Sri Lanka is a beautiful tropical island where locals have tended to follow the Buddhist religion throughout the ages. With over two millennia of history in Buddhism, Sri Lanka is what one would call a ‘Buddhist’s Heaven’. Sri Lanka has hundreds of sites with Buddhist temples or Buddhism related architecture, most of which have historical value. Though many are famous both as historical sites and religious sites, there are some gems hidden in plain view and only known to the local. However, well known or unknown the sites the fact remains that all Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka are venerated by Buddhists and respected by the other minor religious sects that make the island their home. The main Buddhist sites of Sri Lanka are notably concentrated in the areas where there were once the capital kingdoms of Sri Lanka, places like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. The comprehensive list of Buddhist sites compiled below is segregated according to those locations, so that a visitor can plan their viewings appropriately
TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH RELIC
In the Central Highlands, almost dead centre in the little island of Sri Lanka lays Kandy City. The crown jewel of the city is the famed Sri Dalada Maligawa, also known as the Temple of the Tooth.
the amazing Adam’s Peak is Sri Lanka’s fourth highest mountain at 2244m and is located 40km northeast of Ratnapura.
Adam’s Peak or the Sri Pada is an important pilgrim site. Buddhist believe the impression on the summit is the footprint of lord Buddha himself.
The Samadhi Statue is a statue situated at Mahamevnāwa Park in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The Buddha is depicted in the position of the Dhyana Mudra, the posture of meditation associated with his first Enlightenment, also called Nirvana.
Polonnaruwa was the second kingdom of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka, after the kingdom of Anuradhapura. Following the older tradition of the kings of the first kingdom, the Polonnaruwa kings too saw fit to leave their footprints in the form of stupas built during their times of reign
Gadaladeniya Temple in Sri Lanka is an old monastery built over a rock in Diggala in the district of Kandy. According to an inscription carved into the walls the temple was built in 1344 AD by King Buwanekabaghu the fourth
Lankatilaka is Buddhist temple of the 14th century in the Hiyarapitiya village, from the Udu Nuwara area of Kandy district in Sri Lanka. This historical temple was built by the Gampola king, King Buwanekabahu the fourth (1341 – 1351AD), in 1344 AD.
Nagadvipa is only about 35 miles from India and the smallest Island in Gulf of Mannar. Merchants have long come here and the surrounding islands to buy the conch shells that are harvested in the warm shallow waters in the Gulf. The conch shell is of course essential for certain Hindu and Buddhist rituals and a particularly perfect specimen of one spiralling to the right can fetch an enormous price.
GOLDEN TEMPLE OF DAMBULLA
the Golden Temple of Dambulla has been the centre of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus alike for 22 centuries. It is Sri Lanka’s most popular historic site. The Cave monastery, home to Buddhist monks is covered with exquisite 2,000 year-old murals depicting the life and times of the Lord Buddha.
Thuparamaya, the oldest Stupa in Sri Lanka built after the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. The Thuparamaya, built by King Devanapiyatissa, enshrines the sacred collar bone of the Buddha. This relic, a gift from India, stands testimony to the cordial relations enjoyed by the then Sri Lanka ruler. The columns around the stupa were a part of the walkway that supported a roof which covered the sacred edifice. .
Mahiyangana According to Mahavamsa, Sivuhelaya (Sri Lanka) was peopled by Sivu-Helayos. The Yakkhas (clan) were living in Mahiyangana at the time. It says that the Buddha held a discussion on Dhamma with them. A Yakkha chieftain named Saman (who is now regarded as a deity) attained Sotapanna (First stage in liberation) after listening to the Buddha’s discourse and requested a token from the Buddha that they could worship in his absence.
Anuradhapura The Ruwanweliseya was built by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century BCE. Since being restored the dome is clear and shines white in the sun. S.M. Burrows of the Ceylon Civil Service wrote in 1885, “Its present height is about 150 feet, with a diameter of 379 feet. It is now being restored by the pious contributions of pilgrims, and the zealous efforts of the Chief Priest.
Buddhists consider that Katharagama Deviyo as one of the guardian deities of Buddhism and the presiding deity of Katharagama temple hallowed by the Buddha. According to Mahavamsa historical chronicle of Sri Lanka, when the Bo sapling of Bodhi Tree, under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment, was brought to the city of Anuradhapura 2,300 years ago, the warriors from Katharagama attended this sacred ceremony
SRI MAHA BODIYA
The Sacred Bo tree; Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka is the oldest living tree in documented history of the world. It is a sapling from the historical Bodhi tree under which Buddha enlightened. It was planted in 288 BCF and is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date. It was brought from Buddhagaya India by the Ven. Sanghamitta Therini, a sister of Arhant Mahinda – who introduced the Teachings of the Buddha to Sri Lanka.
Kelaniya Temple built on the banks of the Kelaniya River is one of the most sacred sites of Sri Lanka. It is believed Buddha together with 500 Arahats (Supremely enlightened beings) visited Kelaniya on the Wesek day of the Buddhist Era 2531 and expounding of the Dhamma, the Buddhist doctrine to the inhabitants of the island. Buddha’s timely visit to the island resulted in quelling an imminent war between two kings named Chulodara and Mahodara over a jewel–encrusted throne.
The Most Visited temple in the city, the Gangaramaya Temple which organizes Sri Lanka’s largest and the most colourful Vesak festival annually, has a history of 120 years. It was established in 1885 by Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera at a time when Buddhist and cultural resurgence were much needed as the country was under the colonial rule.