Jethawanaramaya of Anuradhapura Kingdom – ජේතවන විහාරය

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Jethavana Stupa in 1994
Jethavana Stupa in 1994

The birth of Jethawanaramaya Monastery

During the reign of king Gothabhaya (253-266 AC) a disagreement took place between the monks of Maha Vihara Monastery and the Abhayagiri Monastery regarding a certain doctrine. The king Gothabhaya took the side of the Maha Vihara and took severe measures against the monks of the Abhayagiri Monastery. During this time the monks of this monastery had to seek sanctuary in India.

One of the disciples of the banished monks called Sangamitta thero decided to avenge the bikkus of Mahavihara. He came back to Sri Lanka and gained the favour of king Gothabhaya (253-266 AC) and was entrusted to teach his two sons prince Mahasena and Prince Jetthatissa. After their father’s death, the elder son prince Jetthatissa who was a supporter of the Mahavihara monks became the king and reigned for 10 years (266-276 AC).

In 276 Mahasena (276-303) succeeded to the throne and the monk Sangamitta immediately came back to the island. He

persuaded the king that the Mahaviharians laxed discipline and the monks of Abhayagiri vihara preached the true doctrine of the Buddha. He also persuaded the king to order prohibition of giving arms to the Mahaviharians and they were forced to retreat to the hills and Rohana.

Then Sangamittha thero persuaded the king to razor the Maha Vihara buildings and use the materials to build up a new rival institute within the boundaries of Maha Vihara itself. This became to known as the Jethawana.

However this act brought a great and disastrous civil war and the monk Sangamitta was killed by the queen of the king. Later the king bowing down to public pressure restored the Maha Vihara buildings and ruled for 27 years.

Jethawanaramaya Stupa

Jethawana Stupa is the largest stupa in the Sri Lanka. It was originally 400 feet (122 meters) in height and was the third tallest building in the world at that time. Even today as a brick monument, Jethawanaramaya still remains the tallest of its kind in the world.

Jethawanaramaya was built by King Mahasena of Anuradhapura (276-303) was completed by his son Sirimeghavanna. It is believed that this monument was built upon the enclosure where Mahinda Maha Thero was cremated. Recent excavation in the stupa has unearthed a one meter thick brick wall adjacent to a layer of ash and charcoal. This is believed to be the chamber where the remains of the great thero rest.

As all other buildings in Anuradhapura this too was subjected to destruction by North Indian Invaders. Then when the Anuradhapura was finally abandoned as the capital in the 11th century this stupa with others were covered by the jungle. King Parakramabahu (12th century) in the Pollonaruwa era again tried to renovate this stupa and it was rebuilt to the current height, a reduction from the original height. Today it stands at 232 feet (71 meters) .

Today this stupa is going through a painful and slow conservation to bring it to its ancient glory. Even today you can see massive trees which have come up on the stupa itself on the sides where reconstruction has not started.

Jethawanaramaya Image House (Patimaghara)

This image house is the largest of its kind found in Anuradhapura or Pollonnaruwa Era. The Entrance to this building is monolithic door which the pillars raise to 27 feet (8.3 metres) . There is proof that a massive Buddha statue once filled this image house. The statue is thought to be 37 feet (11.3 metres) high carved in limestone. Based on the calculations the whole building would have been 50 feet (15.25 metres) high.

This is thought to be built by king Sena 1 (831-833) and has been destroyed by North Indian Colas in the 10th Century. It was rebuilt by later kings during the last stages of the kingdom.

Other Names  : Jethawanaramaya, Jetawanaramaya, Jethawanaya, Jetawanaya, Jethawana Viharaya, Jetawana Viharaya, Jethavanaramaya, Jetavanaramaya, Jethavanaya, Jetavanaya, Jethavana Viharaya, Jetavana Viharaya

Also See

Jethawanaramaya Map

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Driving Directions to Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura can be reached through many routes from Colombo. The two main routes are through Puttlam (Puttalama) and though Kurunegala. Traveling from Puttlam 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 Anuradhapura

Route 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura

Through : Negombo - Chillaw - Puthlam
distance from colombo :213 km
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Dambulla
distance from Colombo : 221 km
Travel time : 3.15 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps

Route 03 from Colombo to Anuradhapura

Route from Kandy to Anuradhapura

Through : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Padeniya - Thambuthegama
distance from colombo :213 km
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Katugastota - Matale - Dambulla
distance from Colombo :139 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map


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