Sri Lanka is a popular Buddhist nation in the world, where the Theravada school of Buddhism is being practised. Buddhism is an integral part of every Sri Lanka trip and there is almost no Sri Lanka tour with a visit to a Buddhist temple. If you plan a Sri Lanka heritage tour or a Sri Lanka culture trip, it includes the major cities of Sri Lanka cultural triangle, where there are many temples that are closely connected to Buddhism.
Learn about the country and religion before your Sri Lanka trip
Knowing about Sri Lanka’s history might be very helpful during the Sri Lanka tour. Knowing about the background of Buddhism and its development on the island is very important before visiting the cultural triangle and Buddhist religious places. If you are on a Sri Lanka guided tour, your guide will relate various things about Buddhism, and religious site. Having some knowledge of Buddhism on the island makes it easy for you to understand what your tour guide referring to.
How this article helps you?
This article is about how Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. This article introduces you to the very beginning of this precious religion to the country.
Introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka
“TISSA TISSA” the voice echoed in the ears of mighty King, no one dared to call him by his name because he was the King, and the King was surprised to hear that someone was calling him simply by his name. The king raised his head and carefully directed his eyesight in the direction, where the voice came from, a bald-headed person standing on the nearby huge granite rock, looking at him, the king surprised, he had not seen the stranger before. The foreigner was not alone; he was with another 5 persons, who were standing in a row behind him.
The stranger started to question the King asking, “Tissa what is this tree?” asked the foreigner, “it is a mango tree” was the answer of the King, “are there any other trees in the forest except this mango tree?”, “Yes, there are many other trees in this forest other than this mango tree” answered the King.
Presumably, this had been a part of the first QA in the world, which took place in 3rd century BC in Sri Lanka. The stranger, who questioned the King, was none other than the son of Indian Emperor Ashoka and the King was Devanapmpyatissa, who ruled the island in 3rd century BCE. This had been the first encounter of a Buddhist monk with a Sri Lankan ruler.
The messenger from India
Buddhism was formally introduced to the island of Sri Lanka in 3rd century BCE by Monk Mahinda, who arrived the island from then Buddhist nation India. Monk Mahinda was the messenger sent by Emperor Asoka to Sri Lanka to introduce the valuable teaching of Buddha to the island.
Mihintale Buddhist temple
The Buddhist temple complex of Mihintale is situated on the plateau of the Missaka Mountain. The history of Mihintale and the Missaka mountains goes back to the reign of King Devanampiyatissa, 3rd Century BC. The most important incident that made Mihintale so important was the introduction of Buddhism.
Mihintale is considered to be the cradle of Buddhism and it is visited by thousands of Buddhist every day. Tens of thousands of Buddhist in the island gather to Mihintale on the Full moon day of June in order to commemorate incident that led the introduction of Buddhism.
The monastery complex of Mihintale was initiated by Monk Mahinda, who was sent to Sri Lanka on a Buddhist mission by King Ashoka from India. King Devanampiyatissa met monk Mahinda and his companion who on the plateau, after a lengthy discussion between monk Mahinda and the King, the King was converted to Buddhism. Same time Buddhism became the national religion of the island.
After the introduction of Buddhism monk, Mahinda lived for many years on the island, while helping the King to establish the religion firmly on his soil. On the other hand, King Devanampiyatissa had facilitated all physical requirements to spread the religion and the large monastery complex for the monks in Mihintale.
Visiting Mihintale is not purely a religious affair but also it is an opportunity to experience the rich historical past of Sri Lanka. Mihintale is an off the beaten track tourist spot in Sri Lanka. When the neighbouring historical city of Anuradhapura included in most Sri Lanka road trip packages, Mihintale is left out from most Sri Lanka tour itineraries because it is not a popular tourist hotspot like Anuradhapura.
Mihintale is usually overlooked by travellers due to its popular historical counterparts such as Sigiriya rock, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. If you wish to visit Mihintale, it necessary to ask the local tour operator to include in the tour package as it is not usually part of Sri Lanka tour itinerary.
Visiting Mihintale on a Sri Lanka day trip from Colombo can be a very tedious task as it tucked away more than 200 km from Colombo. Visiting Mihintale from Colombo should be at least a 2 days Sri Lanka trip or 3 days Sri Lanka trip. Both versions of tours have an overnight stay in Anuradhapura. And it can be easily included with many other important tourist places such as Dambulla cave temple, Pidurangal temple, Sigiriya, Anuradhapura and Pinnawala elephant orphanage.
4 Days Sri Lanka essence is a trip starts in Colombo and ends in Colombo. The tour primarily includes the major tourist attractions, therefore it can be best described as a Sri Lanka cultural triangle tour. This 4 days tour does not take you to Mihintale. But it is a highly customizable private tour and Seerendipity make necessary adjustments to accommodate Mihintale in the program, upon the requests.
If you need more information about the 4 days tour, please click “4-Day Essence of Sri Lankan Culture-Private“.
Visiting Mihintael temple what you need to Know
All visitors to these sacred places suppose to dress in a particular manner to uphold their religious values. There is a set of rules that every visitor to religious sites observes while visiting sacred places in Sri Lanka. If you are wondering what these rules are? Check this article “13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE AND TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRESS CODE“.
Important places in Mihintale
Diva Guhawa (Cave of Mahinda)
There are more than 60 granite caves within the borders of the monastery complex, they had been used by the Buddhist monks. There is some writing in some of the caves done in early days with Brahmi-letters.
Pokuna (bathing place)
After the Ambasthala Dagoba towards the western direction of it is the flight of steps which leads to the pond. It was used by the monks who were in the monastery in the early days. The pool was cut into solid rock and it is guarded by mythical five hooded Cobra.
Large spacious hall intended to be used for dining and could accommodate a large number of monks. There are gruel boat and rice boat still in the spacious room that was used in the early days.
Next to the dining hall is the assembly hall of the monastery complex. The building was in square shape and built using a stone pillar. There are four entrances to the building North, East, West and South. The seat in the middle of the building located above the rest of the seats and intended to be used by senior monks.
This place is identified as the place, where the first sermon took place on the island in 3rd century BC. On top of the mountain is the Ardhana gala (invitation stone). Mountain which holds the Aradhanagala is located on the other side of the Dagoba. Mahasaya is one of the main religious attractions of the Monastery that is built in the water bubble shape.