Inscriptions identified in Sri Lanka are classified corresponding to their location. Among them, Vaharala inscriptions can be cited as a kind of inscriptions belonging to the stone Inscriptions. This type of text is known as the Vaharala, due to the word Vaharala commonly used in these texts. The period in which the Vaharala inscriptions were widely written is dated to 6 – 7th century BC. A few Vaharala inscriptions can also be found around the 5th century. They have been written on the rocks or moonstones associated with the temples.
Scholars who have studied Vaharala inscriptions have given various interpretations of the word Vaharala. According to Prof. Senarath Paranavitana, Vaharala means slave. Malini Dias has suggested that it should be released from compulsory service, Saddhamangala Karunaratne has suggested that it should be used to construct temples and Prof. Karunasena Hettiarachchi should be exempted from compulsory service. In the Sinhala alphabet, Vaharala is defined as a temple, and in the Sri Sumangala dictionary, it is described as help, slavery, and so on.
Prof. Senarath Paranavithana was the first to comment on the Vaharala articles. According to him, Vaharala means liberation from slavery. In that sense, Vaharala refers to the release of a person who has served in a certain place or person. Most of the Vaharala inscriptions have been identified in the vicinity of temples. The word “chadavi” is also common in those articles.
- The following are some commonalities that can be identified among the Vaharala articles.
- Mention the word Vaharala Chadavi / Chidavi after mentioning a certain amount. This feature can be seen in the letter No. 2 of the Kurunegala Silver Temple. (S.C.A.R 561B))
- Often referred to by a personal name or spouse.
- Indicating that one hundred gold offerings have been paid.
- The motto “Pala Sava Satanata” means “May everyone experience this merit”.
- Only found between 4 -8th century AD
In the case of the Vaharala inscriptions, it is somewhat questionable whether these letters really refer to slavery. The question arises as to whether people were used as slaves in temples associated with Buddhist philosophy.
According to Malini Dias, these articles are about the release or release of a person from compulsory service duty. This view is covered in her book Epigraphical Notes.
Many early Vaharala inscriptions hoped to record a sacrifice they had made to the Sangha for the knowledge of the people. It is evident from these articles that not much attention has been paid to linguistic accuracy. In this article,
- • The term “Chidavi” is used interchangeably.
- “Vevayaya” is used as a synonym for “I” in the noble man.
- In these articles, the term “sava satanata” is often used interchangeably.
- The division of terms in many Vaharala articles can be identified.
Paranavitana states that the word Vaharala is derived from the Sanskrit word “Vrushala”.
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The word Vaharala can be seen in various ways in the Vaharala inscriptions. That is, Viharala, Veherila, Viharila, Vaharalaya and so on. Also the word Chidavi can be identified as Chadavi, Chadavala, Chadevala.
Problems such as lack of space are rare due to the large number of stone slabs associated with temples, but in many articles, the problem of not finishing the article can be seen. The inclusion of historically significant material in these articles is very limited.
Vaharala articles can also identify social issues such as contemporary person names, place names, and designation names. Inquiries into Vessagiriya No. 4 can identify the names of persons such as Sahasavarala, Dalameya, Sakanakana, Vesaminiya etc. In addition, the article contains information about the children, the wife, and the group of the person who prepared the article.
Also, place names such as Lathakathala and Paluhangamuwa can be identified in the Vaharala inscriptions, and the names of the places included in these are mainly related to the ancient temples. For example, in the letter No. 01 of Vessagiriya, it can be stated that the name of the temple is mentioned as “Boya Upulwan Kassapagiri Temple”.
Vaharala letters rarely contain titles, and the main titles mentioned are Oluwadu and Uluwadu. The fact that these articles are often written by the general public may be the reason for not mentioning the titles. Only a handful of letters prepared by generals and ministers mention titles.
It is generally accepted that the word Vaharala implies slavery. Here it is important to inquire into the instances in which it has been mentioned in literary sources. The British who established the colonies here has stated that the main problem in obtaining manpower for their work in Sri Lanka is the compulsory service duty system. In that sense, there was a process of service to the king in Sri Lanka during the Kandyan period.
According to Samantha Pasadika, the slaves in this country are fourfold.
- Antojato: Domestic slaves who were the children of slaves
- Danakkeetha: Purchased slaves
- Kamoranitha: Slaves captured during the war
- Saman daasyavan upatha: voluntary enslavement for livelihood or care
At the end of this description, it is stated that slaves belonging to the category of voluntary enslavement for livelihood or care were allowed to go free. This opportunity to free oneself from slavery by making a payment whenever one wanted was unique in the slave system of this country. This is further confirmed by the reference to the payment of one hundred rupees in many Vaharala articles.