Passing the hustle and bustle of Kurunegala city and along the road in to the depths of the country you arrive at a place where ancient kings roam. Panduwasnuwara is central to legends because of its name and peculiar archeological monuments. The legend of Unmadha Chithra is central to the name of “Panduwasnuwara” (which we discover is not so in a moment). Unmada Chithra is the daughter of Panduwasdheva, a son of a brother of Vijaya and the unmatched beauty, Baddhakachayana. Passing by the road, with huts full of fresh fruits and vegetables from home gardens in the vicinity, I could not help dreaming of the legend of Unmadha Chitra again.
After the marriage of Baddhacachayana to the great king Panduwasudhewa, 10 sons and a daughter who inherited the beauty of Baddhakachayana were born unto them. Myths and legends are great sources of human cultural heritage. These show the dramas of human life. The joy of life may be for a moment but misery follows. Both the king and the queen could not enjoy the pleasure of having this jewel of a small princess or show the world her beauty. Wise men told the king and queen that if the princes ever bore a son, he would go on to kill all his uncles and become the king of the whole country. The king as fair as he was inquired the opinion of his sons and finally decided to keep the princess in a one pillared palace called “ektamge” far away from human contact.
History and legend
Panduwasnuwara, was the place where these royals roamed and the legends came into being. It is a place where history hides in the stone ruins of the past.
Plying secondary roadways fallen badly into disrepair, we arrive at the ruined city of mysteries. Like many ancient city complexes, it has a water way surrounding it. There stand ruins of a majestic wall surrounding the palace. Though the legend links the name of “Panduwasnuwara” to the period of King Panduwasudheva, archeology tells another story. The site has also been identified as “Parakramapura” founded by King Parakramabahu the great. The ruins belong to the 12th century A.D. and nothing exists there that date any further back, meaning that they cannot possibly belong in the era of Panduwasudheva.
Either way, the ancient majesty of the palace speaks of a great warrior king. Dr. Senarath Paranavithana, in his book Archeological Research describes how he unveiled the mystery of Panduwasnuwara through archeological exploration. He describes about the site covered by thick forest from which he excavated the ruins of the lost city which we see today.
By observing ruins of the palace beyond the majestic stone wall and the water gutter beyond, one can imagine the ancient glory and the functions it performed as a breeding ground for warriors. The palace is comprised of two interconnected areas. One is the inner compartment and the other is the outer living area. When you first enter this royal residence, there stand the ruins of a hallway. To the right of this hall, there is a small stage like structure. It is believed to be the stage where the throne was held. I could imagine the king in all his royal attire surrounded by maidens with fans in their hands. This hall once served as an auditorium from where the king made his royal speeches to his subjects.
In any civilisation, technology plays an important role towards its well being. In the north eastern side of the palace, there remains proof of ancient sanitation technology. There is a toilet basin made of cement. The gutter leads from the basin into a pit where the walls are made of brick and clay. The care which the ancient builders have put in to this structure is amazing as it shows the importance given to the sanitary conditions in our ancient culture.
Dr. Paranavithana says, in his writings, this castle could have been multi-storeyed and the upper storey may have been constructed in wood. He describes the colours of the palace thus: “The wall has been painted white on the outsides and the red on the insides. The floor has been white in colour.”
One can imagine the colour combination added with royal decorations of the palace in all its ancient glory. The ruins show the separate sections for the kitchen, store rooms and other compartments. This must have been a place full of bustling house workers.
Kurunegala District comes under the south country or the “Maya Rata” in terms of ancient political division. It was separated from Polonnaruwa and it was first ruled by King Manabharana and secondly his brother Kithsiri-mega. Manabharana was living in area called ‘Panka gama’ which is believed to be today’s Dadigama. It is believed that King Parakramabahu was born at Panka-gama. After the death of his uncle, prince Parakramabahu became the ruler of the southern country. He had to fight with king Gajabahu II, to get the entire country under one flag.
Panduwasnuwara is believed to be ‘Parakramapura’ where prince Parakramabahu gathered a massive army for his war. It is believed that he gathered his forces from the Kurunegala and Kegalle areas.
Fortress for soldiers
We can guess at the protection needed for these warriors simply by looking at the palace built at Paduwasnuwara, which resembles a fortress. Also ‘Parakramapura’ has been a place for many Buddhist monasteries, according to the Mahawamsa. This is also evident from the amount of Buddhist monuments and buildings present in the area. This is one piece of evidence Dr. Paranavithana puts forward to prove that the present Panduwasnuwara is indeed Parakramapura built by king Parakramabahu.
But how was it that the name Panduwasnuwara was assigned to ancient Parakramapura? There is a reservoir named “Panda Wewa” in the vicinity of this area. Therefore it was named the “Panda-nuwara” or the city near the “Panda Wewa”. With the lapse of time, the place came to be known as Panduwasnuwara.
Let’s turn to the legends again. With regard to the legend and love story between Unmada Chitra and Deegagamini, archeological evidence suggests that this site is not Upatissagama, where Panduwasdeva ruled from. The circular area, once believed to be the place where the single tower in which the captive princess was held stands about a quarter of a mile away from the palace ruins. However, archeologists appear to have found another function for the round ruins.
This circular area is built in a peculiar and mysterious way, which encourages folklore to be built around it. There is a circular wall built of clay that has a diameter of 297 feet. The wall, itself, has a width of 21 feet in the bottom. The archeological excavations have revealed a square shaped chamber of nearly 6.5 feet in the middle of this circular area. They also discovered an egg-shaped object at the bottom of this chamber. The excavations further revealed that there were a series of repetitive circles of clay walls surrounding the square chamber of the middle up to the outer wall. Each wall was engraved with brick pieces from the out side and in-between areas of these walls were filled with white coloured clay.
This structure, according to Dr. Paranavithana represents a model of the universe. Ancient Indians and Sri Lankans understood the structure of universe according to beliefs from ancient philosophers of the east. The center of the universe is thought to consist of the rock called “ Mahameru” and there were seven satellite rocks surrounding it. There were seven seas in between these rocks. The square shaped structure in the middle is believed to represent the rock “Mahameru” and the surrounding circles must have represented the other rocks. The white areas in between has represented the seas. What is the egg shaped structure in the middle? The universe is believed to be born by the egg of the Brahma according to ancient Eastern belief. According to archeologists, this egg shape is belived to represent the egg of the Brahma.
What has this structure got to do with a warrior king who became ruler of the entire country at a later date? In the 12th Century A.D. the Asian rulers constructed the models of rock the Mahameru to portray that they are the almighty kings of the universe. Young Parakramabahu was planning to get the entire country under his rule and must have planned to conquer countries beyond the seas. That is the ultimate plan of any warrior. Archeologists believe that this was no Ektamge at all but most likely the place at which this warrior king sat to perform rituals, in between fighting his wars.
A great warrior, seated in the middle of the universe and contemplating on ruling the world. These were our ancestors. These ware philosophies and the ingenuity of the past. This is our heritage and should be the material for the insights into the future. The ancient ruins of Paduwasnuwara hold all these mysteries of past and remain there undisturbed even today.