalese is attributed to King Gajabahu II (1132 – 1153 AC) and has been interpreted to contain an agreement to cease waging war between Gajabahu II and Parakramabahu I (1153 - 1186 AC).
The inscription translation reads thus:
It is a beautiful piece of writing setting out the sun and the moon as witnesses to their majestic intentions.
Close by, another rock slab contains eight rock cut inscriptions which have been identified to have been written in post Brahmi characters.
An assortment of antiquities found in the area can also be seen here and includes guard stones and moonstones of very early periods and parts of a stone umbrella forming the apex of an ancient dagoba.
The Venerable priest in charge of the Temple told us the area lies littered with ruins of ancient buildings including the site where the peace agreement took place. Twelve caves have also been identified in the area.
The remains of an ancient dagoba now lies as a mass of earth and broken bricks. A stone slab altar balances on broken bricks and rubble upon which are simple white flower offerings laid there on that Poya day.
A climb further up the mountain treats you to an even better view of the Meddaketiya Wewa. A steep stairway has been built giving easy access to the rock cave shrine at the summit. Half way through, we stopped to admire the surrounding beauty and there at our feet was a charming little rock pool, where in the cloud-reflected waters smiled pink lotus flowers.
The temple shrine room was tucked cozily into a boulder at the summit. The small rock recess was entered through a ‘Makara’ archway and decorated with Kandyan period paintings. Amongst its decorative motifs so prettily blended was a tiny square wooden window on the top part of the wall.
Ranasinghe drew our attention to a path by the side of the present cave which led to the site where once an older cave shrine had stood. The rock had fallen off and now only parts of the split boulder hung precariously to the precipice. The only identifiable marks were the crumbling plaster of its frescoes.
by Kishanie S. Fernando
February 13, 2007