The Ceylon Traveller – Kantharodai / Kadurugoda
Text and Photos by Sachini Perera
It’s always pleasant to detour during a trip and stumble upon a place you had never heard of before.
Kantharodai in Jaffna (also known as Kadurugoda) is such a place and as you can see from the photos, it is surreal to go to Jaffna and come across so many dagobas in a town more famous for its Hindu architecture.
Since it’s not a place I had read about or knew about and because there was no information available there from the Department of Archaeology, this edition of Ceylon Traveller will feature information sourced from the internet.
Kantharodai (Tamil: fe;jNuhil, KadiramalaiTamil: fjpukiy or Kandurugoda – literal Sinhala translation of Kadiramalai Sinhala: කඳුරුගොඩ) a small hamlet and archaeological site of Chunnakam town is a suburb in Jaffna District, Sri Lanka. Known as Kadiramalai (from Kudiramalai) in the ancient period, the area served as a famous emporium city and capital of Tamil kingdoms in the Jaffna peninsula of North Eastern Ceylon from classical antiquity. Located near a world famous port at that time, Kantharodai was the first site the Archaeology Department in Sri Lanka excavated in the Jaffna peninsula.
Black and red ware Kantharodai potshards, Tamil Brahmi scripts from 300 BCE were excavated with Roman coins, early Pandyan coins, early Chera Dynasty coins from the emporium Karur punch-marked with images of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi from 500 BCE. In addition, coins from 6th-5th century BCE India, and copper ‘kohl’ sticks similar to those used by the Egyptians in 2000 B.C, found in Uchhapannai, Kantharodai, indicate active transoceanic maritime trade between ancient Jaffna Tamils and other continental kingdoms in the prehistoric period. The parallel third century BCE discoveries of Manthai, Anaikoddai and Vallipuram detail the arrival of a megalithic culture in Jaffna long before the Buddhist-Christian era and the emergence of rudimentary settlements that continued into early historic times marked by urbanization. The chief Pittan-Korran of Kudiramalai further south, a commander-in-chief of the Chera king, administered the locality under the Chera kingdom from the 1st century BCE – 1st century CE and is described at length in the Purananuru.
A group of Dagobas situated close together at the site served as a monastery for Tamil monks and reflect the rise in popularity of Buddhism amongst Jaffna Tamils and the Tamils of the ancient Tamil country in the first few centuries of the common era before the revivalism of Hinduism amongst the population.
Recent excavations of Sivaganams in the stupas suggest Tamil Hindus also worshipped at the site. The domes were reconstructed atop the flat bases of the ruins by the Archaeology Department. The similarities between the finds of ancient Jaffna and Tamil Nadu are indicators of a continuous cultural exchange between the two regions from classical antiquity. These structures built over the burials demonstrate the integration of Buddhism with megalithism, a hallmark of Tamil Buddhism. Outside Andhra Pradesh in India, Kantharodai is perhaps the only site where such burials are seen.
In 1970, the University of Pennsylvania museum team excavated a ceramic sequence remarkably similar to that of Arikamedu, with a pre-rouletted ware period, subdivided into an earlier “Megalithic”, a later “Pre-rouletted ware phase,” followed by a “Rouletted ware period”. Tentatively assigned to the fourth century BCE, radio carbon dating later confirmed an outer date of the ceramics and Megalithic cultural commencement in Kantharodai to 1300 BCE. Further excavations have been conducted by the University of Jaffna.
The YalpanaVaipavaMalai also describes the rich port of Kadiramalai in the ancient period.
From – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kandarodai
Where is it?
Near Chunnakam, West of the main Jaffna-Kankesanturai Road.
Kantharodai ancient Buddhist site is one of the most fascinating stops for the visitors. It is located near Chunnakam, west of the main Jaffna-Kankesanturai Road. There are no Buddhist monks at the site since it is not a dwelling place for a priest. An Army camp is located near by. The site was discovered in 1916 and a series of excavations were carried out by the then Ceylon Archaeological Department in 1966. There are 60 mini dagobas in different sizes varying up to about 4 m. These dagobas are made out of coral. Buddhists visit here to see these ruins. During these excavations, many coins were unearthed by archaeologists. Kantharodai is also known as the ancient Kathurogoda Vihara mentioned in Sinhalese historical literature. The miniature dagobas are so closely and crowdedly built from cutting coral stones that nearly 100 have been excavated in an area of only about two acres. As the largest stupa is no more than 12 feet in diameter, it is likely the dagobas are votive in nature. Perhaps 2000 years old or more, they are a reminder of the strong Sinhalese Buddhist influence in the Jaffna area prior to the 8th Century AD. Some of the findings at this site were in the Archaeological Museum in Jaffna.