The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 27

Fine Sunday, October 20, 2013 Page 3
Text and pics by Asanka Nuwan Sri
ncient temple of Sankapala has a proud
history which can be dated back to the
reign of King Dutugemunu (BC 161-BC 131).
The temple is situated in Pallebeddha village
near the 24 mile post, facing the Ratnapura-
Hambantota Main Road at Thambagamuwa
Pattu, Atakalampanna Korale in the
Ratnapura District. If you are coming from
Colombo it can be reached in four hours.
According to folklore, this temple is
associated with the stories of Pussadeva
the giant, one of the ten great giants of the
King Dutugemunu, who served well during
the Vijithapura battle. This temple was
named ‘Sankapala’ because of the conch
shell, an instrument played by Pussadeva.
According to historical information it is
said that this conch shell was enshrined in a
rock at the temple. That rock is still referred
to as ‘Hakgedigala’. After the Vijithapura
battle Pussadeva became a Buddhist monk
and historical evidence suggests that Ven.
Pussadeva Thera had attained arahat-hood.
Later, Ven. Pussadewa Thera had left the
Sankapala Vihara due to his displeasure with
Ancient script found inside the temple
Painting in the cave temple
Ancient cave
Second shrine room (
Dagoba on top of rock
Drip-ledge carved on rock
Ancient cave
Devotees worship
First shrine room (
Ravi Nagahawatte
rtist Jagath Koddithuwakku can make you
stand still in front of one of his works and
think what goes on inside an artist’s mind.
The clear attention to detail and fine lines in his
drawings suggest he is a methodical man who’ll
jump at anyone who tries to rearrange his room.
Actually, he has no such room because he hasn’t a
permanent abode. He is a wanderer. He can vanish
without leaving a trace and decide not to answer
your calls. He has a decent mobile phone, but you’ll
understand his ways when you know that the phone
in his possession is used more for photography
purposes than to take calls.
Jagath didn’t go to art school or university,
but has been working with the authorities at the
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to teach
drawing to mentally-ill patients in the hospital.
On October 11 and 12 the NIMH organized an arts
and craft exhibition to celebrate World Mental
Health Day. Jagath had 13 drawings displayed at the
exhibition. One of them was purchased by Dr. F.R
Mehta who serves as Word Health Organization’s
Country Representative to Sri Lanka.
It was a moment Jagath will cherish for a long
time. This purple patch in his checkered arts
career is important for two reasons. One is the
recognition his work earned from someone of
the caliber of Dr. Mehta, in buying one of his
paintings. The other, is the money he earned
through the sale, as it came in handy at a time
when he was thinking of how to pay his printer,
who had done a postcard (which was sold at the
exhibition) with one of his drawings.
Jagath too, at one time suffered from depression
and was under medication. He received treatment
at Peradeniya Hospital and subsequently came in
contact with medical experts in Colombo. This shift
of hospital happened quite unexpectedly, Jagath
caught the attention of authorities when he made a
drawing of nature, during a break given to inmates
to go outdoors and catch some fresh air. “If I didn’t
draw that picture on that day, it possibly could have
been the end of me,” he reflects.
In Colombo the Occupational Therapy Unit
provided him with the ‘right space’ to return to
normalcy. Reminiscing the dark period in his life he
survived, Jagath has this to say, “Don’t isolate the
mentally ill”.
The fine details in his drawings demand hours of
work, but Jagath says the good thing about this kind
of work is that it takes the stress away from him.
“This is also therapy for me because I am trying to
relate my life’s experiences,” he says.
Sri Lankans are quick to relate challenging
periods of their lives to destiny or planetary
influences. But this writer sees the temperament of
this artist and the environment he lived in as mostly
having a more direct impact on the contributing
factors to the ‘fall in life’ he experienced. According
to Jagath he is a man from a village in Kandy. The
environment in this part of the country makes
man go into a shell rather than fight back when
ones back is to the wall. “In Kandy my arts friends
and I used to meet often at cafes and talk about
art, but nothing productive generated from these
conversations. When I came to Colombo I realized
that this is a happening place with plenty of
exhibitions being held and people coming forward
to tap your skills in drawing for commercial
purposes,” he says.
But Colombo as his new base would not have
given him a new lease in life, if not for the strong
Attention to detail and fine lines define Jagath’s work
Revealing a life story through art
Jagath didn’t go to art school
or university, but has been
working with the authorities at
the National Institute of Mental
Health (NIMH) to teach drawing
to mentally-ill patients in the
The artist Jagath at work
Dr Mehta (Fourth from left) congratulates the artist and purchases a painting
foundation in art developed as a school kid. He went
to three schools and finished his education at Sri
Sarananda Pirivena in Penideniya. Here he came in
contact with educated monks who planted the seeds
of learning which had a bias towards history and
literature. He also says he was greatly influenced by
the association he had with professors like Savithri
Gunathilake and D.M Dissanayake when he worked
as an artist at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
Herbarium. He also cherishes the opportunity given
to him to contribute as an artist to the Sinhala
Encyclopedia under the guidance of Mendis
When talking about his school days his mind quickly
raced to his aunt,
(Sudu Amma)
, a teacher, with whom
he spent time, while schooling.
Sudu Amma
is one
among many people who supplied him with materials
to draw. That luck, of people wanting to offer help, has
stayed with him over the years. Right now all those at
NIMH and a very close associate Dilani de Silva offer
him encouragement and support in abundance to
pursue his life as an artist.
Jagath learnt his art from teachers at school and
later during the time when serving Upali Newspaper
) where he got the opportunity to study and
do computer art under the tutelage of magazine editor
Anura Siriwardene. He says he sees art when looking
at the sea, road and clouds. But most importantly
Jagath says he makes attempts to see himself in the
art he does. “After all, these paintings are about my life
story,” he concludes.
Steeped in history and forklore
a certain party and moved to a place close
to the Vihara. Today the remnants of an
ancient Dagoba is still found there. It is said
that this Dagoba enshrines the remains of
Pussadeva Maha Thera.
Literary importance
Leader of the literary awakening, Ven.
Karathota Dharmarama Thera, who
lived during the reign of King Rajadhi
Rajasingha in the 18th Century, was
later imprisoned by the king due to the
suspicion that monk fostered a close
relationship with the Dutch. The king
was highly pleased by the
Bharasa Kavya
Gharba Chakraya
verses by Dharmarama
Thera during imprisonment, and
bestowed the Sri Sankapla Rajamaha
Viharaya and the Pallebeddha village to
the monk as an honor. This also included
a flag with the lion’s inscription, a
and a golden statue of the
Poetic verses by Ven Dharmarama
Thera, can be seen even today on
(Dragon Arch). Items sacrificed to
Ven Dharmarama Thera with the
Ola leaf
are kept preserved in Sankapala
Viharaya. Apart from these items offered
by King Rajadhi Rajasinghe to Karatota
Dharmarama, the main trusteeship of
Sri Pada Temple and Chief Priesthood of
Low Country Sector was also offered to
the Thera. The past and present status of
the temple is ample evidence of Karatota
Dharmarama Thera’s great developmental
activities. Present and upcoming young
generation have a responsibility and duty to
protect this ancient place of worship for the
future generations.
This temple was named ‘Sankapala’ because of the conch shell,
an instrument played by Pussadeva. According to historical
information it is said that this conch shell was enshrined in a
rock at the temple. That rock is still referred to as ‘Hakgedigala’
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