Atamasthana : The Eight Sacred Sites in Anuradhapura (අටමස්ථාන)

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Anuradhapura, the first capital of the Sri Lanka flourished for almost 1500 years starting form the 4th century BC. In the middle of 3rd Century BC, after 236 years of passing away of Buddha, Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka and from that point onward a great civilization was built upon the teaching of Buddha. Today Anuradhapura is one of the most sacred cities for the Buddhists all over the world and it is filled with Ancient Dagabas, monasteries, palaces, man made water tanks and royal parks.

Atamasthana as per Mahawamsa

Out of these, Atamasthana ( the 8 sacred sites ) are considered the most important places that a Buddhist pilgrim must visit in Anuradhapura. These are the main sites in Anuradhapura that Buddha visited during his 3 visits to Sri Lanka. Mahavamsa, the Great Chronical of Sri Lanka, these places were mentioned by the Mahinda Thera to the King Devanampiya Tissa. After the dedication to the Sangha of the Mahamegha Garden the Maha Thera marked out the eight following spots for the information of the King (Mahavamsa, chapter XV, paras 28- 176).

These were :

  1. Malaka – The place where the rites and ceremonies were performed by the monks. The building erected hereon was named “Malaka,” being situated to the south of the spot where the Theras had lived in the first month in the Mahamegha Garden.
  2. The spot where a pond was formed for the monks to bathe. This spot was situated to the north of the place where the Theras passed the first night.
  3. The site of the sacred Bodhi-tree.
  4. The site of the Uposatha Hall.
  5. The site at which the various offerings made to the priesthood were collectively divided by the assembled monks.
  6. The site where the refectory called the “Chatussala” of the monks was erected.
  7. The site of the Ruwanweli Maha Cetiya.
  8. The site by the side of the Malwatu Oya where the chief Thera had stayed (Harischandra, 1908)

Atamasthana as per Pujavaliya

Pujavaliya, written between 1266-1275 by Mayurapada Thero also speaks of a Atamasthana in Anuradhapura and list them as below; They are described as where the Buddha rested and preached dhamma to the deities.

  1. Dakunu Maha Seya
  2. Sri Maha Bodhi in the center of Mahamevuna Uyana
  3. Lovamahapaya
  4. Pirith-la-geya
  5. Danthadara Pond
  6. Thuparamaya
  7. Ruwanweliseya in Pathasbhoomi
  8. Mahasala Seya in Mihintale

Atamasthana as per the “Atamasthana Committee” of 1871

However Mr. R. W. Ievers in his publication Manual of the North Central Province published in 1899 identifies a completely different set of sites as Atamasthana. This was due the formalizing of a “Atamasthana Committee” in 1871 as the custodians of Atamasthana. This committee compromised of the Head of the Nuwarawewa Family (see here for the history of this family), three Rate Mahathayas and and seventeen Korales of Nuwarakalaviya. The Atamasthanadhipathi (head priest of the Atamasthana) was appointed by the Head of Nuwarawewa family. Nuwarawewa family claims to the Sri Maha Bodhi as direct decedents of those who accompanied the branch of the Sri Maha Bodhi from India as the guardians of the Bodhi tree. Therefore in a unique situation a layman was given the authority to appoint the powerful position of Atamasthanadhipathi. Along with this Ievers lists down the Atamsthana in his book.

  1. Udamaluwa
  2. Jetawauaramaya
  3. Lankaramaya
  4. Abayagiriya,
  5. Sela-chaitya,
  6. Thuparamaya
  7. Miriswetiya,
  8. Lovamahapaya

Noteworthy is the the Great stupa of Ruwanweliseya missing in this list. The source of the list provided by Ievers is not mentioned.

Current Atamasthana in Anuradhapura

  1. Sri Maha Bodhi
  2. Ruwanweliseya
  3. Thuparamaya
  4. Lovamahapaya
  5. Abhayagiriya
  6. Jetavanaramaya
  7. Mirisavetiya
  8. Lankaramaya


  1. Mah|can|cama and Geiger, W., 1912. The Mahavamsa or the great chronicle of Ceylon. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press.
  2. Ievers, R.W., 1899. Chapter II. In Manual of the North-Central Province, ceylon. Colombo: G.J.A. Skeen, Govt. Printer.
  3. B.W. Harischandra, 1908. The Sacred City of Anuradhapura. With Forty-six Illustrations. 1st ed. Colombo: Brahmachari Walisingha Harischandra.
  4. පණ්ඩිත කිරිඇල්ලේ කඥානවිමල හිමි, 1951. මයුරපාද පිරිවෙනාධිපති බුද්ධ පුත්‍රයන් වහන්සේ විසින් රචිත පූජාවලිය, p 756

Driving Directions to Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura can be reached through many routes from Colombo. The two main routes are through Puttalam (Puttalama) and though Kurunegala. Traveling from Puttalam you will pass scenic Wilpattu area. the From Kurunegala there are two main routes to Anuradhapura. The most common route is through Dambulla. The other route is though Galgamuwa. Out of all the routes, the commonly used is the Kurunegala – Dambulla route (Route 2).

Route 01 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura
Through : Negombo – Chilaw – Puttalam
Distance from Colombo :210 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo : 223 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps
Route 03 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute from Kandy to Anuradhapura
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Narammala – Wariyapola – Padeniya – Thambuthegama
Distance from Colombo :2o3 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Katugastota – Matale – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo :136 km
Travel time : 3.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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