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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Miyuguna Seya the first Dagaba in Sri Lanka

Miyuguna Seya the first Dagaba in Sri Lanka
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The Mahaweli Ganga the longest river in Sri Lanka which flows wild and fast through the central hills moves slowly and calmly through the plains of Bintenna where the country’s earliest dagaba --Miyuguna Seya-- or Mahiyangana Chethiya is situated. The Pali term for Bintenna is Mahiyangana which is “Miyuguna” in Sinhalese. Hence, Bintenna, Mahiyangana and Miyuguna are names used to identify the same place where the famous dagaba stands. At present the name commonly used is Mahiyangana.

During the Anuradhapura period Mahiyangana was a strategic point on the route to the north from Magama in the south of the country. The war waged against the Tamil invaders by King Dutugemunu for the unification of the country was initiated from Mahiyangana. The inhabitants of the area provided their fullest support to the King encouraging him to win the war. Earlier it was a stronghold of the Tamil king Elara.

Kings belonging to the “Lambakarna” dynasty: Sanghatissa, Sanghabodhi (Sirisangabo) and Gotabhaya had come to Anuradhapura from Mahiyangana. Mahiyangana Willupitiya was the birth place of king Rajasinghe II. There is evidence that Mahiyangana or Bintenna had been the land of royal dynasties.

During the Kandyan period Mahiyangana (Aluthnuwara) remained one of the most important places in the country. During this period Mahiyangana was developed and used as a fortress, an armoury and a granary. Thus it was a place of military equipage.

The above were not the only reasons which contributed to the importance of Mahiyangana, most importantly Mahiyangana is sacred to Buddhists being the first place purified by the Enlightened One by setting foot on it.

Nine months after his enlightenment the Buddha subdued the arrogant Kassapa brothers, Uruwela Kassapa, Nadi Kassapa and Gaya Kassapa and after instituting them and their one thousand followers on the path to emancipation, left Uruwela to visit Lanka for the first time. This took place on the first Duruthu full moon Poya Day after his enlightenment.

Buddha with his divine eye saw the need to subdue the Yakkhas and to establish Buddhism in the land of Lanka. At the invitation of God Sumana Saman the Enlightened One appeared at the Mahiyangana, Maha Naga Uyana at a time the Yakkhas had assembled for a meeting.

The Minipe Mahanaga Uyana was a grove three yodunas --around 50 miles-- from the Mahaweli River. The Buddha stood there radiating rays of light from his body more pleasant than moonlight forming a rainbow-like halo around his body.

When Yakkha soldiers saw the Buddha they were angry mistaking him for an invader and immediately took up arms. Since they were not prepared to listen to the Buddha or understand the dharma it was time for him to tame them.

The Enlightened One sent forth a terrible drought, heavy rain and thunderstorms which the Yakkhas could not face. They were terrified, realized the Buddha was a supernatural being and turned submissive. They obeyed the Buddha and begged pardon.

Having come to know of the Buddha’s visit to Mahiyangana the Devas and Brahmas came in great numbers. The Exalted One preached the dharma to them. God Sumana Saman who understood the dharma attained Sowan --the first of the four paths or stages leading to Nirvana.

In response to God Sumana’s request for an article of worship the Buddha gave him the hair relic which God Sumana enshrined in a dagaba seven cubits in height which he had constructed at the place where the Buddha sat to preach Dharma. According to legend this is the first ever place of worship in Lanka.

Arahant Sarabhu Maha Thera, a pupil of Arahant Sariputta Maha Thera brought the ‘Collar Bone Relic’ and enshrined it in the Mahiyangana Cetiya which was constructed by God Sumana Saman. The dagaba was reconstructed to the height of twelve cubits by Arahant Sarabha. After the unification of Lanka, King Dutugemunu who appreciated the sacredness of Mahiyangana built an eighty cubit tall dagaba covering the thirty cubit one.

During archaeological excavations conducted prior to the recent renovations, valuable paintings were recovered from the relic depository. They are regarded as the earliest paintings recovered in Sri Lanka. Some archeologists are of opinion these paintings belong to the Polonnaruwa period while others believe they are older. A large number of Buddha relics were recovered from the Relic Dome.

Devotees visit Mahiyngana in large numbers especially during the month of Duruthu as it is the place purified by the touch of Buddha’s feet more than two-thousand-five hundred years ago. The Miyuguna Seya Bo tree too has a long history. It was at the foot of this Bo tree that Prince Sangabo of the Lambakarna dynasty was entrusted to the Maha Sangha by his father.

There is a Devalaya in the Mahiyangana Viharaya premises constructed in the name of God Sumana Saman. At the end of the Sri Dalada Maligawa Esala Perahera, the Mahiyangana Esala Perahera commences and continues for fourteen days. Farmers pay obeisance at this perahera in the belief that by participating in the perahera and by making offerings to god Sumana Saman their crops would be protected from wild animals. -(GJ)

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