صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

would also protect them from the gaze of the worshippers, and that it would require only one line of pillars instead of four to support it.

The Thupharamaya, we can easily believe, would follow the fortunes of the city in which it stood. The unbelieving Malabars would show it little respect, although they might consider the trouble too great of levelling it with the ground, whilst the Singhalese monarchs would restore it at intervals to its first condition, or leave it to its fate, as piety or indifference had the ascendancy in their minds.

The ruins which usually strike the eye of the traveller on first entering Anuradhapura from the southern side, are the remains of the numerous pillars which formerly supported the Lowa Maha Paya, or brazen place for the priests. This building, one of the largest that ever existed in the east, was erected by Dutugaimono, a hundred and fifty years before our era. One hundred and fifty years before that again, its erection, Singhalese tradition assures us, had been prophesied by Mahindo, the great priest of Buddhu, who arrived with the Bo-tree in the time of Tisso. Dutugaimono, having beard of this prophecy, the Mahawanso informs us, searched for a record of it said to have been deposited in the palace. This record, with the assistance of the priests, he at length found in a vase, inscribed on a golden plate. It mentioned his own name we are told, and gave a brilliant account of the palace he should build for the priests. The monarch, unsuspicious of deception, was delighted at the heavenly warning, and assembling the priests in his garden, many of whom were doubtless laughing in their sleeves at him, informed them that if they could but find out what kind of a palace the devas or heavenly spirits had, he would build them one like it. Nothing was easier for the priests than this; so sending off eight of their number (all sanctified characters," reverently observes the Mahawanso) to the other world, they told them to bring back a drawing of the palace of the devas. It would seem that trees grew in the other world also, for the eight “ sanctified characters" returned with a sketch of the palace of the devas drawn on a leaf, with a vermilion pencil. The monarch seems to have asked no impertinent questions as to the road they took or the reception they met with, but at once proceeded with the erection of the Lowa Maha Paya. It was one hundred cubits, two hundred and twenty-five feet square, and the same in height, being supported on sixteen hundred stone pillars, having forty on each side. These with a few exceptions are all standing at present, but not in their original condition, many of them having been split to forward the schemes and lessen the trouble of future monarchs. In the centre they are generally twice the thickness of those on the outside. They are in general about twelve feet high and were evidently intended for being built on-the spaces between them being too small to admit of being separate apartments. As at first erected, the Lowa Maha Paya was nine stories in height and contained in each story one hundred apartments. This number seems large, but it will be found on calculation that one hundred apartments (supposing them all of the same size) each twenty-two feet square, could be constructed in the space given, and the cells usually occupied by the priests are much smaller. In the centre of this palace there was a large and splendid ivory throne, on one side of which stood a representation of the sun in gold, on the other a similar emblem of the moon in silver, and above shone the stars in pearl. The account of this building as given by the Chinese Buddhists who visited Anuradhapura three hundred years afterwards, confirms the description of the Mahawanso. Such was the fruit of the visit of these eight priests “all sanctified characters,” to the deva-loka. When stretched upon his death-bed, Dutugaimono, anxious for his future welfare, asked the attendant priests respecting his hopes of happiness in a future world, particularly reminding them of the palace which he had built for them, and on the ground of this, and his other meritorious works he was promised an immediate entrance to the deva-loka, where he was doubtless received into that palace, the architecture of which he had copied on earth. The name of the “brazen palace" arose from its having been roofed with sheets of metal, and not with the ordinary tiles.

Soon after its erection, or in the thirtieth year after the Christian era, the Maha Paya required considerable repairs, but it was not till Mahasen's reign in A. D. 286, that it met with any very serious disaster. By that apostate monarch the entire of the nine stories were swept away and nothing left but the pillars which had supported it in the centre. To repair this destruction his son and successor Kitsiri Maiwan in A. D. 302, was obliged to split many of the pillars in two in order to complete the original number. The palace was subsequently reduced to fire stories, and gradually fell into neglect and decay until

the removal of the seat of government to Pollonaruwa, which completed its desertion.

The stone pillars on which it stood are a little to the north of the Maha Wihare, on the south side of the trace leading to Aripo, and near them, are shewn the tomb of Gaimono, and the mound of earth on which the kings were usually burnt. A little to the south of the Maha Vihare and about five hundred yards from the remains of the brazen palace, a mound of earth, formerly a small dagobah, points out the place where the action between Gaimono and the usurper

Ellala commenced, as also the spot on which Ellala fell.

On the road to the Thupharamaya dagobah I have already mentioned that the visitor sees on his left hand the conical mass of the Ruanwelle dagobah rising like a mountain near him. The entrance to this, as to most others of the ancient buildings, is through an erection of modern structure, chiefly formed of wood. The site on which it is erected is said to have been hallowed in various ways, and the prophecy to which I have referred in the case of the Maha Paya, also mentioned that Dutugaimono should construct a Maha Thupo, or great dagobah. A long and tedious account is given in the Mahawanso of the miraculous manner in which the materials for this erection were formed and procured. When every thing had been obtained which was requisite, the monarch commenced the structure by digging a foundation which, tradition tells us, was a hundred cubits or two hundred and twenty-two feet deep. This is most probably exaggerated, yet as the dimensions are in general given with great exactness, I should hesitate before pronouncing it false. Certain it is that the stone platform on which it stands is massive and of enormous dimensions, being five hundred feet square, thus giving us a superficial extent of solid masonry of 250,000 square feet, or upwards of 27,000 square yards. This platform is surrounded by a fosse seventy feet broad. On the sides of the platform are sculptures representing the heads and fore-parts of elephants as if in the act of emerging from the mass. Unfortunately Dutugaimono did not survive to see the completion of the dagobah which he had spared no pains to erect, and in order that he might have some idea of what it would be when finished, he had a spire of wood placed upon it of a similar form with that intended to be subsequently added of more durable materials. He is said to have expired in the act of gazing on

[ocr errors]

this building, and the spot on which His Majesty reclined is still pointed out. At some distance on the other side of the ancient street is a large stone slab, which it is said covers the entrance to the interior of the dagobah. Ceylonese history records its having been twice penetrated, once by miraculous power invoked by faith, and on another occasion by the sturdy arms of an usurper's soldiery. It is now nearly completely overgrown with jungle, as will be seen in the accompanying sketch-the original brick-work of which it is composed being only visible in a few detached places. The squared platform on which it stands and which is still well paved with slabs of granite, has been cleared of the brushwood with which it was overgrown by the highpriest, and lying on the southern side of it is to be seen a broken statue of Batyatisso, who reigned from B. C. 19 to A. D. 9," and appears," justly observes Major Forbes, “to have been one of those persevering zealots who hope to merit heaven by making earth a hell.' ” On the granite pavement are pointed out indentures said to have been worn out by the knees of Batyatisso during his frequent and lengthened prayers. The Ruanwelle dagobah appears to have suffered more from the ravages of Magha, the usurper alluded to, who forced a passage into it in the thirteenth century, than from any of the other revolutions to which the capital was subjected, and it does not appear that any attempt was ever afterwards made to restore it to its former condition. It was originally two hundred and seventy feet high, and would appear to be now decreasing in elevation with the rains of every successive year. When Major Forbes visited it in 1828, he states it to have been one hundred and eighty-nine feet in height, whilst now (in 1846) it is but a hundred and forty-having thus lost forty-nine feet of elevation

in 18 years.

The invasion of the Malabars and the flight of the king Walagambahu, has already been noticed in the account of the caves of Dambool. It would appear that his first act on his regaining his throne was the erection of a stupendous dagobah as a monument of his good fortune. This he called the Abhayagiri, a title compounded of a surname of his own-Abhaya-and the name of a Hindu sect. It was originally a hundred and eighty cubits, or four hundred and five feet high, and stood on a mass of masonry of even larger dimensions than that particularly noticed as forming the foundation of the Ruanwelle dagobah.

From the great size of the Abhayagiri dagobah, together with the numerous other erections of Walagambahu about the same period (87, B. C.) it would appear that notwithstanding the recent invasion of the Malabars, the kingdom must have been in a very prosperous and flourishing condition. To the Abhayagiri dagobah was attached a wihare and priests' residence, which would seem to have been for a long period the centre of the Buddhistic hierarchy in the island. At length a schism arose in the third century of our era ; a small part

of the Abhayagiri priesthood joined the heretics,—the king Mahasen favored them, expelled the orthodox followers of Buddhu, and spared no pains to raise to eminence and popularity the sect whose principles he had embraced. This was the period of the greatest splendour of the Abhayagiri, but it was destined to be but of short continuance. While the monarch's partiality for the sect continued, however, the spoils of the Lowa Maha Paya, the Ruanwelle, the Maha Wihare and the Thupharamaya, all went to decorate the Abhayagiri and enrich the schismatics. But Mahasen soon found that whatever respect the people might have for his person, they had a greater for their religion, and a popular revolt which ensued on these changes, warned him not to persevere in his schemes. He accordingly gave up the minister (by whose advice he pretended to have been guided) to the fury of the populace, and by his death diverted the torrent of indignation from himself. The unconscious dagobah and wihare shared somewhat of the fate of its supporters, and though not utterly destroyed, they were yet very much reduced in magnificence and importance. After this period we still read of the Abhayagiri wihare as a common resort of the priesthood, till the removal of the seat of government to Pollonaruwa, when it is of course to be supposed, that the ancient capital would lose the greater portion of its sacred inhabitants. There is little to distinguish the dagobah in its present condition: overgrown to the very summit with jungle, it affords, like the Ruanwelle and the Jaitawanarámaya, but a glimpse here and there of the brick-work of which it is construct. ed. In form.it more approaches to the Jaitawanarámaya than to any other of the ruins, a small portion of the spire being still apparent. The Abhayagiri lies to the east of the Ruanwelle and Thupharamaya, being about a quarter a mile distant from the latter. It is at present about 240 feet high.

« السابقةمتابعة »