- Viharahinna - The Hidden Wonder in the Jungle -
The silence was deafening. The jungle spread before us. Huge ancient trees towered high over a mix of jungle scrub - dark, mysterious, secretive. Here and there we could glimpse a stone pillar braving the tangle of undergrowth - waiting to be discovered.
"Elephants knock them down you know" said Aronsingho, the Archaeology Department watcher, following our gaze. "There are quite a number like that all over this jungle .
“The elephants come here often.. Even at about this time". It was around nine in the morning. The ruins were on the jungle side of the electrified fence put up recently to prevent the elephants walking into the villages.
There was an opening large enough for a vehicle to pass through into the jungle and we had used this on our way to this site. Now we stood before the conserved section of the Viharahinna ruins -- an ancient image house.
Aronsingho tells us that this was a another site where King Dutugemunu rested on his way to war. Here his mother -- Queen Vihara Maha Devi -- joined him and hence the name Viharahinna in honour of his mother.
Today its only witness is its ancient brick foundation and some stone pillars. The few guardstones and moonstones that were visible showed no ornamentation. The balustrades on either side of the shallow steps leading to the image house were charming in their very simplicity.
Judging by the pillars it appeared to have been quite a tall building.
A broken granite image of the Lord Buddha, maybe around 11 feet in height, could be seen in the inner chamber of the image house. The girl who accompanied us said that her family had worshipped here ever since she could remember. "Till recently the image was partly buried in the ground and we offered flowers to the top part of the image which was the only part exposed. But then wicked men shattered even the head of the statue to see if there was treasure inside", she said. She lived at Moragolla -- the village bordering the jungle. Sadly, treasure hunters seemed to be rife in these areas which are mostly covered by jungle. Viharahinna, no doubt, is one of those ancient sites less frequented by tourists.
"It is only some of the locals who come here. Specially during the Vesak and Poson seasons. Miracles do happen here -- haskam or things that cannot be explained.
“The locals bring offerings here. They bring produce from their cultivations", said the girl. I had just noticed a plate of milk rice in the small shrine room which had been constructed to house part of the broken image.
Aside from the conserved ruins of the image house there is an ancient inscription on a stone slab displayed by the new shrine room.
At the bottom of the inscription are carved the figures of a dog, a crow and a drum. These carvings are hardly discernible.
Nearby, under a tree, are arranged some fragments of ancient brick and stone, including a broken figure of a crouching bull and some ancient bricks, said to belong to the Polonnaruwa period.
A little way into the jungle, almost covered by the undergrowth, is an interesting slab of stone carved with the "siripathula". It lay under a huge tree. According to Aronsingho two slabs of stone carved with the siripathula have been found here.
Viharahinna, it appeared, had a lot to offer and it was well worth the bad road we had traveled.
Viharahinna can be reached either by way the Moragolla road close to Melsiripura or on the Galewala -Kalawewa road.
by Kishanie S. Fernando
February 13, 2007