Thursday, May 24, 2018

Pilgrimage places to visit in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Jetavanaramaya Stupa - Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

There were many pilgrimage sites you could visit in Anuradhapura. In this post I would cover places that Sonam and I visited on my 6th day in Sri Lanka, after finished browsing around Mihintale.

1. Jetavanaramaya

Jetavanaramaya Stupa - Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Jetavanaramaya Stupa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Jetavanaramaya Stupa was located in the ruins of Jetavana, in the sacred world heritage city of Anuradhapura. Mahasena of Anuradhapura (273–301) initiated the construction of the stupa while his son - Maghavanna I - completed it. A part of a sash or belt tied by the Buddha is believed to be the relic that is enshrined here. It was one of the tallest structures in ancient world (at height of 122 meter or 400 feet) and it belonged to the Sagalika sect. The compound covered approximately 5.6 hectares and was estimated to have housed 10,000 Buddhist monks. (Source:

2. Ruwanwelisaya

Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

From Jetavanaramaya Stupa, we continued our visit to Ruwanwelisaya on foot, since the location was within the walking distance of approximately less than 10 minutes to reach. We reached there in evening time and many local came wearing white top and bottom going there for praying. Many came with their family members and in a group. This place was amazing and a-must-visit place in Anuradhapura!!! 

Lighted up the butter lamp at Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Towards the entrance you could purchase butter lamp, incense stick, and Lotus flowers for offering. There was a building for you to light and put the butter lamp, plus to burn and put the incense stick at the place provided (just outside the building).

Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba - Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Ruwanwelisaya was a sacred Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, as the stupa contained Buddha's relics. On the outer wall, there were elephant head sculptures. It was one of the oldest stupas in Sri Lanka, built by King Dutugemunu in 140 B.C. with the height of 103 meter or 338 feet. It was renovated in the early 20th century and was finally crown in June 1940. (Source:

Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

There were many devotees sitting in a group chanting paritta (prayers in Pali language) with books on their hands, sometimes led by monk with orange robe. It was such a serene place and peaceful, reminded me so much with Bodhgaya. Some paritta recited by them sounded very familiar in my ears. I felt like stopping and joining them in the group :)

I told Sonam I was feeling very happy visiting this place, felt like being home. Seeing many people devoted their time to be there made me envy. I wished there were also pilgrimage site like this near my home, where I could visit on foot, anytime I wanted to. Hehe...  However, it did not stop me to feel very grateful for being there at that moment of time. We circumambulated the big stupa 3 rounds, recited prayers inside my heart and smile was appeared all over my face. Thank you SB for the good karma! Thank you, thank you, and thank you!!! :)

3. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Still barefooted we continued walking towards the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. Same thing, it was reachable within few minutes from Ruwanwelisaya on foot. Beautiful Lotus flowers were again sold outside the compound area. You could purchase some for the offering to the Buddha statues.

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi was a sacred fig tree in the Mahamewna Gardens - Anuradhapura. It was said to be the right-wing branch (southern branch) from the historical Sri Maha Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya under which Buddha attained the enlightenment. It was planted in 288 B.C. and was the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date. Today it was one of the most sacred relics of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka and respected by Buddhists all over the world. The other fig trees that surround the sacred tree protect it from storms and animals such as monkeys, bats, etc.

In the 3rd century BC, it was brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta Theri, the daughter of Emperor Asoka and founder of an order of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. In 288 B.C. it was planted by King Devanampiya Tissa on a high terrace about 6.5 m above the ground in the Mahamevnāwa Park in Anuradhapura and surrounded by railings. (Source:

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

"Buddhists in the Island have had a practice of visiting and paying homage to the most sacred Bodhi tree since time immemorial. It is an annual custom for pilgrims from far-away villages to visit the city of Anuradhapura and to pay homage to the Sri Maha Bodhi. The caretaker of this site provides various offerings on a daily basis since time immemorial. The Buddhists in general have a strong belief that offerings made to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi have produced significant and positive changes in their life. It has also been customary for many Buddhists to make a special vow before the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi for the safe delivery of their babies without malformations, to cure various ailments and for many other cures. It has also been a long tradition among farmers around Anuradhapura to offer the Sri Maha Bodhi tree the rice prepared from their first paddy harvest. They strongly believe that such offerings lead to a sustained paddy production with the least sufferings from drought, pest attacks including elephant damage." - (Source:

Priest gave blessing - white thread as bracelet or necklace at Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Sonam and I went three rounds upon the Bodhi tree, entered the temple for praying, got blessing from the Priest, took the fallen Bodhi leaves as souvenir, and this place reminded me of Bodhgaya once again. Thank you SB for the good karma :)

4. Thuparamaya

Thuparamaya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Thuparamaya was an ancient Buddhist temple in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Located in the sacred area of Mahamewna Park, the Thuparamaya Stupa was one of the earliest Dagoba to be constructed in the island, dating back to the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa (247-207 B.C.).

Mahinda Thera introduced Theravada Buddhism and also Chaitya worship to Sri Lanka. At his request, King Devanampiya Tissa built Thuparamaya in which he enshrined the right collar-bone of the Buddha. Thuparamaya Dagoba was built in the shape of a bell. This dagoba was destroyed from time to time. During the reign of King Agbo II it was completely destroyed and the King restored it. What was seen presently was the construction of the dagoba, done in 1842 AD (Source:

5. Isurumuniya Temple

6th century Gupta style Isurumuniya Lovers stone carving - kept inside the museum

The name of Isuru-muniya (Isurumuniya Lovers) - the 6th century Gupta style carving on the stone - was said to represent the King Dutugemunu's son, Saliya, and maiden Asokomala (low caste), for whom he gave up the throne.

Entrance ticket to Isurumuni Raja Maha Viharaya - LKR 200 for foreigner

Isurumuniya temple was built by King Devanampiya Tissa (307 B.C. to 267 B.C.) who was at that time ruling the ancient Sri Lankan capital of Anuradhapura. After 500 children of high-caste were ordained by Maha TheraIsurumuniya was built for them to stay. Entrance ticket was LKR200 for foreigner and free for local resident.

Isurumuniya Temple in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

There was a temple connected to a cave (old shrine room) and above that, there was a cliff. A small white stupa was built on it. It could be seen that the constructional work of this stupa belonged to the present period.

A horse with a man stone carving at Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

On the rock just next to the old shrine room there was the figure of a horse with a man stone carving. Sonam and I almost missed it and found the place before we left :)

Elephants carving on the rock at Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Pond at Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Lower down on both sides of a cleft, in a rock that appeared to rise out of a pool, had been carved the figures of elephants.

Royal family carving stone at Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka (Photo source:

The above royal family carving was carved on a granite plate, could be found inside the museum in this place. The middle man in the carving above was King Dutugemunu himself.

Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

It was quite few areas to browse at. Inside the new shrine room, you could get the blessing from the monk who recited prayers and tied the white thread as bracelet onto your wrist, which was said to give you protection and good luck. Outside the building there was a cave with many bats hanging on top - you could see it from the outside.

6. Mirisawetiya

Mirisawetiya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

From Isurumuniya we took tuk tuk to Mirisawetiya. The distance was less than 2 km between two places.

Mirisawetiya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

King Dutugamunu (161 B.C. to 137 B.C.) built the Mirisaveti Stupa after defeating King Elara. After placing the Buddha relics in the sceptre, he had gone to Tissa Wewa for a bath leaving the sceptre. After the bath he returned to the place where the sceptre was placed, and it is said that it could not be moved. The stupa was built in the place where the sceptre stood. It is also said that he remembered that he partook a chilly curry without offering it to the sangha. In order to punish himself he built the Mirisavetiya Dagoba. The extent of this land is about 50 acres (20 ha). Although the king Kasyapa I and Kasyapa V renovated this, from time to time it was dilapidated. (Source:

There was another place you could visit there in Anuradhapura called Abhayagiri Dagoba (major monastery site of Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhism), but we did not have so much time as we planned to be in Kurunegala on 13th April to experience Sinhalese New Year at friend's friend's place (but we ended up not going as the Sinhalese New Year were actually falling on 14th April), and we had few more places to go before going back to Ragama. Lucky that many places mentioned above opening until night time so we could visit few of them in one day.

We were lucky too being able to find a very nice place to stay (very very last minute - when we were at Thuparamaya Dagoba (our last place to visit that night) by checking Google map for the location and browsing Agoda for the fare and review. The tuk tuk driver was able to recognize the name of the place too - called Lievi's Tourist Accommodation - lucky us because we both were very hungry and tired, the sky had already been so dark, the small town was very quiet at night and the guest house's location was not so obvious - a bit isolated (not at center area - really not as what I imagined).

Lievi's Tourist Accommodation in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Highly recommended!!! :)

The room and bathroom was clean and nice (except the pillow was too hard). The ceiling fan was there. The place was quiet and view was beautiful. Most important, the staff was amazing! He was friendly, able to offer us the price as per Agoda's rate (room - with fan and breakfast for two at LKR 3,000 with dinner was charged separately). He arranged our dinner and breakfast perfectly. Food was nice and up to the standard. He lent us mosquito electric repellent and hair dryer upon my request. He was even able to drive us to Isurumuniya the next morning (by tuk tuk). He told me his name but I forgot. Anyway, if you are looking for a place to stay, you can try this one! :)

Overall we had wonderful time visiting all the places mentioned above even though we both were very tired from the long train journey, climbing up staircases, walking down places, stomach hungry from the missing lunch and finally had late dinner at 9.30 pm, with backpack following me throughout the whole journey, and so on.

We also had hard time remembering and spelling the right name of each places we were going to visit (as sometimes we had to take tuk tuk and had to tell the driver the place name) - Anuradhapura or Anudharapura? Jetavanaramaya.. uggghhh.. so long!!! Isiru... I mean Isurumuniya.... (while looking at Google for the right spelling). Lol!  It was all worth it anyway! I loved the places very much and grateful for being able to visit them. Well, let me stop here and stay tune for more posts!!! Hope you enjoyed reading it so far! Cya! :)


Tashi Chenzom said...

Thank name of the places are hard to pronounce as u also experienced. Thank you for sharing your photos and experiences here. God bless you to visit such places in future too

Rima Reyka said...

Hahaha... Sonam and I often gave test to each other about the name of the places we just visited or about to visit to make sure he can say it correctly too to the tuk tuk driver :D It's my pleasure to share it with you la!!! Thank you for your kind wishes!! Hope you can visit these places too one day! :)

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