Sermon to demons atop historic rock

Pix and text by Sarath Chinthaka

Atop the historic Chamaragala rock associated with King Dutugemunu, a move to re-enact the Buddha’s sermon to the king of demons is making headway, though slowly.

The project to portray in sculpture form the Great Teacher’s sermon on the Dambadiva Gijjakuta rock also includes the building of the biggest Samadhi Buddha statue, says Chamaragala rock temple viharadhipathi Ven. Karavilagala Tissa Thera.
The Chamaragala in the background and (inset) Ven. Karavilagala Tissa Thera
The statues being built on top of the rock
Frescoes akin to Sigiriya frescoes, found in the rock cave

“We are building the biggest Samadhi Buddha statue atop the rock. Surrounding it will be the statue of Vesamuni, the king of demons and the statues of 28 demons who accompanied him for a discourse with the Lord Buddha. There will also be 500 statues representing the Buddha’s disciples who were present when he taught the Atanatiya Sutta to the demons,” Ven. Tissa Thera says.

The Atanatiya Sutta offers protection to monks, nuns and laypeople from the demons. Noting that the project is moving slowly for lack of funds, Ven. Tissa Thera appeals to the public to make generous contributions to make it a success.

Situated in the vicinity of the Aukana Buddha statue and the historic battlefield where Dutugemunu defeated Elara, Chamaragala Raja Maha Viharaya is made up of a series of rocks seemingly stuck together. To visit this historic cave temple one has to travel along the Galneva-Kekirawa Road and reach Balaluweva junction where any passerby can point to the temple just 200 metres away. Standing atop the rock, one could also enjoy the scenic beauty of a large area and see the Vijithapura Viharaya on the distant horizon.

It is said that Dutugemunu, together with his mother Viharamahadevi, spent weeks here planning war strategies and conducting military exercises before the decisive battle took place. The cave also served as a store for Dutugemunu’s arsenal.

Ven. Tissa says the viharaya, known as Balalleva Viharaya in ancient times, was built by binding together huge rocks that were brought there by Dutugemunu’s yodhayas (giants). The telltale marks of the paste used in binding the rocks are found between the rocks.

The Viharadhipathi also says that the Chamraras (tusks) of King Dutugemunu’s elephant, Kadula, have been interred in this four-acre cave temple and hence it is known as Chamaragala Viharaya.

It is said Dutugemunu would come riding Kadula to the very inside of this huge cave, where Sigiriya-like frescoes adorn the walls. “It is to protect this part of history for generations to come, that we have launched this project to re-enact the Atanatiya Sutta in sculpture form on top of the cave,” Ven. Tissa says.

Mahinda Weerakkody, Assistant Archaeology Director for the North Central Province, says the Archaeological Department has declared the viharaya and its surroundings as a historic site and plans are afoot to carry out excavations in the area.

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