Mahapali Alms Hall of Anuradhapura Kingdom (අනුරාධපුර මහාපාලි දාන ශාලාව)

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The well with steps at the Mahapali Alms Hall in Anuradhapura
The well with steps at the Mahapali Alms Hall in Anuradhapura
by Alexey Nikeenkov licensed under CC BY-ND 3.0

Anuradhapura kingdom was flourishing from from 4th century BC to beginning of 11th century AD. After the Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in 3rd century BC, this capital became the one of the largest learning centers of Buddhism in the world. Thousands of bikkus lived in Anuradhapura in number of aramic complexes. Providing meals to these thousands of monks was the responsibility of the king and number of Alms Halls belonging to different aramic complexes can be seen scattered all over the sacred city today.

To the north east of royal palace of of king Vijayabahu I, lies a set of ruins which are rarely visited by pilgrims. These ruins believed to be the central palace area of the Anuradhapura kingdom are accessible through a by-road on the Watawandana Road or Sangamitta Road.

Only some of the ruins in this central palace area have been identified. Maha Pali Alms Hall (one of the refectories of Abhayagiriya Monastery), A ruin identified as the Dalada-Ge (House of the Tooth Relic), Gedi-Ge, an image house with a semi domical roof) and another image house almost identical to Gedi-Ge, simply known as Building “A”. All these 4 buildings lie 50 meters of each other.

Massive granite pillars where a massive building stood and a rice trough made of granite lies within these ruins of Mahapali Alms Hall covering over 1/4 acres. This type of troughs are found at Abhayagiri Vihara Alms Hall, Maha Viharaya Alms Hall and at Mihintale Alms Hall. It may be that a copper-made container was kept in the trough for purposes of keeping rice.

The trough used to hold vegetable curries has been destroyed. This refectory has been repaired from time to time by various kings. A large stone slab close to this site built epigraphic record of the 10th century by king Mihindu IV (956-972) to deals with rules and regulations regarding fields belonging to the royal household.

One of the main attractions is the deep well which would have supplied water to the alms hall. Built with granite and bricks, steps are placed around the perimeter of the square well so you can climb down the water.

The Mahapali Hall is believed to be built by king Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BC and had been expanded and supported by many other soverings in the Anuradhapura kingdom


  1. Seneviratna, A., (1994). Ancient Anuradhapura. 1st ed. Colombo: Archaeological Survey Department, Sri Lanka.
  2. Wikramagamage, C., (2004). Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
  3. Silva, R. et al. (2007) History and Archaeology of Sri Lanka Volume II – The Art and Archaeology of Sri Lanka I – . Padukka, Sri Lanka: Central Cultural Fund.

Also See

Map of Mahapali Alms Hall of Abayagiriya Monastery

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Driving Directions to Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura can be reached through many routes from Colombo. The two main routes are through Puttalam (Puttalama) and through Kurunegala. Travelling from Puttalam, you will pass the scenic Wilpattu area. From Kurunegala, there are two main routes to Anuradhapura. The most common route is through Dambulla. The other route is through Galgamuwa. Out of all the routes, the most 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 :203 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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