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 Post subject: Concepts and forms in maintaining Buddhist monasteries
 Post Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2005 8:03 pm 
Historical analysis of concepts and forms in maintaining Buddhist monasteries

by Prishanta Gunawardhana, Senior Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya
@ CDN / 08JUL2005


THE importance of preserving and maintaining Buddhist monasteries was emphasised even by the Buddha in his sermons to the monks. He had also specific relevant maintenance procedures. This paper intends to discuss the concepts and forms of Buddhist monasteries pertaining to the archaeological heritage management. In this paper, we intend to specify the different contributions of heritage management technology which were associated with Buddhist monasteries.

Maintenance and protection are vital phenomena in archaeological heritage management in Sri Lanka. It is very significant to note that the stupa should be colourwashed in white, black or brown; dust of the paddy should be mixed together by using the palm to get the colour white which was applied to the wall until it sticks on the wall. The clay should be mixed together by using the palm to get the colour brown. Pieces of cloth should be used to penetrate the mixture to the crevices of cracks if there were any on the wall or on the floor where the termites have damaged. Timber pillars should be used when walls had decayed; cowdung with clay mixed was applied on the floor of the monastery when it had been wet. This example suggests that priority was given to protect the original appearance in the process of maintenance.

This applied to decayed and dislocated places of Buddhist monasteries to protect their cultural heritage from early times.

It is evident that the monks got together in Rajagaha for the first council discourses during their first month. The abandoned monastic building was repaired. The chronical further described that Jethawanarama in India denotes that the monks should be provided the priority of their own dwellings when there was any decay or damage. The Anujanami Bikkave Navakamma Dhathu, Navakamma Bikkave Bikshu Uthsukan, Apajjisathi kinthi Nuko Viharokippam Panigosanam Gajjeyani Kanathul Patisarisyathar. This Vinaya statement confirmed that the Buddhist monks had a responsibility to involve themselves in protecting the heritage of the monastic units. It is clear that the concepts and forms gradually got rooted in the Buddhist society from the introduction of Buddhism. It is worthy to note that if any monk had not paid attention to protecting his own dwelling, it was considered to be a negligence of his duty and contravention of the monastic order.

When such occasions arose these monks were blamed by the duty conscious monks. It is possible to suggest that the heritage management devices have been strictly followed as a mandatory and conventional phenomenon of the day-to-day life of the monks in the Buddhist monasteries. It states that Nava vihara bahu nawakkamma gotha, aka rothnama ujjadhkayanthi, gina vihara panabahu, gatijaggithabam, hoti antha amso anthano asenasana, maththamgi apatijaggatham ujjakadhaynthi. It is clear that this description provides us to understand that the monastic preservation devices have been strictly followed as on the vital phenomenon of the day-to-day life of the monks. Moreover, the drums were needed to be summon the monks when stupa, Bodhighara, Patimaghara, Chapter house and other monastic buildings were preserved on any occasion. It would be true to say that the words which appeared on the historical sources and the inscriptions denote the relationship with the preservation concept. In this respect, we can assume that the following words have suggested various types of interwoven with the preservation of the monasteries. For example, Patisankarana(Re-construction), Kandavulpatisankarana(repair for broken places), Navakamma(Repair for decay places), Ginati Gathaka(repair for decayed places), Gina apathu(remove the decay), Gina Heya(repair for decay), Ginapaitsataa(repair for decay), Nawakara(repair). Significantly, political rulers who patronised Buddhist monasteries in every respect concentrated on intervening and protecting the authenticity of Buddhist monasteries.

The inscription that belongs to King Mahinda IV (56-72AD) states that the citizen who wished to capture political power should be a Buddhist or a Bodhisatwa. The inscriptions established in every quarter of the island by King Nissanka Malla (1187-96AD) denote that the leader who achieved political power should patronize Buddhism and repair monasteries.

It is almost certain that cultural knowledge in this sense is never static. Some writers argue that management knowledge of the cultural heritage is constantly re-invented and re-negotiated, even without people being aware that they are involved in any activity. When an intensified study of history of archaeological heritage management in ancient Sri Lanka is undertaken what is visible are the significance characteristics of ancient architecture. It could be observed that the monastery had maintained an independent administrative system in the monastic complex, to preserve and repair monastic characteristics. This organisation appears to have been (1) a labour force (2) a craftsman group with the arrangement of a budget. This organisation may have suggested that the heritage for archaeological culture-concept shows the specific Enlightenment in ancient Sri Lanka. The Abhayagiriya inscription states that a plot of land was granted to craftsmen who were skilled in stone and timber craftsmanship. Paddy land (kumburu kiri) for each craftsman was granted. Moreover, another plot of land was granted if the water supply was inadequate for growing crop. It is evident the main purpose of the labour force was to engage in irrigation work, agriculture, religious ceremonies and help in personal matters of the monks. R.A.L.H. Gunawardana points out that the labour force was bound to perform their respective duty for two months and five days. If anyone was not in a position to accede to an administrative rule, ownership of the land could be taken away by the monastic authority. The inscription, at Mihintale makes us understand that the leader of the labour force also possessed some amount of paddy land. His official title was recorded as Kamnavame Kabali Jet and led the labour force. It is clear that this labour force comprised twelve members. We have drawn our attention to the fact that a particular craftsman group might have been attached to the monastery as a permanent staff to look after repairing.

A more specific explanation would have to be sought. The craftsman group had been organised on the basis of their professional skills; the chief craftsman (Wadu-Maha-Adur), second craftsman (Aduru-Vadu) labour force (Seer vadu) respectively. It seems that the second craftsman was responsible to the chief for the monastic repairing and any activities in the buildings.

The eight-member labour force had been controlled by the second craftsman. It is correct to say that the term of the 'Seer' indicates a sculptor, who had a knowledge of brick work. Apart from that, the expertise in timber work, gems, and smithys might have been expected of the labour force during the Anuradhapura period. It is significant to note here that some of them were bound to transport limestone which was necessary for restoration of monastic units.

The distinct feature of the monastic organisation was that there was a budgetary or accounting system in the monastery. The inscription at Abhayagiri monastery states that such a peculiar reporting system had been considered a Pajjika or Paspota. It is evident that the inscription at Mihintale indicates that all the expenditure of the monastic repairing including the wages of the workers, should be reported. In this sense, it can be seen that the Pajjika Sthaveera (senior monk) of the monastery was expected to handle such a system, the daily accounts would be completed by the kam-kan (council) of the monastery with the help of this paspota. It is worthy to note that this council comprised eight members. It is perhaps correct to say that this monastic council had authority to look into the accounts of the suburban monasteries as well. The daily accounts which were endorsed by the council were stored in a particular box. Subsequently, it was placed beside the Dathughara in the monastery.

Moreover, it would seem more reasonable to accept that this reporting system would occur monthly and yearly, by referring to the daily accounts. The report should have been proclaimed by the monks of the monastery. It is true that such a system in the Buddhist monasteries of the Anuradhapura period might have been adequately preserved by the mandatory participatory system provided in the monastic establishment.

On the other hand, at the same time, rulers played a key role in the context of the heritage management system in ancient society. In its most general sense, power of the king was the ability to pursue and attain goals in this subject significantly. They were bound to patronise the repairing activities of the monastery. The available information shows that King Parakramabahu (1153-1186 AD) had sent a distinguished minister to repair the monastic units which were completely destroyed by the cola in city of Anuradhapura. This tradition would have been followed by his successors. This is evident in King Nissanka Malla's intervention in repairing the ruined monastic units by appointing Arakmenavan-Loke(special officer) to Anuradhapura. This example suggests the intensive power of the rulers vis-a-vis his Ministers. According to the Pujavali, the post of Arakkgarivari indicates that an officer was responsible to protect the building especially Bodhighara of the monastery.

Therefore, there is no reason to doubt that this officer must have engaged in monastic repairing activities during the Polonnaruwa period as well. In another instance, Polonnaruwa katikavata describes that in the monastic administrative system there emerged two major characteristics, one an internal system which takes the authority to handle the administration work of the property and its repairing work, second, an external system which deals with matters relating to other monasteries in the vicinity.

It is very important to note here that the inscription at Jetawanarama states these skilled craftsmen and labour force lived in the village, close to the monastery. In fact, it is clear that the artefacts and industries which were found in the city of Anuradhapura and Tissamaharama show that repairing of monasteries had emerged as a main concept in history. Therefore, it is realised that the craftsmen resided within the city as well.

We have drawn our attention to the fact that during the dynasty of Rajadhi Rajasinghe in the Kandyan period, the king had been informed by the chief monk of the monastery when the monastic units were restored within the complex. This statement indicates that the rulers and the monks together had involved themselves in protecting the buildings as much as possible.


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