Mahayana Square Stupa of Anuradhapura Abhayagiri Monastery – අභයගිරි භූමියේ සතරැස් ස්තුපය

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One of the two square stupas in the Abhayagiri Monastery which is hidden from the public eye

One of the two square stupas in the Abhayagiri Monastery which is hidden from the public eye
Photo by : Ramakrishna Behera

Square shaped stupa were popular in the ancient past in the countries such as Thailand where Mahayana Buddhism was popular. Although Sri Lanka was predominantly an Theravada Buddhist country throughout the history, Mahayana Buddhism was spread in pockets but never took permanent root. There are 4 known square shaped stupa’s in Sri Lanka. The most popular and the 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 stupa’s is Nakha Vehera. The other 2 belongs to the Abhayagiriya Monastic Complex.  One is Prasada stupa which lies north to 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 in to two sides halfway. An Siri Pathul Gala can be found by the right side of the stairs. The stupa has been restored upto about 3 meters. During conservation of the stupa, a lead plaque belonging to 7th to 9th centuries bearing Mahayana Manthra was discovered deposited in outer wall of the shrine.

The lead plaque was deposited in an 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 was rolled and then bent in to two to fit in to the pot. Various mantha and designs had been etched on both sides.

It has been found that such manthra sheets were enshrined in Mahayana stupas for the protection from harms 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 shows the extent of  influence of Mahayana Buddhism had in Sri Lanka during the late Anuradhapura period.

The lead plaque found at the Kapara Mula Mahayana Stupa at the Abhayagiri Monastery

The lead plaque found at the Kapara Mula Mahayana Stupa at the Abhayagiri Monastery

Sources

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

Also See

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


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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 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

Though : 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

Though : Ambepussa - Kurunegala - Padeniya - Thambuthegama
distance from colombo :213 km
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Katugastota - Matale - Dambulla
distance from Colombo :139 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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