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Kurundi Booklet

Mullaitivu Kurundi Buddhist Monastery

Introduction

Sri Lanka is a little island with a high density of archaeological heritage. Its rich legacy has given birth to valuable art, architectural, irrigational, and engineering remains that connect the island nations’ present to its past.

Sri Lanka’s vast number of ruined temples scattered all over the island and especially in the North and Eastern provinces are silent witnesses and are solid pieces of evidence of its territorial integrity and ownership of land.

While many of them are being destroyed and vandalized, the lands of some ancient sites are being encroached upon. Vandalizing archaeological ruins is illegal.

These places were forced to be abandoned for some centuries. In the 20th century, violence was forced by extremists and racists upon Buddhist monks who were forced to leave their temples and villagers who were forced to leave their homes. During these times and during the 30-year war, these places were further destroyed. Many of the ruined granite pillars and carved stones were used in other buildings as stepping stones or walls. If one has traveled in these areas, the damage is clearly evident.

Although some attempts have been made to document these places and restore them before the war, after the late 1980s, all attempts had to be stopped due to the rising power of the LTTE. During post-war times, some attempts were once again made.

Among these many places, The Kurundi ancient Buddhist monastery or the Kurundawashoka ancient temple at Mullativu was a place which is targeted by the extremists heavily. Justice is still being delayed.

As the dispute at the Kurundi temple came into the spotlight, discussions about hundreds of ancient sites in the North and East came into the limelight. The many issues faced by these sites were brought into the discussion. Meanwhile, some also questioned the archaeological work at the Kurundi temple and questioned if they are legal and done according to accepted archaeological theories and practices. At the same time, the extremists continued to spread violence against this precious ancient site.

When the Kurundi incident gained public attention through social media, some on social media twisted the incident to say that it was a fabricated incident to provoke racism by Buddhist monks and Sinhala racists. However, in no time it was proven that these accusations were false. We must note that revealing the damages or threats to a heritage site, is not to provoke racism, but to protect the country’s national heritage. Therefore, twisting the truth and misinterpreting such incidents shouldn’t be done.

The objective of this booklet is to present to you a brief history of this ancient Buddhist monastery, its archaeology, recent conservation work, how it is not going against any national or international archaeological conservation laws and policies, and how the extremists are attacking the place, attempting to damage the place’s identity.

Ruins don’t lie

Archaeological evidence does not lie and their true identity cannot be faked. If a statue was discovered at an ancient temple in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, or Mullaitivu, and it is identified as a Buddha statue or a Bodhisattva statue, it is a fact. That cannot be twisted and given a false identity. If a stone inscription found at Oddusudan or Pottuvil or Vavuniya reads as if it was a place offered to monks by a king bearing a Sinhala name, that is a fact. These readings or interpretations were given following accepted theories and methods. Hence, fighting over such facts, and twisting the truth is baseless.

Also, twisting or distorting the identity of a place or monument can be defined as violating the rights of a community and going against ethics.

In a country like Sri Lanka, as there are disputes regarding cultural heritage, a best practice that can be followed is to conduct studies and excavation and exploration work by both Sinhala and Tamil communities, including scholars, clergy, and the public, together. These studies should be unbiased and solely based on accepted theories and methodologies.

Sri lanka’s cultural heritage is under sever threat

A country’s archaeological evidence and its culture play a vital part in its socio-cultural, political, and economic aspects. They are also indicators of the land’s and a nation’s identity, a nation’s right over land, their inheritance of land, and territorial integrity. Thus, cultural heritage is always dragged towards sensitive and complex issues such as racism, nationalism, and national identity.

In Sri Lanka, as there had been an ethnic conflict that still continues, the cultural heritage has been the target of certain groups and individuals. The Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka are the central focus of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. As the Tamil politicians would claim, that part had been a traditional Tamil homeland for thousands of years. Based on this thought, in the 1930s/40s, Tamil politicians opposed when the British-initiated irrigation and agricultural projects in the Northern plains. Based on this thought they stood against the Sinhalese farmers in the Northern plains and gradually started a mild ethnic cleansing process to drive away the Sinhalese and also the Muslims from the North and the East.

It is unfortunate that these thoughts occurred in the minds of these early politicians as they spread thoughts of hatred and racism between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. We also must note that these were not the general thoughts of the Tamil public, but only of vicious politicians, and also, nourished by the British rulers who enjoyed ‘divide and rule’. We have evidence of the past, and the present to prove how Sinhalese and Tamil people have always lived in harmony in Sri Lanka for centuries, and how the Buddhist and Hindu cultures, beliefs, and traditions are interwoven, giving birth to a unique local culture.

The thought of a Tamil homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka, grew with time until it led to a group of people demanding a separate state; the Elam. This Elam spreads in more than half of the island and under that, they demanded the Sinhalese be removed from those areas, as they demanded a pure Tamil ethnic state. The devastating result of this vicious demand was the birth of the Liberation of Tamil Tigers for Elam (LTTE). They fought for 30 years demanding the island be separated into two states and completely evacuate the Sinhalese from the North and East. Although in 2009 the military of the LTTE was defeated, their ideology was not crushed. They are still very much alive and well-nourished.

Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage is the biggest threat to proving the existence of a Tamil homeland in the North and East. A large number of Pali, Sinhala, and Sanskrit ancient texts and inscriptions are the biggest obstacle to proving the historical existence of a Tamil homeland in the North and East. This means, based on archaeological evidence, a claim of a Tamil Homeland and the existence of a pure Tamil ethnic kingdom of the North and East, clearly collapses. In a summary, archaeological evidence reveals that Elam is a mythical concept and did not exist in reality. No matter how many distorted stories are written and published by certain scholars, these facts cannot be changed.

This is why for decades, the many sites and monuments in the North and East are being destroyed and vandalized. During the war, for almost three decades, in the areas that were under the control of the LTTE, many sites and monuments were either destroyed or kovils were built on them.

During post-war times, these places were once again open to the public. Buddhist monks, devotees, and scholars would visit these places and practice their religious rituals. However, while all this was happening, Tamil politicians and racist groups would express their hatred towards these monks and devotees and even filed court cases, lodged complaints against them visiting, and even claimed the identity of these places to be something else. Once again, we emphasize that the easiest and most transparent way to solve the identity issue of these places is to conduct studies on these sites and monuments involving both Sinhala and Tamil communities.

During the people’s protests and pride walks held in Colombo last months, some were holding slogans saying that the ‘Buddhisization of the North-East- Traditional Tamil Homeland’ must be stopped and ventured their anger against the archaeology and Buddhist work happening in the North and East. Based on archaeological and historical evidence, there is nothing new to ‘Buddhisize’ in the North and East of the country. The vast number of temples scattered in these areas bears the place’s historical identities. It is not that in recent times, monks or the Sri Lankan Government, or the Sinhalese are going to the North and East to set up temples. They have always been in those areas and what is being done now is reviving them and reconstructing them; as any heritage place should be done.

Mullaitivu Kurundi ancient Buddhist temple

A brief history of the vicinity of the 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.

These 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.

Conservation work at the ancinet Kurundi temple

Religious value and livingness of heritage

This brief explanation is to make understand our readers that the conservation and maintainece work at the Kurundi ancient temple is cleary archaeological conservation work and does not violate any accepted national and international laws, policies or practices.

What distinguishes religious heritage from secular heritage is its inherent ‘livingness’, that the religious values carried by a stupa embodying the living Buddha, for example, can only be sustained by ongoing processes of physical renewal of the stupa.

Therefore, the primary goal of conservation becomes continuity itself, based on processes of renewal that continually revive the cultural meaning, significance, and symbolism attached to heritage.

The differ­ences between ‘religious heritage’ and ‘heritage’ by noting that religious heritage has been born with its values in place, while with other forms of heritage, we need time and distance to be able to ascribe values to heritage.

If responsibility for the religious heritage is retained by the ‘associated community’, then its protection is assured from within, while benefiting from the conservation expertise acquired through dialogue with the conservation community.

Living religious heritage is of particular importance, given its vital role in conveying, expressing, and sustaining the faiths which give spiritual identity, meaning, and purpose to human life.

Understanding living religious heritage requires recognizing that the intangible significance of tangible religious objects, structures, and places is the key to their meaning.

The tangible and intangible cannot be separated since all cultural material has intangible value.

Conservation of Kurundi Stupa

Kurundi is a heritage site under the existing law of the country which is identified as an archaeological reserve. What you do with such a site is given in the Antiquities Ordinance under which, reconstruction of a stupa is not prohibited.

There is no universal law that defines what you do with (interventions) a heritage site or an archaeological site.

Nothing prevents the Department of Archaeology from undertaking the reconstruction of a stupa in an archaeological site as has been done since the 60s.

From an international perspective, interventions of a site such as Kurundi should be based on an assessment of all its values and not just its archaeological value.

Being part of a living heritage site, all its values such as historical, religious, and archaeological have to be taken into account when defining different conservation interventions. Considering the religious significance of a stupa Buddhist community decided to reconstruct stupas that are in ruined conditions, which is a long-established tradition in this country.

In ensuring continuity of forms, in effect, ‘living’ heritage values are being elevated above the more familiar ‘documentary’ or ‘historical’ heritage values. The primary goal of conservation becomes continuity itself, based on processes of renewal that continually ‘revive the cultural meaning, significance, and symbolism attached to heritage’.

Such discussions have led to many conclusions:

  1. As a result, efforts to conserve tangible and intangible living religious heritage deserve particular support for their role in supporting and testifying to the nature of our search for the fundamental meaning of human existence.
  2. The care of this heritage is primarily the responsibility of the religious community for whom this heritage has importance, at local and/or global levels. The conservation of living religious heritage is ideally initiated by the religious community and carried out in collaboration with conservation professionals and all those concerned.

Religious values in a multicultural context are also discussed.

Respect for religious values in a multicultural context (or of particular orientations within a single religion) is essential for promoting peace and a tolerant society and is best promoted through strengthening interfaith dialogues on conservation issues.

In Sri Lanka, we have reconstructed many stupas with the addition of large amounts of bricks to regain the form suitable for worship. Principles for such interventions are still being discussed with no coherent agreements at the international level.

The conservation of the stupa and image house at Kurundi oscillates between traditional conservation and modern materialistic conservation views.

The legal authority over the Kurundi site is with the Department of Archaeology. Ensuring its protection and other archaeological and research work is the professional responsibility of the DoA. Any other institution or political party cannot distract that legal authority. Current archaeological works at the site are not violating the rights of an individual or a group; instead, that is an official intervention in safeguarding a people’s heritage that has a Buddhist cultural identity. If one says the work (conservation, restoration, excavations, publication, etc), is illegal, what the DoA has done for the past 132 years is illegal, unscientific, and anti-social.

Conservation is not ‘new construction’

Restoration and reconstruction work based on revealed archaeological data clearly comes under conservation and is not at all considered new construction.

The Burra Charter says that all work that is been done to maintain the cultural value of a site is conservation and this includes maintenance, protection, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, etc. Bringing a place back to its original state as close as possible to the original state is called reconstruction. In addition, Fielden defines conservation as integrated reinforcement and rehabilitation. Internal quality control and prevention of theft and malicious damage are also conservation activities.

The best way to preserve buildings is to rehabilitate or reuse them abiding by their original purpose. Relocation of decayed parts to maintain their aesthetic harmony is considered in this conservation process.

Based on archaeological data, the ancient physical structure was planned to be completed and that is known as the reconstruction conservation method. If monks were residing and Buddhist rituals were practiced there, then that is rehabilitation; which is practicing the building’s original use.  Safeguarding the site and avoiding theft and maintaining the site is also a form of conservation.

Considering all these, the archaeological work that has been done at Kurundi temple by any means cannot be interpreted as illegal according to local and international laws or policies. Also, based on these laws and policies, and charters, none of these construction falls under new construction work; they all are archaeological conservation work.

Preserving Living Traditions

It must be taken into consideration how the relevant culture has traditionally preserved its heritage in the past when the archaeological heritage of a living culture is subjected to conservation. These traditional knowledge systems are also part of heritage. Local heritage should not be completely subjected to foreign conservation methods. Heritage should be conserved by preserving its liveliness. To continue in a ruined state for a longer time results in the death of the culture.

Conservation based on archaeological data

When it comes to Stupa Conservation, the international charters have some interesting mentionings. According to the Venice Charter, the level of restoration should be decided on the nature of the factors. Authentic texts, laws, and policies should be used in this process and It also states that the changes made over time should be respected while preserving the building. When these are applied to the issue at Kurindi, the problem can be solved; the needed restoration work can be done based on the archaeological facts.

When saying that the time-to-time constructions of the place should be respected, the 1890s kovil is not considered because it was built by severely challenging the originality and the identity of the building. As Bell and Lewis have described, it is an ‘invasion’. It is cleary an encroachment, illegal construction and an attempt to erase the original identity of an ancient place.

According to the Burra Charter, conservation should be minimal physical intervention and should be done with attention to the cultural significance of a building. The building or its function should be a remnant of its historical location. If there is sufficient evidence of the original condition of the physical materials of cultural importance and the physical materials can be brought back to their original condition, restoration should be done. If these are applied to Kurundi temple, then; The physical locations of the buildings have been discovered archaeologically and their original plans are understood. Conservation plans have been prepared by taking into account the existing data. Their cultural values ​​are based on Buddhist ideologies. When considered culturally, the Stupa and Pratimagruha are considered sacred buildings.

Violating archaeological data and their identity is unethical and unprofessional

When a yupa stone or a Gajasthamba was discovered at the Kurundi temple, it was misinterpreted by some as a Siva linga. This violates the identity of the stupa. Lying about its identity, according to charters, is an example of violating a palace’s true identity.

Bernard Fielden pointed out that the conservation process is often distorted due to political pressures directed by religious and ethnic groups. This is what happened at Kurundi temple. Preservation is not just a matter of physical intervention and the intangible process associated with place identity should also be preserved. That is what the ancient kings also did. Unfortunately, in modern conservation, accepting this concept was delayed until the beginning of the twenty-first century.

He also said that it is a serious crime to erase and distort the original identity of a historical site or monument. Religious harmony or coexistence is not allowed to distort a place’s historical identity.

It is important to be sensitive to communities’ religious needs when conducting conservation. This is also mentioned in international statutes. He also said that there is no obstacle to creating conservation methods that are suitable for one’s country and culture within the basic model.

The conservation of the stupa and image house at Kurundi oscillates between traditional conservation and modern materialistic conservation views.

The legal authority over the Kurundi site is with the Department of Archaeology. Ensuring its protection and other archaeological and research work is the professional responsibility of the DoA. Any other institution or political party cannot distract that legal authority. Current archaeological works at the site are not violating the rights of an individual or a group; instead, that is an official intervention in safeguarding a people’s heritage that has a Buddhist cultural identity. If one says the work (conservation, restoration, excavations, publication, etc), is illegal, what the DoA has done for the past 132 years is illegal, unscientific, and anti-social.

Conservation is not ‘new construction’

Restoration and reconstruction work based on revealed archaeological data clearly comes under conservation and is not at all considered new construction.

The Burra Charter says that all work that is been done to maintain the cultural value of a site is conservation and this includes maintenance, protection, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, etc. Bringing a place back to its original state as close as possible to the original state is called reconstruction. In addition, Fielden defines conservation as integrated reinforcement and rehabilitation. Internal quality control and prevention of theft and malicious damage are also conservation activities.

The best way to preserve buildings is to rehabilitate or reuse them abiding by their original purpose. Relocation of decayed parts to maintain their aesthetic harmony is considered in this conservation process.

Based on archaeological data, the ancient physical structure was planned to be completed and that is known as the reconstruction conservation method. If monks were residing and Buddhist rituals were practiced there, then that is rehabilitation; which is practicing the building’s original use.  Safeguarding the site and avoiding theft and maintaining the site is also a form of conservation.

Considering all these, the archaeological work that has been done at Kurundi temple by any means cannot be interpreted as illegal according to local and international laws or policies. Also, based on these laws and policies, and charters, none of these construction falls under new construction work; they all are archaeological conservation work.

Preserving Living Traditions

It must be taken into consideration how the relevant culture has traditionally preserved its heritage in the past when the archaeological heritage of a living culture is subjected to conservation. These traditional knowledge systems are also part of heritage. Local heritage should not be completely subjected to foreign conservation methods. Heritage should be conserved by preserving its liveliness. To continue in a ruined state for a longer time results in the death of the culture.

Conservation based on archaeological data

When it comes to Stupa Conservation, the international charters have some interesting mentionings. According to the Venice Charter, the level of restoration should be decided on the nature of the factors. Authentic texts, laws, and policies should be used in this process and It also states that the changes made over time should be respected while preserving the building. When these are applied to the issue at Kurindi, the problem can be solved; the needed restoration work can be done based on the archaeological facts.

When saying that the time-to-time constructions of the place should be respected, the 1890s kovil is not considered because it was built by severely challenging the originality and the identity of the building. As Bell and Lewis have described, it is an ‘invasion’. It is cleary an encroachment, illegal construction and an attempt to erase the original identity of an ancient place.

According to the Burra Charter, conservation should be minimal physical intervention and should be done with attention to the cultural significance of a building. The building or its function should be a remnant of its historical location. If there is sufficient evidence of the original condition of the physical materials of cultural importance and the physical materials can be brought back to their original condition, restoration should be done. If these are applied to Kurundi temple, then; The physical locations of the buildings have been discovered archaeologically and their original plans are understood. Conservation plans have been prepared by taking into account the existing data. Their cultural values ​​are based on Buddhist ideologies. When considered culturally, the Stupa and Pratimagruha are considered sacred buildings.

Violating archaeological data and their identity is unethical and unprofessional

When a yupa stone or a Gajasthamba was discovered at the Kurundi temple, it was misinterpreted by some as a Siva linga. This violates the identity of the stupa. Lying about its identity, according to charters, is an example of violating a palace’s true identity.

Bernard Fielden pointed out that the conservation process is often distorted due to political pressures directed by religious and ethnic groups. This is what happened at Kurundi temple. Preservation is not just a matter of physical intervention and the intangible process associated with place identity should also be preserved. That is what the ancient kings also did. Unfortunately, in modern conservation, accepting this concept was delayed until the beginning of the twenty-first century.

He also said that it is a serious crime to erase and distort the original identity of a historical site or monument. Religious harmony or coexistence is not allowed to distort a place’s historical identity.

It is important to be sensitive to communities’ religious needs when conducting conservation. This is also mentioned in international statutes. He also said that there is no obstacle to creating conservation methods that are suitable for one’s country and culture within the basic model.