Ruwanweli Maha Seya – රුවන්වැලි මහා සෑය

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Ruwanweli Seya Stupa during the night
Ruwanweli Seya Stupa during the night

Ruwanweli maha Seya was built by the great king Dutugamunu who reigned from 137BC to 119BC from Anuradhapura. Next to Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweli Seya temple is the most venerated Buddhist site in Anuradhapura.

After the defeat of Elara, the South Indian invader and bringing the whole country under one rule by the great warrior king Dutugemunu, building of Ruwanweli Seya has been given the most prominence in most ancient texts in Sri Lanka.


The original stupa has been about 180 feet (55 meters) in height and had been expanded and renovated by many kings thereafter. The stupa is 350 feet (107 metres) in height and 300 feet (92 meters) in diameter today.

After building the Lohamahaprasada, the seven storied building and donating it to the priesthood, he started building the largest brick structure the world had ever seen at the time. The location of the stupa was already selected by the great Mahinda Thero and king Devanampiyatissa had planted a huge stone pillar at the location. The king removed this pillar and started to built the stupa. The pillar was moved to the northern side of the stupa. This pillar can be seen even today where king Dutugemunu placed it. It is 22 feet in height and 12 feet in circumference.

According to Mahavamsa, the great chronicle of Sri Lanka,  the preparation for the foundation for the stupa is described as follows;

….The ruler had the site of the stupa dug to the depth of seven cubits (about 17 ½ feet) …….round stones brought by warriors and had them broken by small hammers , then for the sake of firmness of the site he had the crushed stones stamped by elephants with feet covered in leather. He had butter clay laid over the stones and bricks over the clay. …. Rough plaster over it, quarts over that, a network of iron over that, and above that fragrant “marumba”.

The king had crystal spread over that and over the crystal stones. Everywhere in the work was the clay called butter clay with the resin of wood apple mixed with mercury. A bronze plate, eight finger breadths thick was laid over the stones. A silver plate seven finger breadths thick was laid over it with arsenic mixed in the oil of sesame.

Mahavamsa – The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka

King Dutugamunu didn’t live to see the completion of this massive stupa. When the king fell ill, he sent his brother to complete the work of the stupa. On King Dutugamunu’s death bed he wanted to see this stupa and his brother covered the whole dome in white cloth and constructed the upper portion of the stupa in bamboo and painter it in imitation gold and carried the king to the stupa to show the “competed” stupa.

At this site, he was happy to see Therapuththabhaya Thero, one of the 10 warriors in Dutugemunu’s army who took up robes after defeating Elara and uniting the country under one king. He spoke to him and said “In times past supported by you, one of my ten warriors, I engaged in war against those who had usurped the country; now single-handed I have begun my struggle with death. I will not be able to overcome this antagonist.

The Thera replied in this manner: “Great King, compose yourself. Without subduing the dominion of the foe-sin-the power of the foe-death-is invincible. For, it has been declared by our Lord the Tathagata that all what is launched into the world that is transitory will most assuredly perish; therefore everything is perishable. This principle of dissolution exerts its power even over the Buddha Call to your recollection the many acts of piety and charity performed by you.

The king received much consolation from this statement and asked his ministers to bury his body at a suitable spot within the yard of the Uposatha hall within sight of the Ruwanweli Seya. Then he spoke to his brother Saddhatissa for the last time

“My beloved Tissa, do thou complete in the most elaborate and perfect manner all the remaining work at the great Dagaba ; hold flower-offerings morning and evening daily at this Shrine; keep up three times a day the sacred service with the full band of musicians at the Shrine. Whatever may have been the offerings and duties prescribed by me to be made on account of the noble Religion of the Tathagata, do thou, my child, keep up the same without any diminution.”

Had he passed away. After the kings death the Saddhatissa finished the spire, plastered the whole structure and pained it. He also built a wall around Salapathala Maluwa decorated with 400 elephants, 100 on each side.

Around this stupa you will also see statues made out of granite of King Dutugamunu, Queen Vihara Mahadevi (Mother of king Dutugamunu) and King Bhathika Tissa (140-164). King Bhathika Tissa has covered the stupa from the pedestal ledge to the top of the pinnacle with fragranced garlands. At one occasion, he had pained the whole stupa with vermilion and made t look like a bouquet of flowers. At another instance he had covered the stupa with flowers and water from Abhaya Wewa has been pulled to the top using machinery means and watered the flowers from the top.

The last time it was repaired in the recorded history is by king Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186) over 800 years before.

Photos before restoration from


  • B.W. Harischandra, 1908. The Sacred City of Anuradhapura. With Forty-six Illustrations. Colombo.

Also See

Map of Ruwanweliseya Stupa

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Driving Directions to Ruwanweli Maha Seya (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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