Traveling for persons with disabilities fosters inclusivity by challenging societal perceptions and raising awareness about disability-related issues. As they explore new destinations, they become ambassadors of accessibility, advocating for improved infrastructure, and promoting a greater understanding of diverse needs.
Manique Gunaratne gave the opportunity to a group of persons with disabilities to visit the Kantale Tank in Trincomalee district in November 2022.The Kantale Dam is a large embankment dam built in Kantale, Trincomalee District, Sri Lanka, used for irrigation. It is 14,000 ft (4,267 m) long, and over 50 ft (15 m) high. The dam impounds the Per Aru, a small river discharging into the Koddiyar Bay, at Trincomalee Harbour. The tank was built by King Aggabodhi II (604-614 AD) and further developed by King Parakramabahu the Great. It was also known as Gangathala Vapi at the time. The reservoir has a catchment area of 216 km2 (83 sq mi) and a capacity of 135 million cubic meters .
Traveling is a universally cherished experience that offers enriching insights into different cultures, landscapes, and lifestyles. For persons with disabilities, embarking on a journey can be even more profound, as it presents unique opportunities for personal growth, empowerment, and breaking down barriers. We delve into the significance of traveling for individuals with disabilities and highlight its transformative impact.
Manique Gunaratne created the opportunity for a group of persons with disabilities to visit the Girihadu Seya Temple in Trincomalee district in December 2022.
The oldest incident connected with the site is etched in an 8th century Sanskrit epigraph found at the site which refers to a shrine named Girikandicaitya being established on the hill-top by a company of merchants headed by Tapassu and Bhallika.
According to the Nidanakatha and Mahavagga a book on the Vinaya, Tapassu and Bhallika were two brother merchants who offered some victuals to the Buddha, in the 8th week after his enlightenment. They are considered the first lay disciples of #Lord #Buddha who sought the refuge of the Master and the Dhamma. And on request the Master gifted them with a handful of #hair #relics. Tradition claims that the two merchants enshrined the holy relics and built a shrine here.
As such this shrine would have been built during the lifetime of Lord Buddha. Scholars attribute it to possibly the c. The present structure or the ruins of the vatadage consisting of a small stupa encircled by two concentric circles of stone pillars and a retaining wall of stone slabs, however is believed to have evolved with time.
The vatadage at Thiriyaya, while conforming to the general pattern of the vatadage, had architectural features which have not been noticed at any other shrine of this class.
The capitals of the pillars at Thiriyaya have not been separately carved and joined as at other vatadage sites. Facing the entrances at the cardinal points are altars of carved granite slabs. At the head of each flight of steps is a stone doorway.
The four entrances at the cardinal points are provided with moon stones, makara balustrades and naga guardstones . The moonstones are plain except for a lotus petal carving at the circumference. The guardstones are the most striking artistic feature. The Naga kings are depicted as having an air of austerity, not overloaded with jewelry and are benign in expression. According to scholars these qualities along with their elongated limbs suggest the Pallava style of art belongs to a phase earlier than Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
Another unusual feature here is the evidence of a wooden upright of a railing which may have covered the space between the top of the stone wall and the roof. Around the vatadage are seen the remains of image houses of which the largest housed a large recumbent Buddha image.
On the terraces lower down the hill are ruins of monastic structures, ponds and flights of steps leading to different levels. A stone bridge indicates that an ancient highway passed this site. Some rock caves bear early Brahmi inscriptions indicating the existence of a monastery even during pre-Christian times. The earliest datable inscription at the site is the pre-Christian Brahmi inscription recording the dedication of a cave to the Buddhist monks.
As such a pilgrimage to Thiriyaya vatadage is a poignant experience for the Buddhist in you as much as the naturalist, architect and archaeologist in you.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Manager – Specialised Training and Disability Resource Centre of The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon