Damila Maha Seya / Demala Maha Seya (දෙමල මහා සෑය)

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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 that the Tamils had destroyed during their past invasions and rebuild the dilapidated Ruwanweli Seya Maha Stupa of Anuradhapura. Mahavansa then goes on to say that he built a great stupa, 1300 cubits in size,  not second to any other which they called Demala Seya since it was built using Tamil labor.

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 King Parakramabahu wanted this monument to be seen from India, thus he 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 archaeological report of 1905 recognized this mistake and stated the real Demala Maha Seya as described in the Mahawansa is was 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 because 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 a vehicle may not be able to 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 at a later date. It is possible to climb up to the smaller stupa too and have a breathtaking view of the entire area.


  1. මහාවංශය (සිංහල). 76-78 paragraphs.

Also See

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

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)

The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Driving Directions to Polonnaruwa Sacred City

The modern town of Polonnaruwa is also known as New Town, and the other part of Polonnaruwa remains the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa.

Route from Colombo to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Kandy to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Through: Central Highway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo: 230 km
Travel Time: 4.45 hours
Driving Directions: See on Google map
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time: 2 hours
Driving Directions: see on Google map
Route from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Batticaloa to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time: 2 hours
Driving Directions: See on Google map
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time : 2 hours
Driving Directions: see on Google map

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