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Damrivi organized a tour/pilgrimage to Ampara, from 22 to 24 July 2011 with the main objective of visiting the historic Buddhist sites in the district. Buddhist Digamadulla still largely remains an unexplored area for the Buddhist pilgrim. The density of places of Buddhist importance in this district we were informed is much higher than even that of Anuradhapura district. The ancient region of Digamadulla, presently known as Amparai, was a thriving Buddhist society of yore. Royal princes who bore the pre-fix “Deega” to their names such as Prince Deegayau who aaccording to the ancient chronicles established the Deegavapi settlement and prince Deegagamini who secretly married Unmada Chitra, daughter of King Panduwasdev and became father to the renowned Prince Pandukabhaya were from Digamadulla. A group of 22 participated in this tour. Three key places were visited namely, Buddhangala, Samangala and Deegavapi Chatiya. The group was accompanied by an archaeologist, Buddhist specialists and a professional photographer.
The Buddhangala Monastery lies deep in the jungles about 7 kilometres off Ampara. The Monastery covers 1280 acres. The relics of the chief disciples of the Buddha were unearthed during excavation of the original stupa and therefore this monastery has become a hallowed site to the Buddhists. Archaeologists believe that the history of this monastery goes back to the 4th century B.C. The group was taken on a tour of the surrounding jungle area of the monastery where there are many rock caves bearing Brahmi inscriptions denoting that many arhants occupied these caves. Among them was Arhant Bhaddiya who accompanied Arhant Mahinda to Sri Lanka. After the walk, the group participated in Sath Budu vandana which was followed by a sermon and Dhamma discussion by Buddhangala Ananda Thero.
The group visited Samangala on the morning of the second day. Samangala is a forest hermitage. On the eastern slopes of Samangala hill are found a large number of drip-ledged caves bearing Brahmi inscriptions. To reach the caves involved a fairly steep climb which all participants did to reach the main cave area which was a beautiful site with a “bo maluwa” and a scenic view below of a rushing river through a thick jungle. The group with the guidance of a Buddhist specialist spent sometime meditating at this site.
The Deegavapi chaitya was visited in the evening of the second day. According to Buddhist literature, Buddha came to Deegavapi on his third visit to Sri Lanka with 500 arhants and spent time meditating there. According to the Mahavansa, this stupa was built by king Saddhatissa (137-119 BC). There is a belief that that this stupa enshrines a nail relic of Buddha. The group was taken on a guided tour of the stupa and its environs by the archaeologist after which the group participated in a pooja. After the pooja, the group spent sometime in meditation and in dhamma discussion.
The return journey on the third day was enroute Senanayake Samudraya where the group spent sometime on the tank bund enjoying the scenic beauty and Siyambalanduwa making a brief stop at the archaeological remains of the bath pool and toilet of Queen Sugala.