Lahugala Neelagiri Maha Seya (ලාහුගල නීලගිරි මහා සෑය)

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Neelagiri Seya  (Nilagiri Seya) is the largest Buddhist stupa in the Eastern Province. The stupa, located in the Lahugala Forest Reserve has been neglected for over 1200 years. It has been inaccessible 30 years since 1980 due to the LTTE Terrorist activities in the area. The stupa is believed to have been built by King Kawantissa (3rd century BCE) or King Bhatikabaya (20 BCE-9 CE) and has been renovated in the 7th century.

This colossal stupa has a circumference of 600 feet (182 meters) and is 72 feet (22.6 meters) high in current status (Somadeva, 2011). This has been called “Uttara Seevali Pabbata Viharaya’ in the ancient times. Attempts have been made to restore the stupa during the 1979 – 1984 period but due to the Tamil terrorist activity in the area, it has been abandoned.

After the terrorists were crushed, the restoration of this stupa was initiated again in 2011. During this work, two previously unknown inscriptions have been found. One belongs to the 1st century which describes a donation by the Maharaajinee Chula Sivalee Queen (මහාරාජිනී චූල සිවලී දේවි), daughter of the King Bhatikabaya (20 BC-9 AC).

Bhatikabaya also was the regional king in the Ruhuna when Kutakanna Tissa (42-20 BC) was ruling the country. It is believed that Chula Sivalee Queen is the same queen who ruled the country for a few months in 34 AC.

The second inscription states about the donations made by King Jettatissa. This should be Jettatissa I (266-276) or Jettatissa II (331-340). However, the palaeography of this inscription is more favourable to assign it to the period of the former king. This inscription helps us to understand the period of continuation of the monastery at least for two and half centuries after its construction (Somadeva, 2011).

Both inscriptions mentioned above refer to a monastery named Uttara Seevali Pabbata Vihara as the recipient of the donations. The two names Chula Seevali (the donor) and Uttara Seevali (the recipient institution) appearing in the text may permit one to make a comparison on linguistic ground. Perhaps the Viceroy Bhatikatissa gave his daughter’s name to the monastery as a token of his power held in the territory of Ruhuna during the period (Somadeva, 2011).

During excavations, the teams found remains of an ancient aramic complex including small stupa structures surrounding the main stupa. When these were examined, it was found that most were bubble-shaped (Bubulakara) or Paddy Heap-shaped (Dhanyakara) designs. The present Neelagiri stupa is only about one-third of its complete height according to the studies of the archaeologists. Due to destriction, the shape of this stupa cannot be assessed. However, based on the above discoveries of other smaller stupa Neelagiri Seya could have taken the shape of a Bubble or Paddy Heap. Therefore, in the suggested restoration design, the height was compared with Mirisawetiya (bubble shape) and Jethavana stupa (paddy-heap shape) stupas according to the diameter of the Neelagiri stupa and its shape (Wijerathna, Ranasinghe and Karunananda, 2019).

The ruins of this stupa is spread across 36 hectares (89 acres). They have also exposed and recovered a golden casket in a stupa among many items found from the excavations. In addition to the stupa, you will find a large number of artefacts of the ancient temple complex which stood here thousands of years ago.  An old stone quarry, a chapter house, many conical holes, 3 Inscriptions, two drip-ledged caves and remnants of a small stupa on a rock are found in the northeastern sector of the monastery.

Neelagiri Maha Seya
first rock inscription found during excavations
image source :


  1. Somadeva, R., 2011. The Archaeological Survey in Neelagiri seya Area in Lahugala of Ampara District – Interim Report. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology.
  2. Wijerathna, W., Ranasinghe, R. and Karunananda, P., 2019. Structural Assessment and Restoration of Neelagiri Maha Seya in Ampara, Sri Lanka. OUSL Journal, [online] 13(2), pp.101–123. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 April 2022].
  3. 2021. Neelagiriseya – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 5 April 2022].

Also See

Map of Lahugala Neelagiri Maha Seya

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

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Travel Directions to Lahugala Neelagiri Maha Seya

There is a newly concreted road to the right at the 305 km post on the Monaragala – Pottuvil main road. This road goes across road Elakatuwa paddy fields and over the newly built bridge over Hada Oya and ends and the stupa. However, during rain in upstream areas, this bridge goes underwater. sometimes reaching up to about 3 feet. Not even tractors can cross this bridge during these times. However, water levels recede fast in Heda Oaya enabling vehicle traffic within a few hours after rain.

Route from Colombo to Neelagiri Seya
Through : Ratnapura – Balangoda – Beragala – Wellawaya – Buttala – Monaragala – Siyambalanduwa
Distance : 311 km
Travel time : 7 hours.
Driving directions : see on Google map


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2 thoughts on “Lahugala Neelagiri Maha Seya (ලාහුගල නීලගිරි මහා සෑය)

  1. L.K.K.Anandathilaka says:

    Please Support to Rebuild Neelagi seya
    Contact Sri Lanka Air Force 0714180880

  2. Great Work. Thank you

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