Sacred to Buddhists all over the world, the Ruwanweliseya is an ancient stupa, built by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century BC, soon after he united the whole of Sri Lanka under one kingdom.
The History of the Ruwanweliseya
According to legend, the site for the stupa was chosen by the king after he found a rock inscription by Arahath Mahinda, which stated that it was the place where in time to come a great king would establish a beautiful stupa to enshrine sacred relics of the Buddha.
The Ruwanweliseya is located next to the Sri Maha Bodhiya, within the Mahamewna Uyana. Its construction is recorded in great detail in the historic chronicles the Mahavamsa and the Thupavamsa. The materials required to build the great stupa are said to have appeared miraculously from various parts of the island, and many craftsmen and artists were involved in its construction. The king is believed to have enshrined relics of the Buddha within the bubble shaped stupa during a grand ceremony.
The king was committed to completing the building of the stupa during his lifetime, but this was not to be as he fell ill. Wishing to fulfill his older brother’s dream, Prince Saddhatissa covered the unfinished sections of the stupa in white cloth and ordered the craftsmen to make it appear to have been completed. Thus, King Dutugemunu died believing the Ruwanweliseya was complete. King Saddhatissa completed the construction of the stupa during his reign, and his successors maintained it in the years to come, until it finally fell into disrepair once the kingdoms moved south.
What You See Today
The ancient stupa was rediscovered by a monk, Venerable Naranvita Sumanasara Thero, in the latter part of the 19th century, and he initiated a restoration project which steadily garnered the support of locals as well as the British. The restored Ruwanweliseya was unveiled to the public 67 years after the work was initiated. Today, it stands tall and majestic, and is one of the most visited sites by Sri Lankan Buddhist pilgrims. A statue in the courtyard is believed to be of King Dututgemunu, forever watching over his greatest construction. The area surrounding the Ruwanweliseya contains a large number of brick and granite ruins that are also worth exploring.
❂ Useful Tips:
- The best time to visit the Ruwanweliseya is in the early morning or evening.
- It can get rather hot during the day, so it is best to carry a bottle of water with you.
- You are required to dress respectfully when you visit the site. The general rule is that shoulders and legs should be covered.