Anuradhapura Mirisawetiya Dagaba (අනුරාධපුර මිරිසවැටිය දාගැබ)

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Mirisawetiya Stupa after restoration
Mirisawetiya Stupa after restoration

Mirisawetiya Dagaba was built by King Dutugamunu (161-137 BCE) and this belongs to the Mahavihara Complex. King Dutugamunu was the great king who defeated the Tamil invaders who ruled the country for 30 years and brought the country under one ruler in the 1st century BCE.

On the seventh day of the re-establishment of Anuradhapura as the Capital of Lanka after defeating Elara, the Indian invader who ruled Anuradhapura for 55 years, the King proceeded to the Tissa Wewa followed by a state retinue to celebrate an aquatic festival maintaining a custom observed by his predecessors. King’s attire and his imperial sceptre (kunta) which had a sacred relic of Buddha inside, were kept at a place close to the Tissa Wewa. When he returned to his surprise the sceptre was it was stuck to the ground and no one could retrieve it. So the king seeing this miracle decided to erect a stupa on that spot to enshrine the sceptre itself.

The stupa and the surrounding buildings were completed in 3 years and he held an inauguration ceremony for thousands of monks who had assembled from Sri Lanka as well as from India. This festival was held for 7 continuous days. Misriweti Stupa is the first of the great stupas to be erected.

Mahavamsa, the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, describes the building of Mirisavetiya (chapter XXVI – verses 7-24) as follows ;

When the week of the festival of kingship was gone by the fearless king Abhaya,1 who had carried out the consecration with great pomp, went to the Tissa-tank, which was adorned according to the festival custom, to hold festival plays there and to observe the tradition of crowned kings.

All that had been made ready for the king and hundreds of offerings did they place on the spot where the Maricavattivihara (afterwards stood). There in the very place where the thupa (afterwards) stood the king’s people who carried the spear planted the splendid spear with the relic. When the king had disported himself in the water the whole day through, together with the women of the harem, he said, in the evening: ‘We will go hence; carry the spear before us.’

And the people entrusted with (this duty) could not move the spear from its place, and the king’s soldiers came together and brought offerings of perfumes and flowers. When the king saw this great miracle, glad at heart he appointed sentinels there, and after he had returned forthwith into the city he built a chaitya in such wise that it enclosed the spear and founded a vihara that enclosed the thupa.

In three years the vihara was finished and the ruler of men called the brotherhood together to hold the festival (on the consecration) of the monastery. A hundred thousand bhikkhus and ninety thousand bhikkhunis were gathered together 16 there. Then in this assembly, the king spoke thus to the brotherhood: ‘ Without a thought of the brotherhood, venerable sirs, I ate pepper in the pod. Thinking: This shall be my act of expiation, I have built the pleasant Maricavatti vihara, together with the chaitya. May the brotherhood accept it !. With these words, he poured forth the (ceremonial) water of a gift and piously gave the monastery to the brotherhood.

When he had set up a great and beautiful hall in the vihara and round about it, he commanded that lavish gifts should be given there to the brotherhood. The hall was so planned that stakes were set even in the water of the Abhaya tank, what need of further words to speak of the remaining space (covered)?

When the ruler of men had given food, drink and so forth, for a week, he offered as a gift the whole of the costly necessaries for samanas. These necessaries began with a cost of a hundred thousand (kahapanas) and ended with a cost of 23 a thousand. All this did the brotherhood receive. The money that was spent there in gratitude by the wise king, who was a hero in battle as in largess, whose pure heart was filled with faith in the Three Gems, who desired to raise the (Buddha’s) doctrine to glory, (that was spent) to honour the Three Gems, beginning with the building of the stupa and ending with the festival of the vihara, (all this money), leaving aside the rest of the priceless (gifts), is reckoned as but one less than twenty kotis.

It is said that he called this dagoba “Mirisavatiya” because the king forgot to present a food made out of chilli (miris) to the Buddhist priests before he consumed it. It was the practice of the king to present a portion of all the food which is cooked in this castle to the priests before he consumed it.

King Gajabahu I (113-134 AD) caused a new coating to be spread on the Mirisavatiya stupa and Mukanga, minister of the king Voharika Tissa (214-236 AD) surrounded it with a wall or, more probably, re-built a previous boundary wall which had fallen down. The little that is further recorded of the building relates principally to repairs, and to minor additions and improvements, of which no details are given. It is, therefore, of no particular interest (Smither and Wikramagamage, 1993).

The stupa has several times been plundered and defaced by the Malabar invaders, and as often reinstated by the followers of Buddha. In the twelfth century, it was thoroughly repaired by the great king Parakramabahu I (1153-1186) but less than half a century later it was completely ruined by the Malabars and does not appear to have been again restored (Smither and Wikramagamage, 1993).

The circumference of this massive stupa is 160 meters. The Salapathala Maluwa surrounding the stupa is paved with slabs of rock. This is a square with a length of 85 meters on one side. There had been four entrances on the east and west, south and north, whose traces are still to be found in the beautiful stone steps. Around the Salapathala Maluwa is the Weli Maluwa, the sand compound around the stupa. This is where possessions were held.

The stupa consists of some of the unique and well-preserved Vahalkadas’ found. These are known as frontispiece in English and are structures constructed joining a stupa at its four cardinal directions as a decorative flourish. Later, these frontispieces came to be decorated or embellished with designs such as the creeper designs. Stone slabs erected for the purpose of offering flowers at the stupa too have been added to these frontispieces

It was reported by Bell in 1890 and Burrows in 1894 that the whole stupa was being elaborately restored using prison labour under the direction of the public works department at the expense of a Siamese prince but no further information is provided. The Dagaba was restored in the 1980s but the whole construction collapsed in 1987. This also destroyed one of the best Vahalkada structures of the Anuradhapura Era. The Dagaba you see now was completed in 1993 and encloses the remains of the original Dagaba and has lost all historic features of the original. The present dagoba is 192 feet (59 meters) in height and 141 (43 meters) feet in diameter.

Thus this site lies on the 10th position of Solosmasthana, The Sixteen Buddhist Sacred Sites hollowed by Buddha, and also one of Atamasthana, one of the eight most sacred holy sites of Anuradhapura.

References

  1. B.W. Harischandra, 1908. The Sacred City of Anuradhapura. With Forty-six Illustrations. 1st ed. Colombo: Brahmachari Walisingha Harischandra.
  2. H.E. Weerasooriya, 1939. Historical guide to Anuradhapura’s ruins. Colombo: W.E. Bastian.
  3. Burrows, S., 1894. The buried cities of Ceylon : A Guidebook for Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa with Chapters on Dambulla, Kalawewa, Mihintale and Sigiri. 2nd ed. Colombo: J. Ferguson, pp.65-67.
  4. Bell, H., 1904. Archaeological survey of Ceylon – North-Central Province – Anual Report 1890. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Gerorge J. A. Skeen. p.03
  5. Seneviratna, A., 1994. Ancient Anuradhapura. 1st ed. Colombo: Archaeological Survey Department, Sri Lanka.
  6. Mah|can|cama and Geiger, W., 1912. The Mahavamsa or the great chronicle of Ceylon. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press. pp 179-181.
  7. Smither, J. and Wikramagamage, C., 1993. Architectural Remains, Anurádhapura, Ceylon; comprising the dágabas and certain other ancient ruined structures. Measured, drawn and described by J.G. Smither. 2nd ed. (revised) Colombo: Academy of Sri Lankan Culture, pp.25-29

Also See

Map of Mirisawetiya Dagaba

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

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Bus

Anuradhapura is easily reached by bus, train or private transport. Air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses start at the Colombo Fort Main Bus Station. There are luxury busses which start from various places in Colomb travelling past Anuradhapura, to Vavuniya and Jaffna. However, you need to search the web and book a seat. These luxury buses mostly travel at night reaching their final destination early in the morning.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Train

5 daily trains are starting from Fort Railway Station to Anuradhapura. Generally, the first train leaves at 9.40 am and the last train at 8.30 pm. Travel time is 4-5 hours depending on the number of stops of the particular train.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Car or Van

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. There are two main routes to Anuradhapura from Kurunegala. 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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