‚Kaludiya Pokuna‘ means ‚dark water pond‘. There are at least two very lovely places in Sri Lanka called Kaludiya Pokuna, one in Mihintale near Anuradhapura and one in a bird sanctuary of the same name, which is located just to the east of Lake Kandalama and one more about 10 km south of Sigiriya. The latter is the one we are talking about here. Kaludiya Pokuna, also known as Kalupokuna, is more than the namegiving pond. Actually, it’s an archaeological site of an ancient monatic complex, which was erected in the Anuradhapura period. Remnants of a stupa and a chapter house with massive columns can be seen in the sanctuary and also some ancient caves. Kaludiya Pokuna is famous for rock and slab inscriptions which can still be seen in situ. They are important sources for historians. For today’s visitors, the main attraction of Kaludiya Pokuna is its „ruins in the jungles“ feeling. This is a real picturebook heritage site. The jungle atmosphere is breathtaking. As mentioned, the area known for its variety of dryzone and also highland bird species is a nature reserve, too. It’s also well-known for the biodiversity of butterflies. Though not far away from the famous Kandalama Heritance hotel and in excursion distance from Sigiriya and Dambulla, Kaludiya Pokuna is still not crowded with tourists but a silent place, very charming. If you are looking for an impression of the authentic ancient Sinhalese civilization ans have enough time left in the Sigiriya area, don’t miss Kaludiya Pokuna.
The archaeological site of Manikdena, situated near Dambulla at the northern foothills of Sri Lanka’s higlands, is better known under the spelling Menikdena. “Manik”, pronounced like “Maenik”, is the Sinhala word for gems. Actually, the plains close to Sri Lanka’s mountains are the main deposits of the island’s famous gemstones. However, the term refers to a legend. The ashes of Sri Lanka’s “last enlightened being”, the Arhat Maliyadewa, are said to have been buried in Manikdena is a casket decorated with jewels, hence the modern name of the place. The anient name “Butgama” simply means “Buddha Village” or “Buddhist settlement”.
Though not far away from popular destinations of the Cultural Triangle such as Golden Temple, Lion Rock, Matale Spice Gardens, the small heritage site of Manikdena is still off the beaten path. To be honest, it’s not a must-see for first-time travellers in Sri Lanka. Nonetheless, Manikdena may be of some interest for those interested in the ancient Sinhalese civilisation, as the archaeological reserve of Manikdena represents a very common type of monastic architecture from the early Middle Ages better than any other excavation site in Sri Lanka, namely the so-called “Pabbata Vihara”. This archeological name translates to “mountain monastery” and seems to indicate something spectacular. But actually it only refers to one characteristic feature of this kind of monasteries: The major edifices were erected on a shared platform, on a slightly higher level than the surrounding residential area of the monk. The elevated ceremonial area of a Pabbata Vihara typically carried four or five buildings in a square or quincunx order, namely one or two assembly halls of the monks (at least an Uposathagara) and shrines for image-worship (Patimagara), tree-worship (Bodhigara) and relic-worship (Chaitiyagara or stupa terrace). Though this type of regular layout was quite common in the outskirts of Anuradhapura and near villages in the provinces, there are only few places, where today’s visitor can easily identify all four or five characteristic buildings. Manikdena is definitely the best place, to study the Pabbata Vihara style, which was the predominant form of monastic architecture in the late Anuradhapura period.
Manikdena is managed the Archaeological Department in cooperation with one of Sri Lanka’s most famous private schools, the Trinity College in Kandy, since it has been transformed in an arboretum representing the typical vegetation of Sri Lanka’s intermediate zone.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka,