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Buddhas visit to Naagadeepa

by Sumana Saparamadu

Bak, the first full-moon day in the month of April is of special significance to Buddhists in Sri Lanka. It was on the full-moon day in the month of Bak, three years after the Buddhas Enlightenment that He came to Lanka. This time it was His second visit to the island. The first was in Daruthu, in the month of (January) to Mahiyangana, seven months after His Enlightenment, to quell an uprising of Yakshas. This time the purpose of His visit was to stop two Naagas fighting over a gem-studded seat. The two claimants to this seat were Mahodara, the King of Naagadeepa and Chulodara, his sisters son.

Today we presume that Naagadeepa, the island broken off the Jaffna peninsular was the venue of the battle, and the site hallowed by the Buddhas visit. But according to the Dictionary of Pali Proper names compiled by Dr. G. P. Malalasekera, from evidence in Pali texts and commentaries, Mahodara was reigning over a kingdom by the sea in northern Lanka, and this kingdom was Naagadeepa identified with the modern Jaffna peninsular and the north west of the island. At the time the Buddha visited Lanka, in the third year after His enlightenment, which is about 2592 years ago, this island now known as Naagadeepa, (Nainativu in Tamil) would have been a part of the peninsular. It is so close to the coast that I was told it is now connected to the mainland by a causeway. (Until about the first decade of the 20th century, the island on which the Seenigama Devala stands, was part of the mainland). In historical times too this area was known as Naagadeepa one Moothuthamby Pillay has stated in his History of Jaffna that the possessors of the country before the Tamils were Naagas who were a caste of men.

Legend says that before the landing of Vijaya, Lanka was inhabited by, among others, three main tribes or ethnic groups namely Yaksha, Raaksha and Naaga. From scattered references in the Vamsa Katha (historical accounts) and commentaries to the Pali Sultas, we can conclude that the Naagas occupied the North and North West of the island, right down to the mouth of the Kelani river on the west coast. Names like Nainamadama, a town in the North western Province adds weight to this conclusion. Madama is a travellers way side rest. In ancient times this madama would have been in the habitual resting-place of Naagas on their North-South journeys.

Chulodaras father, was living on Vaddamaana Pabbata. There are no hills or hillocks in the Jaffna peninsular or immediately saith, not until one gets closer to Medawachchi.

On the day of the Buddhas visit, there was in the battle-field another king Maniakki (gem-eyed), sometimes referred to him as Maniakkhika. He was the uncle of Mahodara and his kingdom was the region north of the Kelani river. As an elder kinsman perhaps he had come to settle this dispute between

his nephew and grand nephew. Even as late as the 15th century there were Naagas living in the vicinity of the Kelani river. Proof of this is the verse in the Selalihini Sandesa about the Naaga maidens sitting on the river bank singing songs of praise to the Buddha. All this is definite proof that the Naagas were not some mythical beings but real human beings. There is in North-East India today an ethnic group known as Naaga.

Lets get back to the battle-field in Naagadeepa. The sudden appearance of the Buddha, must have taken everyone by surprise, even bewildered them and brought the fighting to a standstill. For, there, up-above them in the sky, was figure clad in yellow robes and another holding a branch of a young tree over him as a sunshade.

The attendant was a deva Samiddhi Sumana, who lived in the Rajayatana tree standing at the gate of Jetavana. He accompanied the Buddha to Lanka holding a branch of the rajayatana tree as a parasol over the Buddhas head. It was left behind for the Naagas to worship.

The Buddhas commanding, gentle voice, drew the attention of every Naaga, big and small. As they listened they realised their folly. Among those who listened attentively and was convinced that war was meaningless and a waste of time, was the Naaga king from Kelaniya, Maniakkhi.

When the Buddha finished speaking he came up to the Buddha and begged of him to visit his kingdom. The Buddha agreed. Five years were to pass before he came to Kelaniya, in the eighth year after his Enlightenment. The traditional belief is that this visit was on the Wesak Full-Moon Day, but the Mahavamsa Deepavamsa and the Samanta Paasaadika say it was on the second day after the full-moon.

Nagadeepa - the whole peninsular - had many places of pilgrimage is recorded in the Vamsakatha. Among them was the Tissa Vihara built by King Devanampiya Tissa, near the port Jambukola, Silaapabbata, Rajayatana Daatu Cetiya to which king Aggabodi added the Unnalomaghara. The Rajayatana Dhatu Cetiya may have been built on the spot where the branch was placed or in honour of that branch which was used as a parasol for the Buddha on his journey from Jambudeepa to Naagadeepa.

The Rajayatana Dhatu Cetiya must have been, as this legend attests a very prestigious place of worship in the early Anuradhapura period of our history. When the Buddha sasana comes to an end all the Buddha relics in Lanka will come together at the Maha Cetiya, then will travel to Rajaayatana Daatu Cetiya and from there to the Maha Bodhi in Gaya. This is the legend recorded in the Vibhanga Atthakatha and the Diganikaya Attakatha.

Some scholars say that the story of the Buddhas three visits to Lanka is only legend, no proof of that these visits actually took place, that nowhere in the Tripitaka is there any mention of these visits. But does the Tripitaka record each and every place and person the Buddha visited. In the 45 years from his Enlightenment to his Parinibbana he must have visited countless persons to ease their mental or physical pain, or to admonish wrong doers and lead them on to the right path.

What is recorded in the Sutta Pitaka of the Tripitaka, are what Ananda Thera had heard the Buddha expound.

Legends do not grow out of nothing. They grow from a Kernel of truth that has come down in the folk memory. Over the years the legend has been elaborated.

බක්පුර පසළොස්වක පෝය

    බක්පුර පසළොස්වක පෝය අප්‍රේල් 19 වැනිදා සෙනසුරාදා අපර භාග 02.08 ට ලබයි. 20 වැනිදා ඉරිදා අපර භාග අපර භාග 03.55 දක්වා පෝය පවතී. සිල් සමාදන් වීම අප්‍රේල් 19 වැනිදා සෙනසුරාදා ය.

මීළඟ පෝය අප්‍රේල් 28 වැනි දා සඳුදා


පොහෝ දින දර්ශනය

Full Moonපසෙලාස්වක

අප්‍රේල් 19

Second Quarterඅව අටවක

අප්‍රේල් 28

New Moonඅමාවක

මැයි 05

First Quarterපුර අටවක

මැයි 12

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