Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 28 August 2011





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Rajagala Vihara:

Hidden away in thick forest

Rassagala or Rajagalathenna, an area hidden in a rocky forest over the village of Bakkielle, five miles to north of Ampara, reveals the splendour of Sri Lanka’s prehistoric era to the world. The place consists of more than 500 ruins and artefacts of a Buddhist temple that speak of the glorious days of the Sri Lankan history.

The name Rassagala reminds us about devils and demons, since we call them ‘Rassayo’ or ‘Rakshayo’ in Sinhala. According to an officer at the Department of Archaeology, the people of the Raksha tribe had lived in the area. They were human beings who worshipped the Rakshas. The word Raksha have become Rassa over the years. Rajagala is a rugged and thickly forested mountain on the sparsely populated part of Sri Lanka. Rassagala is situated 1,038 feet above sea level. The archaeological site spreads over nearly 300 acres.

Unfinished Buddha Statue

Naga Mudra

Unfortunately, the history of the place is not definite, but bhikkhus are believed to have inhabited it between the 10th and 3rd centuries BC. stone inscriptions of the period have been found at the site. All over the northern summit of the mountain, extensive ruins have been excavated from the thick jungle, and some are only partially excavated.

Arahat Mihindu Thera, who brought the precious gift of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, had visited the Rajagala Vihara.


According to archaeological sources, the temple belongs to the most prosperous era in Sri Lankan history. Many dagobas, temples, ponds, shrine rooms and moonstones have been discovered from the site.

There are some drawings on the stone, done with ash or chalk, which are believed to have been done by the adivasies (indigenous people). Archaeologists believe that the drawings probably belong to the prehistoric era.

There are also caves that had been used by bhikkhus. Inside the caves, there are living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and toilets. A stone inscription gives the donor’s name.

Stone rice bowl

The stone inscriptions found here probably belong to the Anuradhapura era. They are written in Brahmi letters, which are believed to be the first stage in the evolution of the Sinhala letters. There is a korawak gala, a muragala (guardstone) and a moonstone at the entrance of the site.

The moonstone differs from those found at other places. A lotus motif spreads all over the moonstone, whereas in other moonstones, the carvings include tuskers, horses and swans.

Despite the cultural and archaeological value of the site, visitors have desecrated many artefacts by writing and drawing on them. Due to this most inscriptions have been obliterated.

In the thick jungle, there is a huge block of stone, nearly 16 feet long, with a half-carved Buddha image. All the lines on the statue are straight and at right angle to each other and there are no details.

Archaeologists believe that apprentice sculptors had carved the images leaving them to be perfected by master sculptors. However,

the statues remain unfinished. Even the muragala found at the site is different from those found at other places. Here, the figure of a man holding a pot in one hand and keeping the other hand on his hip can be seen.

A cave Korawak gala and Muragala entrance

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