Rama Setu: Rishi Pulasti, Seeta and Ramayana episodes in Srilanka tradition
Rishi Pulasti mentioned in the Rigveda is represented in a magnificent statue in Srilankan city of Polonnaruwa. The rishi is shown carrying a large fish on his hands, exemplifying the maritime roots of Sarasvati civilization.
Dr. Chansarkar’s article is based on his visit to places associated with Shri Rama, Sita, Ravana and Ramayana in Srilanka and accounts heard from local people, museum authorities, review of archives, discussions with anthropologists and archaeologists. [Sources: Dr. Madhusudan Chaansarkar, Former VC, Nagpur University, 2003, Saptasagarateel lankecaa s’odh (Marathi), Nagpur, Sahitya Prasar Kendra; Dr. MA Chansarkar, ‘Ramayana retold’ in: N. Somakandhan (ed.), 1996, Lanka and the Ramayana, Colombo, Chinmaya Mission Srilanka, pp. 114-156.]
Some excerpts from his article:
“Seeta’s enforced sojourn in Lanka opens with her arrival in the island when Ravana lands his air-chariot, in which he conveyed his royal captive from Panchavati in India, at Malyanpura, the present day Weregantota. From there, Seeta was driven in a carriage drawn by fleet footed asses to Lankapuri, Ravana’s capital, situated near the area now known as Kandy. Proof of her stay here is furnished by the existence even today of Seeta Kotuwa with its carefully carved rocks, about three miles from Hasalaka on the Kandy-Mahiyangana road…
From Lankapuri, Seeta was taken across the Mahaveli ganga and up the hills to that charmingly undulating plain between Nuwara Eliva and Hakgala, surrounded by thick forest, a vast amphitheatre of hills and dales split by streams that cascade over miniature falls. This locality is known today as Seeta Eliya because she stayed here in Ravana’s Nandana Udyana with its unrivalled Ashok Araniya…There is a beautiful legend among the villagers of this area…Ravana had provided Seeta with vitaminised rice balls for refreshment on the journey in Ravana’s flying machine called ‘Dandu Monara’ or ‘Flying Peacock.’ But Seeta scattered them all over the place during her flight…Called ‘Seeta gooli’ by the local people, farmers too keep them in their cash boaxes or grain pots in the belief that they would bring prosperity. They also believe that the sacred gooli would prevent anyshortage of food or money…When I visited Seeta Eliya, I found a small temple of Seeta called ‘Seetai Amman Kovil’ standing on the banks of a lovely little stream that resque pool…the tunnel is considered a wishing well to the local people and when I was there, I was fortunate enough to see a group of Sinhalese girls throwing brightly coloured flowers into the stream and follow their passage eagerly till they reappeared in the pool at the other end of the tunnel…In the marble-white rocky bed of the stream there are circular indentations believed to be the footprints of the elephant on which Ravana rode in search of Seeta while she was hiding in the tunnel…
Rocky side of Balella Kanda…Malegawatenne (the palace place)…the banyan tree called Deewurugaha (swearing tree)…Even today the villagers settle their claims and disputes with oaths taken at its foot just as Seeta is said to have done walking through a flame created by Agni the God of fire…The return journey of Seeta along with Rama and Laxman takes almost the same route as was taken by them earlier. From Lanka, where they see from the sky the city on the Trikuta mountain, after crossing the ocean, they arrive at Hiranyanabha mountain. Thence they fly over Velavana, Mahendragiri, Kishkindha, Rasyamjkha, Pampa, Janasthana, Godavari, Prasravangiri, Agasyasrama, Sarabhangasrama, Atri’s Ashrama, Citrakuta, Mandakini, Yamuna, Valmiki’s Ashrama and reach the Bhanradvaja hermitage. Here they stop and send Hanuman to Nandigrama with a message to Bharata. Later they see from Pushpaka Vimana the Ganga, Sringaverpura and Ayodhya…Whatever the facts, it seems difficult to believe that such a large body of tradition could have originated and survived over several hundred centuries without a substantial foundation…
Kelaniya is also mentioned in Valahassa Jathika, the story of one of the 555 previous births of the Buddha before the final one in which he attained enlightenment. This story, which is a part of the Buddhist scriptures, also testifies to the fact that Kelaniya was the centre of the remarkable bygone civilisation of the Nagas….Manniakki enshrined Bibhishan’s throne under a stupa he caused to be built on the site of the Rakshasa King’s palace…I saw many Srilankans, both Tamil Hindus and Sinhala Buddhists, offering prayers to God Bibhishan…’Bibhishan is the guardian deity of this south western part of Srilanka’ said the priest…
Where was Ravana’s palace situated? In Janthu’s own words: ‘Sigiriya, Sinhapura, Sigir Vimana are various names for the place, known today as Sigiriya. It was on the summit of Sigiriya that Ravana lived…We had a great civilization in Lanka going back to thousands of years before princes Vijaya landed in Lanka. We were a great nation of four clans. Then it was mighty Ravana who unified these clans and called our country ‘Sivhala’..According to archaeologists, the foundations of Sigiriya are supposed to be made of bakex brick, similar to those founda t Mohenjodaro, Harappa.’ ”
See on the map, Hanumantota, where Chinese are trying to establish a naval base at this fishing port.
Anuradhapura was the first capital of Sri Lanka. Polonnaruwa (ancient Pulasthipura – city of the sage Pulasti) was known as Kanduru Pura (camp city); it was strategically situated between the northern capital Anuradhapura and the southern capital Mahagama. Pulasti, regarded as the progenitor of Ravana and Kubera (also naga, gandharva and yakkha vams’a) is mentioned as a rishi by Vishvamitra in the Rig Veda (III.53.16).
RV 3.53.15-16 dealing with war, reads as follows, referring to Vis’vamitra defeating his rivals with the help of Sasarparee divinity providing intimations of naaga vams’a:
sasarpareer aamatim baadhamaanaa
brhan mimaaya jamadagnidattaa
aa sooriyasya duhitaa tataana
s’ravo deveshu amr.tam ajuryam
sasarpareer abharat tooyam ebhyo
adhi s’ravah pancajanyaasu krsht.ishu
saa pakshiyaa navyam aayur dadhaanaa
yam me palastijamadagnayo daduh
Posted online: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 0000 hrs IST (Indian Express)
The epic, Ramayana, recently in the news because of the Sethusamudram controversy, was a great childhood favourite of ours. Lord Rama was deeply etched in our young minds, and we imagined him fighting all kinds of demons and emerging victorious in his battle against the mighty Lankan king, Ravana.
Years later, it was by sheer coincidence that while golfing at Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka I learnt about a place known as ‘Sita Eliya’. According to the locals, this was the original Ashok Vatika, where Sita was detained by Ravana. After numerous visits to the area one gleaned some enticing glimpses into the various phenomena that Valmiki described in his epic. Incidentally, only a very small population in the area actually regard Lord Rama as a divine being. The dilapidated Ashok Vatika, although now a temple, is visited only by a handful. Yet it seems to hold secrets and statues preserved over many centuries.
To the immediate left of the temple flows a stream of fresh water that apparently descends from the mountains. The stream, about 15 feet wide, ends in a small pond at the base of the temple. On the left of the stream is a flat rock which bears a large imprint of a foot on it. It is believed to be that of Lord Hanuman who is mythologised as having visited Sita in the the form of a giant.
The fine foot impressions are amazingly clear to date.
What is most incredible is that on the left of the stream, the colour of the soil across hundreds of acres of land is black. This is in complete contrast to the light brown soil that lies to the right side of the stream. According to Valmiki’s Ramayana, Hanuman had burnt Ravana’s Lanka to ashes. I was also equally astonished to see the presence of a mountain on the beach near Ruma Sulla, about 150 km north of Colombo. Surrounded by the ocean and sandy beaches, it looked almost out of place there. It was as if someone had manually picked up a huge mass of soil from some place else and placed it on this stretch of sand. On the mount grows the most wondrous herbs and medicinal plants. The soil on the mountain does not appear to match other soils in Sri Lanka.
Strange, isn’t it, how all these details recall Valmiki’s Ramayana? Of course, it is impossible to prove that the events related in that epic bear the stamp of historic authenticity. Suffice it to say that the epic continues to inspire the faith of millions in this country.
Was Maya Dannawa the architect of Sigiriya?
by Dr. Mirando Obeysekere (Daily News, 6 March 2003)
Was Sigiriya the abode of King Rawana?
This was the question of Dr. Lal Sirinivas of Bangalore who accompanied me to observe the historical and geographical facts as well as the background of world famous Sigiriya the rock fortress of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is one of the unique monuments of antiquity as well as pre-historic culture in our country. According to the Ramayana this giant fortress had been the Alakamanda Palace of King Kuwera about 50 centuries ago.
King Kuwera was the grandson of Maharishi Pulasthi who was in Polonnaruwa. Kuwera’s father Visravasmuni was the elder son of Maharishi Pulasthi. Kuwera was the elder son of Visravasmuni’s first marriage with Princes Illavila, the beautiful daughter of a Brahmin – hermit called Bharadwaja Magina. Later King Visravasmuni married Kesini, the beautiful daughter of Sumalin King of Asura so, king Visravasmuni had a group of children by his second marriage with Kesini. They were Rawana, Vibhishana, Kumbakarana Hema and Suparikha.
Kuwera, the first son of King Visravasmuni ascended the throne of Sri Lanka after the death of his father and ruled the country in a just and righteous manner. So, with the passage of time, Ravana the step brother of Kuwera, advanced in power, and got interested in the reign of Sri Lanka. Then he asked for the transfer of Alakamanda which was the abode of Kuwera, along with the throne and aeroplane called “Pushpika”. Kuwera was furious because of the unjust request of Ravana and chased, him away. But Ravana was not a coward to be easily bullied by anyone and he gathered of his Yakkha relatives to wage war against Kuwera. Within a very short time Rawana the warrior came to power and got all of Kuwera’s wealth, including the palace, throne and the air plane.
Some original historical records relate that the Sinhala race was formed by the combination of four Sri Lankan tribes such as Naga, Yakkha, Dewa and Gandhabba all related to Maharishi Pulasti’s family. So, the Sivhelas (four tribes) who worshipped the sun god were united under the flag of king Ravana and developed this resplendent island to be the treasure house of the Orient. The Ravana flag depicting the Sun and Moon with Ravana’s portrait is the oldest flag of Sri Lanka. The present lion flag was brought here by King Vijaya about 25 centuries ago.
As soon as Ravana came to power he built a temple for his beloved parents. King Visravasmuni and Kesini it is said that worshipping dead leaders was an ancient ritual of Yakkha nobles in Sri Lanka.”
Visravasmuni Temple” at Anuradhapura had been changed into a Buddhist shrine after the days of King Pandukabaya, who had a special regard for Yakkhas. This identifical temple is now called “Isurumuniya” The world famous stone carving of the lovers – at Isurumuniya Vihara – depict none other than the parents of Ravana.
Chithrakuta According to ancient ola manuscript – “Ravana Katha” the foremost designer of Sigiriya was the talented architect called Maya Dannawa. He had built Sigiriya for the order of king Vistawas the father of King Ravana. Sigiriya was known as Alakamanda during the days of Kuwera and later it was known as Chitrakuta.
“Ravana Katha” an ancient ola book says that, after Ravana’s death Vibhishana came to power and transferred the royal Palace – fortress and the capital from the hill country to Kelaniya. Then, Chitrakuta the Palace fortress of Ravana became the residence of a Yakkha noble called Chithraraja, a relative of Vibhisana, Chitraraja, the hero who helped King Pandukabhaya (437-367 BC) and his parent was a descendant of Chitraraja senior. Since the days of King Pandukabhaya, Chitraraja Palace had been a Yakkha temple and later king Dhatusena’s son Kassapa (459-447 AD) arranged a coup d’etat against the father and chose Chitrakuta temple for his palace fortress as he had a belief that his mother too was a descendant of Yakkha dynasty. King Kassapa is the only King who had renovated Chitrakuta (Sigiriya) and maintained it as Ravana did.
“Ravana Katha” the ancient ola book relates that world famous frescoes of Sigiriya depict the beautiful damsels of Ravana’s harem and later those murals had been re-drawn by those who maintained the treasure house. Most of the blue figures depict the Yakkha damsels and others depict Naga, Deva and Gandabbha damsels. The beautiful flowers in their hands show the national unity.
Chitrakuta is the only Sri Lankan fortress which had a wooden lift operated from top to bottom. If any one enters this great fortress through the lion’s head, he will be able to see a huge hole on the rock. Stone structures and stands both on the top and bottom of this “route-hole” are believed to be places on which the wooden lift had been fixed. King Ravana’s period was famous for woodcraft and they used a “lift” too, for the day to day work in the fort.
History relates that Ravana’s air-plane was also made of light wood which was brought from Himalayan forests. Archaeologists, historians and some legends say that there were more than 500 paintings on the walls of Chitrakuta and most of them had been dilapidated due to natural causes. King Ravana was talented in all the fine arts as well as physician and pundit.
So, we Sri Lankans should be proud enough to have Chitrakuta or Sigiriya, the world’s oldest palace fortress.
Dantakumàra and Hemamàlà bringing the Tooth Relic to Lanka (Bronze Relief, Dalada Maligawa, Kandy, Sri Lanka)