Alawala Potugal cave -a gateway to the prehistoric Sri Lanka

Potugal lena is a passage in to the pre-historic Sri Lanka of nearly 125,000 years back, where excavations had unearthed evidence of an entire livelihood of hunters and gatherers and a religious establishment dating back to pre-Buddhist times.

A three km  turn off from the Kirindiwela-Nittambuwa main road leads to the Alawala Potgul Viharaya , a temple premises of 60 acres enclosing three caves namely the cave of the temple or Viharalena, potgul lena or the cave of the library and the thapo lena or the cave of meditation.

The viharalena, situated closest to the temple carries two eras worth of Buddhist history in its shelter. Along its length rested a reclining Buddha of the Kandyan Era, which was reconstructed following the damages caused by treasure hunters. On either side are two seated statues, one belonging to the Anuradhapura era (377 BC) and the other to the Kandyan Era (1500s AD). A special feature of the cave is its murals. Aged illustrations of the Buddha have been drawn on a polished rock surface.

The second cave or the Potgul lena carries much mystery at its heart, but to reach it is no mean task. a detour across a streamlet to another isolated footpath leads to the second cave.

The evidence of an archaeological dig still remains in the form of a large hole dug in the earth. Inside an abundance of snail shells remained partially buried. The archaeological excavations here have unearthed numerous bone fossils including pieces of skulls, mandibles and molars belonging to pre-historical  adult and a child. Archaeologists surmise that this hunter and gatherer had ritualistic tendencies implied by some bones lathered in red ochre.Moreover  bone tools used for skinning and stripping meat off animal bones have been recovered from the site along with the remains of animal bones.A  pendant fashioned from a shark tooth was among the jewellery found, showing the Alavala Man’s flair for creativity

Amidst the new revelations of the prehistorical era archaeologists have also discovered two stone inscriptions in one of the cave’s drip-ledge  which states the  names of village officials and instruction for the function of a religious centre way before the era Buddhism was well-established in the country.

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