This article is about 10 of the most visited Buddist spiritual places in Sri Lanka namely,
Temple of the tooth relic
Sri Maha Bodhi
However, in this article, we have considered the travellers, who visit these places on a religious perspective.
Whether it’s a natural religious attraction or a man-made site, the spiritual journey has long been a form of religious practice. Travelling helps you to refresh your mind and renew the sense of wonder; it is intrinsically closely connected to the idea of self-satisfaction and a deeper connection to the world around us.
Sri Lankan people are always at the forefront with regards to the religious attachment. A majority of Sri Lankan is actively engaged in some form of religious affairs and dedicates some of their precious time for religious activities. Being a multi-religious country Sri Lanka is the home for 4 major religions, namely Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.
That said, many sites are still sacred to certain communities, with thousands of years of history and significance attached to them. Yet, as with so many communities who have a deeper spiritual connection, most spiritually-significant sites welcome people of all beliefs who are respectful and committed to a deeper understanding.
Buddhism is the oldest religion in the country; which had set its foot in the country in 6th century BC, Since then Buddhism is absorbed into the life of Sri Lankan people, even today majority of Sri Lankans believes in Buddhism. Today Sri Lanka is a leading Buddhist nation in the world and therefore it has naturally become a leading destination for Buddhist pilgrimage tour. A large number of travellers from countries such as Thailand, India, Japan, China arrives here to visit Buddhist temples on the island.
There are several Hindu religious hot spots in the island such as Shakthipeetha, Munneswaram, Sita temple etc. Majority of important Hindu religious sites are to be found in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka and most of Hindu devotees are concentrated into these areas. Most of the important Hindu religious sites in Sri Lanka are closely connected to Ramayana.
In this article, I like to discuss on some highly regarded Buddhist spiritual destinations that one should consider on a trip to Sri Lanka. Majority of leading Sri Lankan religious attractions such as Toot relic temple, Sri Maha Bodi, Ruwanweli Dagoba are based on Buddhism. Same times there are important religious attractions belong to the other beliefs such as Islam, Christianity as well as Hinduism.
Perhaps your trip to Sri Lanka is not a trip to experience Buddhism, however, it is highly recommended to include these places into your itinerary because they are not only Buddhist religious sites but also important places that reflect the rich cultural and historical heritage of Sri Lanka.
These top ten Buddhist religious sites on the island will help you find a deeper connection of Sri Lankan people to their religion, other people, and to themselves!
Toot relic temple
In terms of importance, the temple of the tooth relic is the first in the raw, this Buddhist temple resides in the spiritual heart of Sri Lanka known as Kandy. Kandy has a fascinating blend of old and new and here the travellers are able to see historical attractions, medieval buildings and modern tourist attractions. Tooth relic temple is the most sacred Buddhist temple in the island and houses left eye tooth of Buddha. The temple is conveniently located at the heart of Kandy city near the Kandy Lake and the city is dripping in chaos and colour.
Sri Maha Bodi
Sri Maha Bodhi (ficus religiosa) is the second in the raw in terms of religious importance, which is a tree belong to the ficus family. Sri Maha Bodhi had set its foot on the island in the 2nd century BC, during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. Today it resides in the sacred city of Anuradhapura, in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka.
The foundation stone for the Dagoba or Stupa was laid by King Dutugemunu in 2nd century BC. This semi-circular dome-shaped building is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists in the island. Ruwanweliseya is one of the major tourist hotspots in Anuradhapura and included in most Sri Lanka tour packages. Ruwanweliseya and Sri Maha Bodhi are residing next to each other in Anuradhapura sacred city. The Dagoba is 150 feet in height and has 379 feet diameter.
Kataragama is visited by Buddhist, Hindu as well as Islam devotees. Kataragama Devala is the most important quarter of the temple complex, which is dedicated to God Kataragama or Murugan and is found right behind the main entrance. The temple complex accommodates separate quarters for other religions. One of the most important Buddhist temple known as Kirivehera is to be found in the backyard of Kataragama Devala while a mosque is located towards the northern end of the temple premises.
Adams Peak / Sri Pada
A world-renowned hiking trail, this has been a Buddhist religious site for many centuries and historical pieces of evidence suggest that Adams peak was visited by Chinese monk Fahian in 2nd century BC, who was in a mission to study the Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Adam’s peak not only a Buddhist pilgrimage site but also a major religious site for Hindus, Islam as well as Catholics.
Adams peak is one of the most visited religious sites on the island. The footprint of Buddha was set on the pinnacle of the mountain in 6th century BC, upon Buddha’s visit to the island. The Buddhist claim that the footprint to be found on top of the mountain is belonging to Buddha. However, other religions have their own explanation with regards to the origin of the footprint.
According to Hindus, the footprint belongs to God Shiva and According to Islam, it is the point where Adam landed while Catholics believe the footprint belongs to St.Tomas. During the middle ages and after it gained popularity not only as a pilgrimage trip but also as an adventure to experience the rich natural wealth of the island, due to the extensive virgin rainforest around it.
Today, local spiritual seekers and hiking enthusiasts from all around the world gathering here during the pilgrims season from November to April to experience a hike on one of the longest trails in the world. Adam’s peak trek lasts about 5 hours and the trekkers have to dedicate around 3 hours for the downward walk. Usually, this moonlight hike starts around midnight and culminates reaching the pinnacle of the mountain. The rewards for the tiring hike are the 360° breathtaking view on the surrounding jungle and the gorgeous sunrise.
While there are two major routes to reach the summit, the most popular one begins in Hatton while the other route starts in Ratnapura. The route starts in Ratnapura demands more physical and mental energy and it consumes more time to reach the summit compared to other routes.
Kelaniya is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples on the island and one of the few places where Buddha presented himself. Paddy heap shaped Stupa of Kelaniya temple is regarded as an important stupa, it is believed a gem stoned studded throne is enshrined in the Stupa. The gemstone studded throne had been the reason for disagreement between two fractions, leading to a battle. Having foreseen magnitude of the damage occurs if the battle takes place, Buddha had visited the east coast of Sri Lanka and met the leaders of two tribes about to battle and settle the dispute. The temple is located near the commercial capital “Colombo” of Sri Lanka.
Mihintale considered being the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan king Dutugemunu, who embraced Buddhism in 2nd century BC, met monk Mahinda at this place, before he was, converted Buddhism. Today Mihintale is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the country, and it is flooded with devotees on full moon day of June as they celebrate the advent of Buddhism in the island.
The temple lies 250km away from the city of Colombo and the drive might take up to 5 hours. Mahiyangana temple is also dedicated to Buddhism and it is one of the most sacred Buddhist religious institutions in the island due to the fact that it was visited by Buddha.
Muthiyangana temple better known as Muthiyangana Raja Maha Vihara is another popular Buddhist temple visited by many thousands of devotees every year. Muthiyangana temple is not a popular tourist attraction; therefore you might not encounter many foreign tourists here except Indian travellers. The history of the temple goes back to many thousand years and it is a temple that has a close relationship with Ramayana.
Nagadeepa is another Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, were Buddha presented himself in 6th century BC, due to this reason Nagadeepa is one of very popular pilgrimage site among Buddhists in Sri Lanka.