ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday September 2, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 14

Dighavapi: Officials turning blind eye to disappearing history

By Wasantha Chandrapala

The historic Dighavapi Purana Rajamaha Viharaya in Digamadulla is in a state of disrepair and neglect. The viharaya is revered by pilgrims as ancient chronicles mention that Lord Buddha had visited the site. The chaithya is said to contain a nail relic of Lord Buddha and for this reason it is known as ‘Haba Vehara’.

In 1980, during President J.R. Jayewardene’s tenure a foundation stone was laid for reconstruction purposes, but that was as far as the reconstruction went. In 1996 this historic site hit the headlines when there were moves to clear an area of 585 acres surrounding the viharaya to settle Muslim families, with Minister M.H.M. Ashraff at the centre of the controversy.

Some of the bulldozing activities that took place then had unearthed what appears to be a hospital complex from ancient times. But so far very little has been done to protect these excavations although almost ten years have lapsed since their historic discovery.

Today, about 32 houses have sprung up in the area and virtually nothing is being done by officials of the Dept of Archaelogy, villagers complain. Buddhist monks in the Ampara district are now rallying to save and preserve the historic site. Dighavapi Viharadhipathi Ven. Nannapurawe Buddharakkitha Thera, charged that responsible officials were apathetic to the issue. He said Buddhist families should be settled to counter the fear of Muslim families acquiring historic Buddhist lands.

Ven. Dr. Kirindiwela Somarathana Thera, says that this area should be protected under the “Negenahira Navodaya” programme to be launched by the government in the Eastern Province. He lamented that of a total of 12000 acres of land belonging to the vihareya, today there are only 585 acres left.

Meanwhile Kirthi Ranasinghe, the Pradeshiya Sabha chairman and head of association governing the Digawapiya Viharaye alleged there was a conspiracy behind the settlement of Muslim families here, on the pretext of resettling tsunami victims. He said it would be less controversial if families of all three communities lived here instead of confining settlement to one community.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.