Namal Pokuna is a comlex of ruins at the northern slope of the Dimbulagala mountain range, which was once called “Gunners Quoin”. Namal Pokuna is rarely visited, though it’s a historically important excavation site in a pleasant natural setting.
The Namal Pokuna monastic complex has the typical ceremonial buildings of a Pabbata Vihara, such as assembly hall, stupa and image houses. There is a jungle path connecting the main complex with the modern monastery, Dimbulagala Raja Maha Viharaya, which is located a few kilometres further southwest. But the shorter and easier access to Namal Pokuna is from a car park at the northen foot of the Dimbulagala hills. However, the jungle path is a nice hike and leads to some cave temples and a pond in between rocks and with remarkably blue water. It is said that bathing here cures all water. But modern medicine would warn to avoid bathing here because of infection risks.
Indeed, it is Namal Pokuna and not the Dimbulagala Raja Maha Viharaya, which was the ancient Udambaragiri mentioned in the historical chronicles of Sri Lanka, Udumbara being the Pali word for wood apple. Another ancient Pali name for Dimbulagala is Dola Pabbatha.
Pandukabahaya, who later on became the king who chose Anuradhapura as the capital in the 4th century B.C., is believed ot have lived in hiding in a stone cave in this area for many years, as a guest of local demons protecting him, when he was chased by his uncles.
Some Arahants - Buddhist practicioners who found Nibbana - from the early centuries of Sinhalese Buddhism are also said to have led their lives in the caves near Namal Pokuna.
Namal Pokuna was the monastery that played a crucial role in the history of Buddhism during the Polonnaruwa period. It served as an abode of monks when King Vijayabahu freed Polonnaruwa from foreign Chola occupation in the middle of the 11th century and reintroduced Theravada Buddhism from Myanmar by contacting Anoratha, the founder of the Bagan empire (Anawratha from Pagan) to help him to reestablish the monastic tradition.
One century later, again, the Buddhist order had to be reformed after a set back due to lack of Royal patronage in the decades after Vijayabahu’s reign. It was Parakramabahu the Great, the most excellent Polonnaruwa-King, who with the help of the abbot of this monastery could reorganize the Buddhist order in the Sinhalese kingdom. At this point in time, when Parakramabahu’s chief priest Maha Kassapa from Dimbulagala united all monastic traditions of Sri Lanka under the Theravada umbrella, monastic contacts with Thailand became increasingly important, too. The monks of Dimbulagala played a crucial role in educating Thai monks who introduced the Theravada tradition in the newly founded first Thai empires, Chieng Mai and Sukothai, in the centre of mainland Southeast Asia. Monks from Dimbulagala were directly involved in ending hostilities among rivalling Thai factions. In the very same period, in the 12th century, the great Sinhalese author Gurulugomi received his education in this monastery, which is now called Namal Pokuna.
all Sri Lanka blog articles
by region, by topic
and A-Z here...