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Varana Rajamaha Viharaya

- Discovery of clay coffins attract visitors -

Close to the Warana Raja Maha Vihara in the Attanagalla electorate, two clay coffins were unearthed by workmen when they began their work on the Kalotuwawa-Banagala Road.

One can this place by travelling on the Colombo-Kandy Road and then proceed along Warana Road for nearly two and half kilometres. At the first mounds did not show any signs of archaeological interest buried for centuries.

The site has become the biggest tourist attraction in the area and most of the local and interested parties visited this site.

The discovery was made by accident when the mounds were levelled to make the Hemachandra Pathirana by-lane broader for the vehicular traffic to flow smoothly.

Apart from Warana Maha Vihara there are other Viharas in the vicinity, namely, Warana Koskandawela, Pilikuththuwa and Maligatenna dating back to the time of (103 BC) who reigned from Anuradhapura.

The excavation on the site was begun by the Archaeological Department. The Commissioner-in-charge, W. H. Wijepala under whose instructions, the officers headed by Nimal Perera began the excavation in 1996.

Five days later two frames of the lids of clay coffins were found. One was slightly curved and the other was square. The clay coffins were similar in size to the present day coffins.

When the clay coffins were removed from the ground where they were buried, it was found the coffins were well burnt and red in colour. Along with the coffins there was a small clay pot, a heap of charcoal, human skull and bones. The coffins were made out of layers of clay as thick as cement plaster.

Close to the findings, there was another third clay coffin with ancient words and symbols. The burials of the Aryans, were made similar to the present day. But in the case of Kalotuwawa the head of the dead was placed facing south. This indicated the funeral rites were different to that of the Aryans.

The discovery shows the existence of an ancient civilization dating back to 1,000 years BC. The dead bodies were buried in 4 feet deep pits inside clay coffins. On top of each clay coffin, logs of timber had been placed to lit the funeral pyre. Afterwards coffin covers were made out of clay to keep the burnt dead bodies intact.

To determine the exact period of the clay coffins, samples of remnants found were sent to USA. According to Archaeological Commissioner General Dr. Shiran Deraniyagala, the clay pots found belonged to 4th and 5th century BC. There are no other findings similar to the findings at Attanagalla.

It is seen that this was the first time a planned excavation has been made. Earlier in 1942, the unearthing of clay coffins in the Southern Province did not receive due recognition. In the Kegalle district, at Dorawaka cave the authorities found pieces of clay coffin and grains while excavating.

If the findings at Kalotuwawa are similar to Dorawaka, the history of the findings will go back to 7,000BC. This will no doubt prove the existence of an ancient civilization.

By D. B. Kappagoda
Daily Mirror – August 30, 2001

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added April 11, 2007
Updated April 11, 2007
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