Nestled amidst the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura, you’ll find the renowned archaeological site that is Vessagiriya. This site is believed to once have contained the immaculate structures of the Thissamaharamaya which was constructed by King Devanampiyatissa – Sri Lanka’s first Buddhist King – all the way back in 240 BC!
Vessagiriya is located about a mile south from the renowned Sri Maha Bodhi Tree. It is unmistakable when you get close to the site – you’ll see three clusters of jagged rock which acts as the centrepiece of an ancient monastery. It is believed that the monastery itself was a refuge not only for the clergy but for the common man as well. The very name “Vessagiriya” literally translates to “the rock shelter of the commoners”.
Vessagiriya has a close association with Isurumuniya – a prominent Buddhist temple found in nearby. As such, it is believed to have been of great importance to the Buddhist monks of ancient times. Along with the site, you’ll find a number of caves. These were thought to have been used by Buddhist monks as refuges back in ancient times. It is believed that these caves once harboured hundreds of monks who sought solace to meditate and seek wisdom in peace. Now, if you take time to explore the innards of these caves, you’ll come across several inscriptions. These signify the sponsors and donors of the Buddhist monks, their names forever etched upon the rock. These days, the caves are home to many animal species including swarms of bats and wasps.
The trail to Vessagiriya and its surrounding caves is a relatively short walk, but it boasts quite the scenery. From dramatic rock overhangs to verdant trees that reach up towards the heavens, you might just find yourself lost amidst all this natural beauty. If you’re particularly lucky, you might even come across some of the resident wildlife – few sights can match the regal beauty of a peacock perched high up on the tree branches.