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Cave murals in Kotiyagala Mailla: A perishing pre-historic heritage

28 March 2017 12:14 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Pix & text By Nayana Jeewa Bandara

The cave murals in Kotiyagala Mailla, an ancient temple that dates back to the Kandy, historic and pre-historic era, are now under the threat of destruction in the absence of maintenance and constant exposure to elements. The Archaeological authorities had expressed their deep concern on this matter. 
It is observed that the ancient temple and its precincts have never received any attention from the Archaeological and other relevant authorities. Extending to several hectares from the slopes of mountain Mailla, the temple consists of several caves with carved Rip Ledges and also a reclining Buddha statue which is 27 feet in length; a target by treasure hunters. 
The Kotiyagala village is located some 45 kilometres away from the Moneragala town. The historical temple can only be accessed through a difficult pathway -- through a forest that covers a distance of about six kilometres. 
Our initial journey through the green was unforgettable as we encountered wild elephants. Sources revealed that this site had been discovered by a group of surveyors in 1966, and in 1967, when an Italian Archaeologist arrived in the country for the restoration of the Sigiriya Frescoes, he had visited these historical caves and attended to restore some of these murals. Other than this, there is no evidence of any local authority intervening in the matter. This was confirmed by M.R. Wijerathna, a retired Grama Niladhari of the village. 

As described by Archaeologists, one of the murals which depicts a human figure mounted on an elephant-like Mammal may be attributed as belonging to the pre-historic era. In the absence of an indicative epoch, it has been difficult to arrive at a date or period, although there is a belief that the article belonged to the pre-historic era. There are many images of Damsels with flower motifs bordering them which have been destroyed. The paintings believed to have been done during the Kandyan era however remains without much destruction.  A closer examination of the caves with their systematically-carved Rip Ledges indicates that the area had been under human occupation. This fact had been determined by the Archaeologists too. The presence of a Buddha statue further indicates that there had been a Buddhist temple beside these caves. 
This site, recording a history of three eras, is now receiving attention, with the intervention of the Archaeological Department and conservation of the cave murals at the Mailla cave temple is now receiving attention and step by step maintenance work is now envisaged, depending on the funds allocation by the Archaeological department. 
Moneragala District Assistant Director of Archaeology Nawarathne Karawgahage said no restoration work was done this year, and as the damage caused to the Murals was excessive, restoration work can be done only depending on the funds allocated. Lack of security is also a major issue and earlier, two soldiers of the Civil Defence forces were detailed at the site to provide security, but now, it is no longer made available. 
The restoration and the conservation of this historical site move at snail’s pace due to lack of funds. They welcome a public or private institution to restore the pre-historic heritage to its 
original status. 



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