Sacred relics excavated at Neelagiri Seya on public display


By Dasun Edirisinghe

The Department of Archeology yesterday commenced at Rattapala Purana Raja Maha Vihara in Diviyagaha in the Matara District a public display of the sacred relics unearthed during the excavations of Neelagiri Seya in Lahugala.

Among the relics displayed were of the Buddha’s and Arahat monks, Director General of Archaeology Dr Senarath Dissanayake said, adding that ashes of King Dutugemunu found during the Dakkhina Stupa excavations by Dr. Senarat Paranavitana in 1948 would also be displayed at the exhibition.

Neelagiri Seya excavation is considered the biggest excavation project during the last three years in the Eastern Province by the Department of Archaeology. Neelagiri Seya is the largest Buddhist Stupa in the Eastern Province. The stupa, located in the Lahugala Forest Reserve has been neglected for over three decades owing to the LTTE activities in the area. The stupa is believed to have been built by either King Kawantissa (3rd Century BC) or King Bhatikabaya (20 BC-9 AC) and renovated in the 7th century.

This massive stupa has a circumference of 600 feet (182 metres) and 72 feet (22 metres) high in the current status. This has been called Uttara Seevali Pabbata Viharaya in the ancient times. Attempts have been made to restore the stupa during 1979 – 1984 period but those initiatives had been abandoned as the area was not accessible due to the armed conflict.

Exposition of relics at Diviyagaha Rattapala Raja Maha Vihara would continue till Dec 07, Dr. Dissanayake said.

The Diviyagaha Raja Maha Vihara is one of the ancient temples known for its murals and wall paintings and is currently being conserved under the supervision of the Department of Archaeology. The same relics were displayed at Seruvila Raja Maha Vihara, Weyangoda, Hanguranketha and Kegalle previously. They attracted thousands of devotees despite inclement weather conditions.

Requests have been received from temples in Colombo, Kuliyapitiya, Kaduwela and Puttalam for relic expositions within their premises and arrangements were being made to provide devotees in those places an opportunity to pay homage to the relics in a few months, Dr Dissanayake added.

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