The Ten Brothers of Bovattagala Kumana Sri Lanka

Within the boundaries of the Kumana National Park are many ancient archeological sites that date back to the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. In fact, the Kumana area has been the site of an ancient civilisation dating back to the 3rd century BC.

During my recent camping trip with Xtreme Nature Tours, we visit Bovattagala, one of the many ancient sites located in the middle of the park.

There is a cobbled path that leads through the thick jungle to the base of what was once a massive monastic complex. We climb a short distance, scaling the hot rocky façade until we reach the main cave.

The face of the rock cave resembles a humongous, prehistoric  lizard  while the outer façade is carved with drip ledges and steps.

Chris cautions us to stay together and tread carefully as he shows us fresh pug marks, leopard and bear scat and warns us of the possibility of  lurking wild life that have retreated into the shrub jungle for the moment. We do just that!

Bovattagala is said to have been carved into a monastery in the 2nd century BC by the ten brothers who ruled Kataragama and known as the Kataragama-Ksathriya.

The walls of the cave have some remarkable etchings and inscriptions. Dr. Senarath Paranavithana, a pioneering archeologist and epigraphist of Sri Lanka, has this to say about these inscriptions:

“We know from the Mahavamsa, that Kataragama, not far from the site of these epigraphs, (Bovattagala) was the home of a Ksathriya clan whose representatives were given a place of honor at a festival held at Anuradhapura, on the occasion of the arrival of the Bodhi-tree in Devanampiya Tissa’s reign. A statement in the Dhatuvamsa, which I have since come across, seems to afford some evidence on this question.  In that work, it is said that Gothabhaya, the ruler of Rohana, who was the grandfather of Duttagamini, killed  “the ten-brother kings” of Kataragama, and in expiation of this crime built 500 vihara’s on either side of the Mahaveli ganga.

“Bovattagala, the site of the inscriptions in question, is at a distance of about 30 miles from Kataragama and it is probable that the authority of the rulers of the latter place extended so far. The existence of ten brothers in one family jointly exercising ruling powers could not have been frequent enough to explain the statements in the inscriptions and in the Dhatuvamsa as a mere coincidence ,and therefore we may, with some confidence, assume that both sources refer to the same princes.”

Note the six-fingered figure, which can also be found in many ancient Mayan sites. Anyone knows the significance?

The remains of this cave monastery also indicate the possibility of shrine rooms and living quarters for the meditating monks.

The view from the top of the cave

Apart from this cave, there are others located in and around Kumana: Kudumbigala Monastery, Bambaragasthalawa Naga Pabbatha Monastery and several reservoirs, and dams that need to be explored eventually.

National parks are not just about seeing leopard, bear and elephants. While driving through this Park I come across some amazing trees, mostly the gnarled and knotted Kumbuk, that probably dates back many centuries. The shapes and sizes are simply worth adding to my gallery of photos from this trip to Kumana.

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