The Ruwanvelisaya is one of Sri Lanka’s largest and most renowned stupas, a sacred site for Buddhist all over the world. Entombed within the massive structure is one of the largest collections of relics associated with the Gautam Buddha. It is no wonder that thousands of Buddhist flock to the supa every year to pay their respects and receive blessing.
Construction of this magnificent stupa began all the way back in 140 BC during the reign of King Dutugemunu. The King however, did not live to see the stupa’s completion and it was his brother King Saddhatissa that saw to it. It is thought that the limestone statue found at a small pavilion south of the stupa actually depicts King Dutugemunu.
The Ruvanvelisaya had fallen into ruin by the 18th and 19th centuries and its premises were overgrown with newly formed forests and shrubbery. It was one of many Sri Lankan historical sites that were rediscovered and renovated during the mid-20th century. Through meticulous fundraising and support from the Sri Lankan government, the Ruvanvelisaya was restored to its former glory.
Nowadays, you’ll find an immaculate frieze of 344 elephants guarding the main structure. The stupa itself stands over 103m tall – twice the height of the initial construction. The area surrounding the site is full of ancient ponds, columns and carvings – all of which lends a quiet and regal atmosphere to the entire location. The Ruvanvelisaya is the most prominent and prolific of the “Atamasthana” – the eight holy places Buddhists should visit during their pilgrimage to Anuradhapura.
Now, even if you’re not a Buddhist, there’s plenty of reason to visit this marvel of ancient architecture. For starters, you can see firs-hand the sheer scale and intricacy involved with the stupa’s creation – a testament to the ingenuity and dedication of the Sinhalese people. What’s more, the area has a calm and peaceful atmosphere, making it ideal for relaxing daytrip. Of course, you can also visit at night when the stupa is bathed in light, beaming like star in the darkness.