Manakanda is a forest monestary of the medieval Pamsukulika brotherhood, the rather unkown excavation site is quite similar to Ritigala but less frequented, because not mentioned in guidebooks. It’s a real off-the-beaten-track destination, though not far away from the A9 Kandy-Jaffna mainroad and from the A11 connecting Anuradhapura with Polonnaruwa. A11 and A9 meet in the village of Maradankadawela. Manakanda is the small north-south oriented ridge situated 3 km west of Maradankadawela. It can be seen from the mainroad. You will find the the archeology board at the Maradankadawala-Ipalogama side road. The villages Ipalogama and Gonapathirawa are located at the opposite side of the Manakanda hill, which reaches an altitude of 381 metres above sea level. The view from the ridge is quite scenic. You can see Ritigala in the east and Mihintale in the north.
The ancient forest monastery of Manakanda was excavated by Gamini Wijesuriya, Director of Conservation of the Department of Archaeology.
There are some typical Pamsukulika double platforms in Manakanda, consisting of two square-shaped platforms of stone connected by a narrow bridge. The structure of such a meditation platform, also found in Ritigala, Arankale, Veherabhandigala and Anuradhapura’s Western monasteries, is called Pathanagara (or Padanagaraya). Pathanagaras are unique to Sri Lankan monastic architecture. According to Wijesuriya, a Pathanagara may have been a living quarter of monks, devided into a platform with a roofed Kuti, which served as a monk’s dwelling, and a meditation platform in front of it, which was roofless and only filled with sand. However, monks usually lived in caves or in huts built of perishable materials. Stone monuments are usually ritual buildings. Maybe in the case of the Pamsukulika monasteries they were both. Devotees visiting the monks could have venerated the abode of a living monk instead of Buddha images, Bodhi tress or stupas, which were absent from Pamsukulika monasteries. This would explain, why there are ambulatories surrounding some of the double platforms.
Besides Pathanagaras, there are also cave temples in Manakanda, presumably used by early forest monks already before the Pamsukulikas settled down here, as in the case of Ritigala. There are also some stone inscriptions at drip ledges, from the Anuradhapura period, mentioning donations of these caves. The most striking similarities to Ritigala are the paved meditation pathes with circular rest places and an ancient hospital, a so-called, Janthagaraya, where sick monks were treated.
Altogether, there have been found remnants of 70 structures at the archaeological site of Manakanda. An interesting feature of Pamsukulika monasteries, also known from Anuradhapura West, Ritigala and Arankale, are large ponds dug or partly carved out of the rock in or near Pansukulika monasteries in order to store water for the priests and pilgrims. Manakanda has the largest such archaeological pond yet found.
Visitors should be aware that this is a wildlife area. An experienced guide or a local friend should help you to avoid conflicts with wild elephants.
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