Mahayana Square Stupa of Anuradhapura Abhayagiri Monastery (අභයගිරි භූමියේ සතරැස් ස්තුපය)

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Square-shaped stupas were popular in the ancient past in countries such as Thailand where Mahayana Buddhism was popular. Although Sri Lanka was predominantly a Theravada Buddhist country throughout its history, Mahayana Buddhism was spread in pockets but never took permanent root. There are 4 known square-shaped stupas in Sri Lanka. The most popular and well-known is the Sathmahal Prasadaya. The rest of the 3 stupas can be found in the ancient Anuradhapura kingdom which are rarely visited by the pilgrims. The largest of these stupas is Nakha Vehera. The other 2 belong to the Abhayagiriya Monastic Complex.  One is Prasada stupa which lies north of the Eth Pokuna. The other, which is this stupa,  lies west of Eth Pokuna on the western border of the Abhayagiri Monastery in the area identified as the ancient “Vahadu Mula” among many other conserved structures and rarely visited by the average pilgrim.

This stupa is built on a raised platform with a brick wall. The stupa is square in shape with a side length of approx 15m at the base. Steps are built on the western side to climb to the top. These steps split into two sides halfway. A Siri Pathul Gala can be found on the right side of the stairs. The stupa has been restored up to about 3 meters. During the conservation of the stupa, a lead plaque belonging to the 7th to 9th centuries bearing Mahayana Manthra was discovered and deposited in the outer wall of the shrine.

The lead plaque was deposited in a small clay pot which was about 10 cm high. The circumference of the mouth was 11 cm. The plaque was square with 21 cm per side and was rolled and then bent into two to fit into the pot. Various mantras and designs had been etched on both sides.

It has been found that such mantra sheets were enshrined in Mahayana stupas for protection from harm and perils. This is further supported by it being deposited on the edge of the limit of the stupa, the outer wall.

However, these stupas in the Abhayagiri Complex show the extent of the influence of Mahayana Buddhism in Sri Lanka during the late Anuradhapura period.

References

  • අභයගිරිය – ඇස්. බී. හෙට්ටිආරච්චි / ටී ජී. කුලතුංග – ශ්‍රී ලංකා සංස්කෘතික ත්‍රිකෝණය (1992)

Also See

Map of Prasada Stupa (Indikatu Seya) of Anuradhapura Abhayagiri Monastery

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 Prasada Stupa (Indikatu Seya) of Anuradhapura Abhayagiri Monastery

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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