« PreviousContinue »
were so utilised. This was not merely a subsidiary function; it was their chief purpose. It is recorded that wooden pillars were fixed round two of the dāgabas, at one of which this is explicitly stated to have been the special reason for their erection. Such festoons of lamps were not hung simply as decorations; they were well-known demon-scarers. Even at the present day large numbers of small lamps are lighted round some of the dāgabas at festivals, and I know that one procession of pilgrims from the North-western Province presented one thousand lamps, as well as oil for them, on one of these occasions.
With respect to the tenons on the capitals of the two inner circles, the facts that the pillars of the innermost circle are only two feet distant from the base of the dagaba, and that their centres are only about four feet apart, afford strong indications in favour of their being originally intended, as one of their duties, to support a light roof over the dāgaba; and in my opinion the chief evidence which tells against the existence of such a covering is the record of the fixing of a golden pinnacle on the spire in the fourth century A.D. It is possible, however, that such a roof may have been erected, and may have been removed by that date. It would not be a very difficult matter to construct a conical roof resting on the two inner rows of pillars, that would exert no outward thrust. The weight being well distributed over a large area its stability would depend on the character of the foundations. If these pillars did not uphold such a roof, the tenons show that the two inner rows must have sustained a covering over a circular procession-path round the dagaba, in addition to the special duty of all the pillars as supporters of festoons of lamps.
THE TOPOGRAPHY OF ANURADHAPURA
It is necessary to gain a clear idea of the general outline of Anuradhapura in early times in order to understand any arguments regarding the positions of the chief dagabas in it, and the reader is referred to the annexed plan in connection with the following remarks.
A low flat-topped ridge runs north and south on the western side of the Kadamba river, now called the Malwattaoya,1 parallel to it and nearly a mile distant from it. The fortified part of the town was built along the top of this ridge, with at least one gate2 on each side facing the cardinal points. The principal gate at the southern end of the city led into two ornamental gardens of the king, called the Nandana and Mahāmēgha Gardens. From the eastern gate a road passed nearly due east to the Mihintale hill, eight miles away, crossing the Kadamba river by a bridge carried by upright posts, like all other ancient bridges built across the rivers of Ceylon.
The Nandana garden was also known as the Jōtivana (Mah., i, p. 64), and was evidently a narrow enclosure, 'in a delightful forest, cool from its deep shade and soft green turf.' It was immediately outside the southern gate of the city (Mah., i, p. 54); and to the south of it, and extending to the bank of the river, lay the Mahāmēgha garden, a much larger tract of ground planted with flowering bushes and fruit trees, which was enclosed by King Muta-Siva, the father of Dēvānam-piya Tissa, in the first half of the third century B.C. In these two gardens, which were both made over to the first Buddhist monks, the Mahā Wihāra, 'The Great Monastery,' and the Tissarāma and Thūpārāma monasteries were established, these latter being parts of the former, which probably included other subordinate wihāras.
The Thūpārāma wihāra and dagaba were constructed in the Nandana garden, the position of which is thus fixed by them. The Bō-tree, a cutting from the tree at Gayā in India, under which Gōtama attained the position of Buddha, the Enlightened One,' was planted in the Mahāmēgha garden, in which the great Ruwanwaeli dagaba was also erected in the
1 'The Flower-garden river,' perhaps so called because it ran along one side of the Mahāmēgha flower garden. Mr. Bell, the Archaeological Commissioner, terms it Malwaṭu-oya; I give the name as I heard it in 1873.
2 The four gates of the capital' are mentioned (Mah., i, pp. 119, 136 and 141). These would be the four principal gates, one being near the middle of each side.
second century B.C. As the Abhaya tank, now called Basawak-kulam, was in existence before this garden was enclosed, it is clear, from the references to it in the Mahāvansa, that the latter included all the land from the embankment of the tank, which is to the west of the garden, up to the river. The Mahāmegha garden was bounded on the north by the Nandana garden, and on the south by the low ground which forms a rice field.
The limits of the Nandana garden, or Jōtivana, on the east and west are not stated by the old writers. We may safely assume that on the west it included the narrow strip of ground extending up to the Abhaya tank; but on the eastern side it is uncertain if it reached quite up to the river. On the northern side there can be no doubt that it was separated from the city by the ditch of the fortifications, the position of the southern gate of the town being definitely indicated by the story given in the Pāli Thūpāvansa regarding the transport of the cutting of the Bō-tree from the port at which it was landed to Anurādhapura, by King Dēvānam-piya Tissa, in 244 B.C.
After describing its arrival at the port called Jambukōla, and the proceedings there, the account is as follows:-' Then, on the fourth day he took the Great Bōdhi (tree), and making superb offerings in due course reached Anuradhapura. Having given it a great reception at Anuradhapura, too, on the fourteenth day of the month, with the growing shadows, he brought in the Great Bōdhi by the northern gate, and having conveyed it through the middle of the city, and taken it out by the southern gate to the site, five hundred bow-lengths from the southern gate, where our Supreme Buddha seated himself and entered into the Nirōdha meditation, and the three former Supreme Buddhas indulged in meditation and sat, and where the Sirisa Bōdhi of Kakusandha the Blessed One, the Udumbara Bōdhi of Kōnāgamana the Blessed One, the Nigrōdha Bōdhi of Kassapa the Blessed One were established-in that place, cleared for the occasion, which was like the forehead mark (tilaka) of the Mahā-megha garden, at the portico of the palace he caused the Great Bōdhi to be fixed.'
My friend Mr. J. A. Balfour, of the Irrigation Department, was good enough to get the distance carefully chained from the Bō-tree along the road which passes the Ruwanwaeli dāgaba, to the middle of a trench which runs east and west at a short distance to the north-east of the Thūpārāma dāgaba, and which appears to be the ancient ditch outside the southern wall of the city. The actual length is 3986 feet, and it is 33 feet further to a raised bank on the northern side of the trench; so that if the southern gate was on that road, and at the line of this bank, it would be 4020 feet from the Bō-tree. This would give a measure of eight feet for a bow-length, a size in excess of the length of most modern bows, which are usually six or seven feet long, but not greater than one in the British Museum. In some manuscripts there is mentioned a measure which is termed a 'Great Bow '-length (Maha Dunna); this may be the measurement referred to by the author of the Thūpāvansa. Dr. Davy, writing in 1816-1820, stated that the length of a bow was then usually nine feet.1
The distance from the Bō-tree to the city gate cannot be reduced, or it would fail to meet with any trench or bank such as would mark the boundary of the city; and in fact were the city wall more than a trifling distance nearer the Bō-tree it would run into the buildings that were erected round the Thūpārāma dagaba, which are known to be outside the wall of the city. Although the number of bow-lengths mentioned in the Thūpāvansa must be merely an approximate round number it thus sufficiently confirms the position of the southern gate of the city. As the line along which the measurement was taken is that of an ancient road leading directly from the Bō-tree into the old city it is thus practically certain that the southern gate was at the point where it crosses the bank at the side of the trench, which is now marked by an irrigation channel from Basawak-kulam, laid out by me along the old ditch in 1873. The two royal gardens included all the ground from this channel up to the ricefield to the south of the Bō-tree.
The position of the northem boundary of the fortified part 1 An Account of the Interior of Ceylon, p. 244, footnote.