Damila Maha Seya (Demala Maha Seya) දෙමල මහා සෑය

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Demala Maha Seya - Polonnaruwa
The massive pesa walalu of the stupa

Located on the Pollonanruwa ancient city complex, this gigantic uncompleted Stupa known as Damila Maha Seya (Demala Maha Seya) lies between the Gal Viharaya and the Thivanka Pilimage in the ancient capital city of Polonnaruwa, now a protected archaeological area.

Mahavamsa, the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka describes in detail how the king Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186) attacked the Pandya Kingdom in South India and brought back Tamil prisoners of war. He stated that they should be used to rebuild all the stupas  which the Tamils has destroyed during their past invasions  and rebuilt the dilapidated Ruwanweli Seya Maha Stupa of Anuradhapura. Mahavansa then goes on to say that he built a great stupa, 1300 cubit in size,  not second to any other which they called Demala Seya since it was built using the Tamil labour,

For some reason he has been unable to complete this and at a later stage a smaller Stupa has been built upon the uncompleted semi-spherical structure. Some believe that since this was built at two levels it was called “Demahal” (two storied) Seya which later became “Damila” Seya.

If he had been able to complete this Stupa, this would be 186 meters (570 feet) tall and would have been the largest Buddhist monument ever built by man. The circumference of this stupa is massive 650 meters (approx). It is also said that the king Parakramabahu wanted this monument to be seen from India , thus the planed the size accordingly.

During the early 1900’s a different structure was mistakenly identified as the Demala Maha Seya and most of the information regarding this stupa in this era refers to this other structure. What this mislabeled structure is not very clear. However the The archaeological report of 1905 recognize this mistake and states the real Demala Maha Seya as described in the Mahawansa is is called called Unagala Vehera at that time.

The true “Demala Maha Seya – the greatest of all the thupas, one thousand three hundred cubits round about,” constructed by Parakrama Bahu the Great—lies between the brick shrine and the ” GalVihare” Tins immense straggling hillock, forest-covered (known now-a-days as “UnagalaVehera”), except for brickbats strewn about its slopes, affords hardly any indication of its identity save in magnitude and position.  “It was,” says the Mahawansa,  “called the Damila Thupa, because that the Damilas (Tamils) who were brought here from the Pandu country, after it had been conquered, were also employed in the building thereof.”

This area was once cleared and some restorations have been done but abandoned again by the authorities. Since about 2017, restoration of this stupa has again begun and is proceeding very slowly.

Damila Maha Seya (Demala Maha Seya) is rarely visited by the casual pilgrim mainly due the road leading to the stupa is in a highly dilapidated state and nothing much is left to see of the stupa. Only a 4 wheel drive can go on this road and sometimes even such vehicle may not be able go all the way. But the walk is about 50m and worth every step.

Today this massive stupa is only a large hill overgrown with trees. There is no indication of this hill being a stupa other than a part of 3 outer rings ( Pesa Walalu) of about 10m in length. Passing these rings there is a footpath leading to the top of the stupa. The climb is not that easy but worth the effort.

The flattened top of the Damila Maha Seya (Demala Maha Seya) stupa is also overgrown with huge trees and large enough to build a football ground. In the center is the smaller stupa probably built on a later date. It is possible to climb up to the smaller stupa too and have a breathtaking view of the entire area.

References

  1. මහාවංශය (සිංහල). 76-78 paragraphs.
  2. ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OP CEYLON. NORTH-CENTRAL, CENTRAL, AND NORTHERN  PROVINCES. ANNUAL REPORT. 1905. By H. C. p. bell

Also See

Map of Damila Maha Seya (Demala Maha Seya) at Ancient Capital of  Polonnaruwa


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Driving Directions to Polonnaruwa Sacred City

Route from Colombo to Polonnaruwa Sacred City

Route from Kandy to Polonnaruwa Sacred City

Though : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Dambulla
Distance from Colombo :220 km
Travel time : 4.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Matale - Dambulla - Habarana
Distance from Colombo : 145 km
Travel time : 3.0 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps

Route from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa Sacred City

Route from Batticaloa to Polonnaruwa Sacred City

Though : Maradankadawala - Habarana Distance from colombo : 105 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Chenkaladi - Valachchena
Distance from colombo :100 km
Travel time : 1.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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