It was May 09, 2010 and the devotees at the Somawathie shrine were attending a Kiripindu Pooja. Minutes and hours passed by, and all were engrossed in the pooja, when a strange pinkish light appeared near the square chamber of the Pagoda. The air above the premises echoed by the hum of a worship, 'sadhu!'It was not an alien incident for Somawathiya; it had happened numerous times before. Some scholars interpret this light as illuminations of the Buddha and some deem this as a proof for the appearance of a god. Whatever it is, these miracles do bring many devotees to the shrine.
Around 40 kilometres away from Polonnaruwa, the Somawathie Chethiya is a popular pilgrimage site among the Buddhists and non-Buddhists. The place creates a lot of news throughout the year. Besides, the miracles, there is also an elephant that visits the temple regularly to pay homage to the Stupa which is enshrined with the right canine Tooth Relic of the Buddha. During the rainy season, the whole area goes under water.
During the conflict, the journey to the temple was not easy. Once you drove in at the last army camp, you were required to leave your National Identity Card with the security. Subsequently, it was a journey through the thick jungle up to Somawathie Viharaya.
While standing here at the temple premises, I remember a story related to my grandmother. Some years ago, my granny went missing. A few days later, she was back at home from an adventurous journey to Somawathiya. "I was late by the time I reached the army camp. There were hardly any vehicles to commute up to the temple. Taking a tractor was the only option I had. I got into it to reach the shrine and spent the night all alone at the temple," she said. This incident took place in 2007 and she was 68 years old then.
The history of Somawathiya predate Dutugemunu. Therefore, it is much older than Ruwanweliseya, Mirisawetiya or Jetawanaramaya. Some believe that it was built during the reign of king Kavantissa, Dutugemunu's father who ruled Magama. According to ancient chronicles, the very first Arahant of the country, Aritta Thera, had visited the residence of gods especially to bring the Sacred Right Tooth Relic of the Buddha.
As the legend unfolds, Kawantissa's sister, Somawathie Devi, had built the dagoba during the second century BC. The Mahawamsa describes that the royal couple who had left Ruhuna had sought refuge in Raja Rata over a disagreement with king Dutugemunu who was also the nephew of Somawathie. Queen Somawathie had a yearning to build a stupa in honour of the Buddha. The king himself had agreed to the idea with much enthusiasm. Giri Abhaya, the husband of queen Somawathie, had explored a possible site for the construction. In the course of his survey, he came upon an area where Bhikkhus led by Arahant Mahinda resided. When the king suggested his idea to Arahant Mahinda, he gave his consent to the stupa-building project.
The location was known as Somapura. There were companion stupas known as Kumbanacchaduwa (identified as the place where Kadol elephant had died).
The pilgrim of earlier days to the holy shrine had an opportunity to see on one side of the dagoba, a trench-like opening revealing some five feet inside the present dagoba, wherein is the ancient brick masonry of the earlier dagoba. However, now the trench has been covered.
According to scholars, some Brahmi characters found at the site have been identified as letters from the second century. Seven stone inscriptions detailing the history of the dagoba have also been found in the area. Separate inscriptions found here refer to the Rebavehera and Pajini Naka Araba Vihara, which are presumed to be the ancient names of the monument. According to the latter, there is also a belief that the vihara was a construction by Naka, the son of king Mahallaka Naga in the second century.
Like the road to Seruwila Dagoba, here too, the voyage itself offers you an array of thick jungle and swamp as well as their inhabitants, big and small.
In fact, the dagoba is often visited at night by elephants. Sungawila is the last little town and border village from where you cross the Mahaweli to travel on some 13 kilometres of unsealed road that cuts through the Somawathie's strict natural reserve and wildlife sanctuary, and takes you through the jungle and marshy land to the great dagoba.
As elephants encroach into the temple premises, an electric fence has been installed there. The fence is powered by solar electricity. Electricity is switched on in the evening from six onwards.
The Somawathie Chetiya is famous in recent history due to its miracles, which took place in the temple. Some of the valuable ancient ruins found in the place are found at the Polonnaruwa Museum.
|Miracles||The Buddha’s foot imprint|