Atamasthana better known as 8 sacred places in Anuradhapura

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Visiting Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka

Visiting Buddhist temples is one of the most popular Sri Lanka things to do. Visiting temples is a major activity in every Sri Lankan tour package. Visiting ancient Buddhist temples scattered over the island allows travelers to understand Buddhism and its impact on the people of Sri Lanka. Buddhism plays a major role in every aspect of Sri Lankan life.

What is Atamasthana?

The Buddha made three trips to Sri Lanka, and each time he visited a group of sites known as the Atamasthana, or Eight Sacred Places. These holy sites are recognized by various names, including Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya, Ruwanwelisaya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, Abhayagiri Dagaba, Jetavanarama, Mirisaveti Stupa, and Lankarama. Anuradhapura.

Where is Atamasthana

All the sacred places included in Atamastana are to be found in the ancient city of Anuradhapura.

Anuradhapura

Over the course of several centuries, the sacred city of Anuradhapura had a major impact on the country’s architectural growth. Located 205 kilometres north of the present capital Colombo in the island’s North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu Oya, is a city that was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

Origin of Anuradhapura

Pandukabhaya, the first ruler of the Anuradhapura kingdom and the sixth following the arrival of Vijaya, is credited in the Mahavansa with discovering the sacred city approximately 350 B.C.

The arrival of the sacred Bo-tree

The sacred fig tree, the Bodhi tree, from Bodhgaya, from which Siddharta obtained enlightenment and supreme wisdom, eventually became one of the most important Buddhist temples. The sacred tree was brought there by Sangamitta, a Buddhist nun and the daughter of Emperor Ashoka, in the third century BC, during the second mission. The Thuparamaya, constructed by Devanampiya Tissa in the third century BC to hold the collarbone of Buddha, a precious religious relic bestowed by Emperor Ashoka, is just one example of how Buddha’s relics have impacted the religious landscape of Anuradhapura.

Reign of King Dutugemunu

Dutthagamani, who established Buddhism in place of Brahminism and bestowed amazing masterpieces like the Mirisaveti Stupa, Ruwanwelisaya, and the Brazen Palace upon the site after defeating the South Indian invader Ellalan in 161 BC, is often regarded as the city’s greatest ruler. After 1,300 years of prosperity, an invasion in 993 led to the city’s abandonment. The magnificent site, complete with palaces, monasteries, and monuments, was later hidden away in the thick jungle for many years but is now open to the public once more.

Atamastana or the 8 Sacred places

  • Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
  • Ruwanweliseya
  • Thuparama
  • Lovamahapaya
  • Temple of Abhayagiri
  • Jetawanarama
  • Mirisawetiya
  • Lankarama

Sri Maha Bodhi Jaya In Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, there is a sacred fig tree known as Sri Maha Bodhi. According to legend, Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting beneath a sapling from the historical Bodhi tree. The Sri Maha Bodhi in Bodhgaya, India, is the oldest existing human-planted tree with a known planting date, with its southern branch having been established in 288 BC. The sister of Buddhist missionary Ven. Arahath Mahinda, Ven. Sangamitta, gave the sacred tree to Sri Lanka.

It’s likely that the Sri Maha Bodhi, the Brazen Palace, and the Ruvanvelisaya dagoba were all part of the Maha Vihara (Great Temple) at one point. For almost 2000 years, the sacred bodhi tree has been cared for by a continuous series of guardians, even throughout periods of Indian occupation, making it the oldest tree in the world for which historical evidence exists.

The Uda Maluwa measures 55 feet in length and 35 feet in height. During the time of King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha, the wall was built to keep out untamed elephants. The late Ven. Pallegama Rewatha Thera had the Pariwara Bo trees (accompanying Bo trees) planted to disguise the Bodhi to pd and protect it from weather-related dangers like high winds and heavy rains.

Before beginning any major project, all Sri Lankan heads of state have traditionally sought Sri Maha Bodhi’s approval.

Ruwanweliseya
Many Buddhists around the world revere the Ruwanwelisaya stupa in Sri Lanka because of its remarkable architecture. After defeating the Chola king Elara in battle, King Dutugemunu ascended to the throne of Sri Lanka and commissioned this structure as a symbol of his newfound might. Swarnamali Chaitya, Suvarnamali Mahaceti (in Pali), and Rathnamali Dagaba are some of their other names. Also, King Dutugemunu did not live to see the completion of the dagoba, but it is possible that a fake bamboo and cloth finish was placed around the structure to show the king his ‘finished’ masterpiece as he lay on his deathbed.

Damaged by invading Indian forces, it now stands at a much shorter 55m; its shape is also different from the original ‘bubble’ design. Popular belief has it that a limestone figure located south of the big dageba depicts King Dutugemunu.

Thuparama
There is a dageba named Thuparamaya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is a revered holy site for Buddhists. King Ashoka personally dispatched an emissary named Thera Mahinda to bring Buddhism and Chaitya worship to Sri Lanka. Thuparamaya, where the Buddha’s collarbone is kept, was constructed at the king’s request. The construction of this dagoba is often credited as the first sign of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. This structure has the distinction of being Sri Lanka’s oldest documented monument. The word “stupa” means “monastery,” while “aramaya” means “monks’ residence.”

If not the oldest dageba in the world, Thuparama dageba is certainly the oldest one that can be seen today. It was built by Devanampiya Tissa in the third century BC, and it is believed to hold the Buddha’s right collarbone. In 1862, it was renovated into a more standard bell shape and raised to a height of 19 m from its original ‘heap-of-paddy-rice’ form.

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the dageba is the vatadage that surrounds it in four concentric circles of slim, capital-topped pillars. According to carvings on the dageba pediments, just 41 of the original 176 pillars are still in place. Some Sri Lankan academics maintain that they held up a conical timber roof in the past, however, there is no archaeological evidence to corroborate this claim and no precedent for it in South India, where dagobas served as the inspiration for nearly all Sinhalese dagebas.

Lovamahapaya
Located between Ruvanveliseya and Sri Mahabodiya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s old city, is a structure known as Lovamahapaya. The ceiling of this structure was tiled with bronze, which led to it being known as the Brazen Palace or Lohaprasadaya.

More than two thousand years have passed since it was first constructed by King Dutugemunu; yet, it has been rebuilt numerous times, each time with less pomp and circumstance. Archaeological evidence suggests this enormous palace had nine stories and could house up to a thousand monks and attendants, but today just 1600 columns remain.

The current group of pillars, which have been cordoned off, date back to the 12th-century reconstruction ordered by King Parakramabahu.

Temple of Abhayagiri
In the city of Anuradhapura, on the island of Sri Lanka stands the Abhayagiri Dagaba. King Wattagamini Abhaya, also known as King Valagamba, ordered its construction. It’s a major Buddhist pilgrimage site and home to some of the world’s largest ruins. In its past life, not only was it the royal capital, but it was also home to a number of spectacular monasteries with multi-story edifices covered in golden bronze or tiles of burnt clay painted in dazzling colors. Located in the northern part of the city, “Abhayagiri” was the largest of Anuradhapura’s five major viharas and one of seventeen such religious complexes. It had exquisite bathing pools, carved balustrades, and moonstones. Abhayagiri Vihara, also known as Uttara Vihara, was the Northern Monastery’s seat and was centred around the humped dagoba.

The Abhayagiri dageba, constructed in the 1st or 2nd century BC (and sometimes mistaken for the Jetavanarama), was the focal point of a monastery housing five thousand monks. Another theory proposes that a local Jain monk went by the name “Giri,” which translates to “Hill of Protection” or “Fearless Hill.” Chinese traveller Faxian (also spelled Fa Hsien) stopped at the monastery in AD 412, and it turned out to be part of a heretical sect called the “School of the Secret Forest” that studied both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

Multiple reconstructions of the dageba brought it to its final height of 75 meters. There are some unique bas-reliefs there, such as an elephant yanking on a tree trunk near the western stairway. Towards the north, you’ll find a massive slab bearing the imprint of the Buddha, while the steps to the east and west feature unique moonstones fashioned from concentric stone slabs.

Jetawanarama
In the holy city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, a stupa known as the Jetavanaramaya can be seen among the remnants of the once-great Jetavana Monastery. After the fall of Mahavihara, King Mahasena’s son, Meghavanna, picked up where his father left off in building the stupa. It is thought that this relic is a fragment of a sash or belt that the Buddha himself wore.

The Abhayagiri and this structure are both 70 meters tall, but archaeologists believe the original height was above 100 meters. At the time of its construction, it was the world’s third-tallest structure, after the two Egyptian pyramids. According to a British travel handbook from the early 20th century, the brick core of the dageba is large enough to build a wall three meters in height from London to Edinburgh.

Behind it are the ruins of a monastery that housed up to 3,000 monks; one of the still-standing buildings has doorjambs that are more than 8 meters in height, and another is buried 3 meters below the earth. Large doors once opened, revealing a Buddha statue.

mirisawetiya
The Mirisaveti Stupa may be found in Anuradhapura, a historic city on the island of Sri Lanka. The Mirisaveti Stupa was commissioned by King Dutugamunu after he defeated King Elara. Buddha’s relics were placed in the sceptre, and he had left it at Tisawewa before going to take a bath. Returning to the spot where the sceptre had been put after his bath, he found that it had become immovable. Where formerly the sceptre had stood, a stupa now stands. He supposedly also ate a spicy meal from memory without sharing it with the sangha. He constructed the Mirisavetiya Dagaba as a form of self-punishment. 50 acres (20 hectares) roughly describes the size of this plot of land. Even after having been restored by Kings Kasyapa I and Kasyapa V, it fell into disrepair on occasion. The Cultural Triangle Fund’s renovations are what are visible now.

Lankarama
King Valagamba of ancient Sri Lanka constructed the stupa of Lankarama Lankarama near Galhebakada in the city of Anuradhapura. The original design of the stupa is unknown because it was restored at a later date. The remains reveal what appear to be rows of stone pillars, suggesting that a home was once constructed around the stupa (vatadage) to provide protection from the elements. It appears that the circular courtyard of the stupa is elevated by 10 feet (3.0 meters). The stupa has a 45-foot (14-meter) diameter. The circular courtyard measures 1,332 feet (406 m) in circumference.