Thuparamaya – The First Stupa in Sri Lanka

Hi all, hope you are doing well. Today also I will take you to a historical place with a rich archeological value. That is Thuparamaya, where the first stupa of Sri Lanka is situated. Thuparamaya is situated in Anuradhapura (the first kingdom of Sri Lanka), in an area called ‘Mahamewna Uyana’ (park). It is built by King Devanampiya Tissa.

Thuparamaya Stupa and Stone Pillars

The aforesaid Mahamevna Uyana is a vast area filled with ancient Buddhist temples. It was originally a royal park built by King Mutasiva (father of above mentioned King Devanampiya Tissa). After embracing Buddhism, King Devanampiya Tissa built several Buddhist temples in Mahamevna Uyana such as Thuparamaya and Isurumuniya. Following him, a number of kings have built lots of Buddhist temples in Mahamevna Uyana afterward.

Archeological Ruins at Thuparamaya

History of Thuparamaya

Arahath Mahinda Thero brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka at the time of King Devanampiya Tissa. The king quickly understood the value of Buddhism and embraced it. King Devanampiya Tissa built Thuparamaya stupa at the request of Mahinda Thero, enshrining the ‘right collar bone’ of Lord Buddha. According to the history (Mahavamsa), it was the first stupa in Sri Lanka. And also there was the first residential building for the monk (aramaya). The name says it itself, ‘Thuparamaya’ means Thupa (stupa) + Aramaya.

Even though the history says Thuparamaya stupa is the first stupa in Sri Lanka, it is said that, there are evidences of an earlier stupa in Sri Lanka. According to those stories, two sellers who visited India (birth place of Lord Buddha), have built a stupa enshrining some ‘hair’ of Lord Buddha.

The original shape of the stupa was ‘paddy heap’ but after a number of reconstructions, now it is ‘bell shaped’. According to Wikipedia, the presently visible stupa was constructed in 1842.

Entrance of Thuparamaya temple
Entrance of Thuparamaya Temple

Stone Works

There said to be a lot of Buddhist monks living. Therefore, there must have been lots of buildings, made mainly with stones. If you visit there, you will witness the ruins spread on a vast area at Thuparamaya.

Archeological Ruins at Thuparamaya

Stone Pillars at Thuparamaya

Archeological Ruins at Thuparamaya

(I’m not including all the images here, visit the Gallery to see the complete set of images.)

Just like in Isurumuniya, here also you will find lots of very detailed and smooth stone carvings. The place is full of ‘Guard Stones’, ‘Sandakada Pahana’ (moon stone), ‘Korawak Gala’ etc.

Guard Stone at the entrance of stupa
Guard Stone at the entrance of stupa

Guard stone at the entrance of stupa

Guard Stone

Sandakada pahana

Archeological Ruins

Stone Bathtub
How do you feel about a stone bathtub belongs 250 BC?

Stone Pillars at Thuparamaya Stupa

One of the most special things you find in Thuparamaya is the stone pillars around the stupa. There are two rounds of pillars. There had been a unique construction called ‘Vatadage’ around and over the stupa. It had acted like a roof and a protective cover for the stupa. The existing stone pillars were the structural support for it. As far as I know, there are no any trace of the roof cover, but the some pillars still stand still.

Thuparamaya Stupa

Stone Pillars at Thuparamaya
Stone Pillars

Archeological Ruins at Thuparamaya Stupa

There are lots of ruins of stone pillars laid around the stupa. I guess they are part of the aforementioned structure. They have been numbered by Department of Archaeology.

Archeological Ruins at Thuparamaya

The above image is also of part of a stone pillar. See how neatly they are carved.

When I walked among the ruins, it became more and more unimaginable that how all these are done. See, these all were done in 250 BC. How could people in that much ancient time have had the technology and the capacity to do all these stone works. They had the manpower more than enough for sure (Obviously, no one will go against king’s orders). But this much precision, neatness and smoothness require highly advanced technology and skills.  I can’t express it, you will have to see the place to feel it. It is really amazing.

There is a notion which I like to believe, that ancient people has used some kind of a chemical to soften the stones. That can help to explain the amount of stone works and carvings we can find in ancient temples. Anyhow, it is not proven, it is just a notion. And no one knows the exact secret.

If you are an archeology or history lover, this is a place you must visit in Sri Lanka. The stones will talk to you themselves.

How to Reach…?

If you are interested in visiting Thuparamaya, here is the exact location.

The green area you can see in the map is ‘Mahamevna Uyana’ I mentioned before. Most of the ancient temples in Anuradhapura are situated inside that.

Click below to see the complete set of (larger) images.

Image Gallery Banner

Unfinished Stupa at Thuparamaya

There is another little unfinished stupa by the side of Thuaramaya stupa. According to the information there, a footprint of Lord Buddha was situated there (that might be the reason why Arahath Mahinda Thero asked the king to build a stupa in this area. Another king has started to build a stupa, enshrining the footprint, but apparently not finished.

So that is about Thuparamaya. I repeat, it is a must-visit place in Anuradhapura. Feel free to leave a comment if have any queries or you need further information. See you in the next article.

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