The Ruwanweliseya | Sunday Observer

The Ruwanweliseya

26 May, 2019


The Ruwanweliseya is sited in the Ancient Sinhala capital of Anuradhapura in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. It was built by King Dutugamunu (137 BC – 119 BC) and completed by his younger brother, King Saddhatissa, after his death. The Ruwanweliseya is ranked among the tallest ancient monuments in the world.

Legend has it that King Dutugamunu built the Stupa at a place where he found a rock inscription by Arahath Mahinda. The inscription says “In time to come a great king would establish a great stupa where the stone is established."

The Ruwanweliseya is adjacent to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya in the Mahamevuna Uyana.

It was soon after the war with King Elara that King Dutugamunu started to build the great Stupa. Much money had been spent on the war and times were hard but according to the Mahavamsa the materials needed to build the Stupa miraculously sprang up from all over the island. For example, the Mahavamsa records one such incident thus: "To the westward of the capital, at the distance of five yojanas, at the Uruvelpattana, pearls of the size of “nelli” fruit, together with coral beads, rose to the shores from ocean. Some fishermen seeing these, gathering them into one heap, and taking (some of) the pearls and coral in a dish, and repairing to the king, reported the event to him”.

The Mahavamsa and the Thupavamsa state that the King obtained support from a thousand villages to build the Maha Stupa and that he insisted on paying them.

It is said that King Dutugamunu wished to see the Stupa completed before his death. Knowing that this was impossible, King Saddhatissa quickly covered the incomplete section of the Stupa with white cloth, got artisans and artists to do what was necessary and made it look as if the Stupa was completed.

The ailing King Dutugamunu was brought to the Stupa and he was very happy that the Stupa was completed.

Other names for the Ruwanweli Seya are the Maha Stupa, Swarnamali Chaithiya and Rathanamali Dagoba.

The Ruwanweli Seya has a diameter of 90 metres at the base and is 92 metres (300 ft) high. The circumference is 292 metres (950 ft ) high. The original stupa had been about 55 metres tall (about 180 ft) and many kings had renovated the Stupa.

Like most Sri Lankan Stupas, the Ruwanweliseya has been built like a bubble floating on water (diya bubula).

Some relics of the Buddha are enshrined in it. King Dutugamunu has had a grand ceremony to enshrine the relics. The Thupavamsa describes it in detail.

The whole dagoba is surrounded by a wall sculpted with elephants. According to the great sixth century Sinhala chronicle, the Mahavamsa, each elephant had tusks of real ivory.

The Ruwanweliseya is one of the most venerated Stupas in Sri Lanka. It is included in the Solosmasthana (16 places of worship) and in the Atamasthana (eight places of worship).

By the 19th century the Ruwanweliseya had fallen into ruins. A bhikkhu, Naranvitiye Sumanasara visited the Stupa in 1873 and resolved to restore it to its former glory even by himself. He managed to get support and financial assistance and restored the Stupa.

The Ruwanweliseya Restoration Society was founded in 1902 by the thera and the final pinnacle laying ceremony was held on June 17, 1940. A chuda manikkya (Seinbu crystal) gifted by the Buddhists of Burma was used for this.