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A brief history of the vicinity of the temple

Mullaitivu Kurundi
Ancient Buddhist Temple

Bordered by four districts (Mannar, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, and Trincomalee) and the Indian Ocean, the Mullaitivu district covers an area of 2,617 square kilometers. Mullaitivu district is an area that is rich with an abundance of archaeological heritage that dates back to the early historical period of Sri Lanka.
The Kurundi ancient Buddhist monastery is situated in the Mullaitivu district and the entire dispute surrounding the Kurundi monastery is the finest example of the hatred and violence caused by extremists toward the archaeological heritage in Sri Lanka’s North and East.

The Northern part of Sri Lanka was known as Nagadeepa and belonged to the Uttara passa administrative area during historical times. The area was also part of the Pihiti rata and the Raja Rata, which is known as the cradle and hub of the Sinhalese civilization.

The name of the area, Mullaitivu was derived from the older Sinhalese term, Mulle Duwa as suggested by historians and archaeologists such as Puravidya Chakrawarthi, Purawidya Paryeshanashuri most ven. Ellawala Medhanandha thero. As further written in his research publications, there are archaeological remains of ancient Buddhist monasteries in irrigation work and inscriptions in the Northern and Eastern provinces of the island, more than it is in the Southern part of the island.

According to Pali chronicles the history of Mullaitivu, dates back to the 6th or 5th century BCE as it is stated in the chronicles that Vadunnagala was an ancient Naga kingdom. This Vadunnagala Naga kingdom has been identified by historians and archaeologists as the Vaddamana Parvatha Vihara at Mullaitivu.

A 2nd century BC Buddhist temple…

The temple is first mentioned in the 33rd chapter of the Mahavamsa (5th century Pali chronicle). It says that King Khallatanga (110-104 BC) built the Kurunda pasaka temple. Locals also believe that Buddha has visited this place. A stupa, an image house, a 9th-10th century inscription of a Sinhala king, buddha, and bodhisattva statues are found at this place.

According to the Sri Lanka Kadayim book, ancient Sri Lanka had three administrative divisions as Ruhunu, Maya, and Pihiti. Out of the three, the Pihiti country (Pihiti Rata) is considered the heartland of the Sinhalese civilization, and it is also called the Country of the Kings (Raja Rata).
Kurundi Gamu Rata which was located in the Pihiti rata, was the ancient Kurundi Ratta area.

It is recorded that the Hela Atuwa called Kurundatta Kathawa was named after the monastery as it was composed at this place. King Khallatanaga built this monastery during the 2nd century BC and the monastery is mentioned as the Kurundawashoka and Kurundakapasaka monastery in the 5th century Pali chronicle, Mahavamsa.

The venerable Ellawala Medhanandha thero explains that Kurundawashoka was a shortened form of Kurundavapi Ashoka, which means that the monastery was built near the Kurundu wewa or tank.

The term Kurunda is echoed in all these references and mentionings.

The current name, Kurundama is also derived from this ancient name. These clearly show that since the time of the arrival of Arhant Mahinda in the 3rd century BC, when Sinhala Attakatha or commentaries were started to compose, the Kurundagama village and monastery flourished. The name also has not been changed and is continued to date.

According to the Sinhala literature of Attakatha, one Attakatha was committed to writing at this monastery. There is a large number of attakatha texts mentioned in the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. There are 28 attakatha (commentaries) in Sri Lanka.

Pachchariya-attakatha is the commentary that was written on a pahura or a little boat. The stone inscription at Raigama Pokunuwita temple mentions an attakatha of this name.

Among the 28 attakatha, the Kurundi attakatha was written at this ancient Kurundi monastery and little is known about the Kurundi attakatha. The Kurundi attakatha was written at the Kurundi monastery in Mullaitivu (the old name was Muuladeepa) of the Northern province.

All this evidence points out the fact that the Kurundi ancient monastery was a flourishing Buddhist monastery since the early historical times and it was located in a Sinhala Buddhist settlement. Evidence also proves that hundreds of Buddhist monks lived in the monastery. In another ancient text called Manorathapurani, one of the monks is referred to as Kurundaka Wasi, which means he was a resident monk of the Kurundi temple. In Attakatha this monk is referred to as Pussamitta thera.

The 1895 Manual of Vanni says that the term Kurun – gama is mentioned in the inscription and that The later Tamil residents built a temple here, and they demolished the vihare built by Sanghabodhi and other buildings and removed nearly all the bricks and the stoneworks to it”

It further says that Stones were removed from Kuruntanurmali in 1858 I believe, to build the Mullivaikkal temple. The doorway of that temple is constructed of carved stones from Kuruntanurmalai.”

There are many notes from local and colonial scholars about the purposeful vandalization of this place.

Until 2009 Kurundi temple was a forbidden place to step into. Racist politicians are those who oppose the archaeology work at this place and who deny accepting the place’s Buddhist identity despite all the evidence ( this is not the first time these racist politicians are demanding to remove Buddhist temples from the North and East).

Today it is identified that the entire monastery land is spread across more than 400 acres.

During the time of the British rule of Sri Lanka, Tamil people were settled in the Mullaitivu district, and it was those who forcefully encroached on the lands of many historical Buddhist temples of the North and East. They have also succeeded in obtaining land deeds for these encroached lands of Buddhist temples and ancient Sinhala Buddhist villages.

The Mullaitivu Nagachola Forest reserve is also a place encroached by later inhabitants Tamils in that manner.

These Tamil communities have no historical inheritance of land in this area and in any historical Buddhist temples of the North and East.
Some of these ancient Buddhist monasteries in the North and East were destroyed by the Portuguese. The Gokanna monastery of Trincomalee is one such place.

According to old records, it is clear that about 300 Hindu kovils were newly built in the North and East, on ancient Buddhist monasteries and villages. Similarly, they have attempted to build a kovil near the Kurundi monastery and venerate it. There is evidence that it was started to rebuild this kovil in 1981.
The Tamil National Alliance is working toward achieving its ugly political agendas. When the time is closer to the Geneva Human Rights Session, the TNA is trying its best to create racist issues in the country by provoking people. Through this, they are also attempting to highlight a fake and distorted history of a mythical Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka.

There never had been a historical Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka and in the North East. The Tamil villagers today are all established during British rule. We need to understand this situation well.

We also must understand that the ancient Kurundi Buddhist Monastery is not only a heritage of the Sri Lankan Buddhists but also of all the Buddhists of the world. Therefore, the ancient Kurundi Buddhist Monastery should be listed and protected as a World Heritage Site.

After 2009

Until 2009 Kurundi temple was a forbidden place to step into. Politicians are those who oppose the archaeology work at this place and who deny accepting the place’s Buddhist identity despite all the evidence. (It should be mentioned that this is not the first time the politicians demanding Buddhist temples to be removed from the North and the East).

Today, it is identified that the entire monastery land is spread across more than 400 acres.

The archaeology work was started in 2021 and the plan was to complete the stupa conservation based on the proposed plan (by archaeologists). On the day of enshrining the sacred relics of the Buddha inside the stupa, Parliamentarians of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and their supporters disturbed this event and force-stopped it. They claimed that the place belongs to their ‘homeland’ and the temple, in fact, is an ancient kovil (which does not tally with archaeological and historical sources).

The chain of events that followed was witnessed by the whole country and in the end, the DoA was allowed to continue with their archaeology work at the place without any disturbance.

However, the disputes and distractions created by these groups did not end then and there. Instead, it continued. Therefore, we will brief the incidents starting from 2018.

On 4 September 2018 when we first commenced work this group came and created obstacles for our work and filed a court case. Then they continuously did false accusations and delayed the court proceedings.

In January 2021 once again they created disturbances for the work at the temple. Despite the obstacles, we managed to start the work at the temple. Without stopping there, they continued to disturb our work and even provoked the people in the nearby villagers.

Members of Parliament representing the TNA arrived at the temple and created big issues here, demanding to halt the work at the temple.
Once again in August 2021, a court was filed at the Supreme Court. The 2018 case at the Mullaitivu Magistrate court was filed again and again based on false accusations, and the development of the temple was stopped from time to time due to this.Then

 on 12 June 2022, the religious festival was organized to enshrine the sacred relics inside the stupa, these politicians arrived here with people who provoked and stopped the religious festival. Hundreds of Buddhist monks arrived for the festival, representing the three Buddhist sects of the country, including many most venerable chief monks. The violent group insulted and harassed these Buddhist monks and verbally abused them with filth.

A similar incident once again occurred on 21 September 2022 threatening the well-being of the ancient temple.Thes

e racist politicians poison the minds of the villagers and people of the country and provoke them against the development of the ancient Kurundi Buddhist monastery. During these violent incidents, they also harassed government officers including the officers of the Department of Archaeology.
The lives of the monks and pilgrims and archaeoloigcal officers are threatened by the continuous harassment caused by these people and the development and functioning of the temple are halted due to these continuous violent acts.

This ancient temple should be developed and maintained and by doing so no harm to caused to anyone. In fact, when the temple is developed, a large number of pilgrims and tourists will visit the place on a daily basis and it will be a good income source for the villagers.

However, continuous and life-threatening violent acts created by these racists are an obstacle to the development of the temple.

Chief Incumbent

Ven. Galgamuwe Santhabodhi Thera

Chief Sanganayaka of the Nothern Province
Chief Incumbent of the Kurundi Temple

Chief Incumbent of the temple Ven. Galgamuwe Santhabodhi Thera