Kantaka Chethiya at Mihintale – කන්ථක චෛත්‍යය

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Kantaka-Chethiya Mihintale

Kantaka Chethiya with the Vahalkada at Mihintale
Photo licensed under CC BY 2.0 by Chamara Sumanapala

Kantaka Chethiya was renovated in 1930’s to the current status. When this stupa was discovered, it has been a just a mound of earth covered by various debris. This has been known as the Kiribadapavu Dagaba, Kiribat Vehera, or Giribhanda during this time. But a stone inscription found close by has identified the original name of this stupa as Kantaka Chethiya.

It is unknown who built this stupa but it is said that the King Lanjatissa (119-109 BC) has built a stone mantel built for this stupa. Therefore we can assume that the stupa was built prior to 119 BC. The present stupa is 425 feet in diameter and is about 40 feet high. This stupa is most popular for one of the most well preserved vahalkada which can be seen today.

Kantaka Chethiya as Seen from Maha Seya Maluwa, Mihintale

Kantaka Chethiya as Seen from Maha Seya Maluwa, Mihintale
Photo licensed under CC BY 2.0 by Chamara Sumanapala

Vahalkada is a special architectural feature which are four projective front pieces on the four sides of the stupa. The southern vahalkada is the best preserved. This gives a excellent example of the design of vahalkada at the very early periods.

The band of ‘Ghana’ figures on top the structure take special place in most buddhist buildings. They are also called ‘Vamana’ figures or ‘Bahirawa’ figures. They are sort of mythical dwarfs in various amusing positions.

In this structure one has a horse head, another bear head, another monkey head, and some are standing on the head. They also carry various musical instruments in their hands. The most significant Ghana figure here is the one with the elephant head who carry no musical instrument. Historian Professor Paranawithana believes that this is the very first form of the God Ghana, a very popular god in Hinduism. This god is now represented by a elephant head and 4 arms.

The paintings on the southern vahalkada also takes a special place in the Sri Lankan History. Except for Sigiriya Frescos, Mihinthale is one of the very few places that frescos belonging to earliest periods can be seen. One such set of paintings was found inside the relic chamber of Giribanda Stupa which is now in the Mihinthale Museum.

The other is the paintings on the southern vahalkada. These are painting of lions but most of them has been faded away. Primarily red and yellow colours has been used for these paintings.

Also See

Map of the Kantaka Chethiya at Mihintale

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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.

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Driving Directions to Kantaka Chethiya at Mihintale

Mihinthalawa 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 Mihintale. 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 Mihintale (A3)

Route 02 from Colombo to Mihintale

Though : Negambo - Chillaw - Puthlam
Distance :211 km
Travel time : 3.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Dambulla
Distance : 213 km
Travel time : 3.5 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps

Route 03 from Colombo to Mihintale

Route from Anuradhapura to Mihintale

Though : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Padeniya - Thambuthegama
Distance :220 km
Travel time : 3.45 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Distance :15 km
Travel time : 40 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map

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