There are two archaeological sites called “Kaludiya Pokuna” in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. The better-known one is at the foot of the Mihintale hills and will be described in a blog post next Monday.
This article is about Kaludiya Pokuna 10 km south of Sigiriya, in the Dambulla Divisional Secretariat Division. It is situated even closer to the Kandalama Lake, in a jungle area near Kumbukkandanwala village at the base of a rocky ridge belonging to the northern periphery of the Knuckles range. Similar to the namesake in Mihintale, this Vihara is named “Dark Pond” (Kaludiya Pokuna) after a blackish water, which is found in the vicinity in this case.
The idyllic excavation site is mentioned as Dakkhinagiri Vihara (“South-Hill monastery”) in an inscription from the reign of King Sena II in the middle of the ninth century. Indeed it is situated the southernmost part of the plains of the ancient Rajarata, now called Cultural Triangle. What can be seen today, is a typical monastery from the late Anuradhapura period. The earliest of three inscriptions is from the 7th century.
However, according to the Mahavamsa Chronicle a first sanctuary had already been built by King Saddhatissa (137-119 BC), who was the brother and successor of King Dutthagamani. The Vihara was developed by King Aggabodhi I, formerly sub-king of Mahanaga,in the late 7th century. Aggabodhi added an Uposathagara, the Chapter House for ordination ceremonies. The few ruins include a stupa, too. Kaludiya Pokuna is a typical example of a so-called Pabbata Vihara. The centre of such “hill monastery” was a shared platform of four buildings, a stupa, a Chapter house, an Image House, and a Bo-tree house (Bodhighara). Not much remains in the case of Kaludiya Pokuna, except from the stupa and massive pillars of the Chapter house. At the solpe of the hill, there are lots of rock shelters once serving as abodes of reclusive monks.
Kaludiya Pokuna is a very pleasant site, where you can listen to the sound of the jungles and find rare flowers as well as butterflies. It’s a perfect place for bird watchers, since dry zone lowland as well as some highland bird species occur in this intermediate zone. As in the case of Ritigala and Arankale and other typical forest monasteries, the abundance in medicinal herbs may have been a reason for monks to settle down here.
Kaludiya Pokuna will not impress you with architecture, but no doubt, you will fall in love with this tranquil site, it’s one of the best examples of “romantic ruins in the jungle” you will find in Sri Lanka!
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