Posted by: lrrp | September 10, 2004

Unfinished business at Tantrimale By D.C. Ranatunga (Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. will hold an Aloka Pooja at the historic Tantrimale temple from June 1-3)

A sedentary Buddha, colossal in stature, carved in the rock, the panels on either side of it prepared centuries ago but yet uncut centuries later: a reclining Buddha of giant proportions, the finishing touches yet to be made: a stock of wedged pillars and coping stones, beaded edges cut with great care, all lying in the forest where they were quarried; a stupa crumbling with age on the crest of the highest wave of stone, and leading to a flight of steps that begins but does not end; a stone cubicle atop another pinnacle, a sentinel watching over the panorama; ruins everywhere, caves and inscriptions here and there. This is Tantrimale.

This is Tantrimale, where carvings that rival those of the Galvihare await the sculptor’s finishing touches; where eight of a flight of steps are cut while a ninth remains half cut; where pillars and stones, carved and uncarved, lie where they were quarried, awaiting buildings to be erected.

This is Tantrimale, as it was on that day when the word came that an army from the coast was on the march, the day when the people fled leaving their task unfinished.

So Subbiah Muthiah wrote 45 years ago in the Times Annual 1959. Few went to Tantrimale then. It’s a different story today. The motorable road from Anuradhapura has made it a popular place of worship. Pilgrims do the 35-mile drive and enjoy yet another marvel of the days of the Sinhalese monarchs.

The magnificent gal talawa is a treat. The walk around the caves and places of worship is not tiring. The climb is easy. Many are the places to see. Walking to the right and reaching the top of the rock, one meets the Bodhi, one of the first eight offshoots (ashta palaruha bodhi) of the original Bo-sapling brought during the time of King Devanampiyatissa.

The Mahavamsa mentions that when the Bo-sapling was brought by Theri Sanghamitta, “the village of the Brahman Tivakka” was one of the places where the party rested on their way to Anuradhapura. As a token of remembrance, an offshoot was presented. Tantrimale was then known as Tiwakka Bamunu Gama.

Looking down one sees the rock cut image of the sedentary Buddha, almost eight feet high. Behind the image is a makara thorana. One sees a pond in the distance. According to a resident monk, it never runs dry. Closer to the pond are several caves including one used as the poth gula (library). Inscriptions with Brahmi letters have been found in the caves.

A museum houses the artifacts found on the premises. Coming round to the left, one approaches the rock cut reclining Buddha, 40 feet in length. Opposite the statue, on top of the rock is the dagoba. Walking to the left of the dagoba, one reaches the newly-built budu-ge where final touches are being given to the paintings. An evening stroll round the Tantrimale complex is a pleasant and satisfying experience.

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