The Ruwanwelisaya is a stupa in Sri Lanka, considered a marvel for its architectural qualities and sacred to many Buddhists all over the world. It was built by King Dutugemunu, who became lord of all Sri Lanka after a war in which the Chola King Elara, was defeated. It is also known as Mahathupa, Swarnamali Chaitya and Rathnamali Dagaba.

The stupa is also one of the Solosmasthana (the 16 places of veneration) and the Atamasthana (the 8 places of veneration in the ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura). The stupa is one of the world's tallest monuments, standing at 300 ft (92 m) and with a circumference of 950 ft (292 m).


The ancient texts recount the following:

  • From the bank of the river Gambhīra, situated a yojana (a distance measure) to the north of Anuradhapura bricks were acquired;
  • From the village Avuruvini, situated three yojanas to the north-east, nuggets of gold were acquired;
  • From the village Tambapittha, situated seven yojanas to the east, copper were acquired;
  • From the village Samanveve, situated four yojanas to the south-east, gems were acquired;
  • From the rock-cave Ridi, situated eight yojanas to the south, silver were acquired;
  • From the small town Uruvel, situated five yojanas to the west, pearls and corals to the size of myrobalan (nelli) fruits were acquired;
  • From the village Pelavapi, situated seven yojanas to the north-east, four large gems were acquired.

The full moon day

King Dutugemunu began the work of building the stupa during Vesak, on the full-moon day of the month of Vesakha (April-May), under the constellation of Visakha. In Buddhism this is considered a sacred full-moon day on which numerous events occurred, such as:

  • The definite declaration by Buddha Dīpankara to the ascetic Sumedha Bodhisatta Gotama in a past life) that he will become a Buddha;
  • The birth of Bodhisatta Gotama from Tusita heaven in the human world;
  • His arrival in the city of Kapilavatthu;
  • His performance of the Twin Miracle;
  • His arrival in Sri Lanka three times;
  • his passing into Parinibbāna;
  • the disembarcation of Prince Vijaya in Sri Lanka
  • the coronation of the great king Devānampiya-Tissa


On such a full-moon day King Dutugemunu had the inscribed stone pillar that was erected by King Devanampiya Tissa, removed;

  • had the site leveled;
  • had it dug to a depth of seven cubits;
  • had round stones spread there by warriors;
  • and had the stones broken with hammers;
  • then he had them stamped down by elephants;
  • fine clay was brought from the Himalayas by Arahant novices, spread over the layer of stones;
  • had bricks laid over the fine clay, rough plaster over the bricks, quartz over the rough plaster, a network of iron over the quartz, fragrant clay over the network of iron, white stones over the fragrant clay, rock-crystal over the white stones, and slabs of stones over the rock-crystal.
  • Then he had mercury, resin of the wood-apple, and fine clay mixed together; had these spread over the slabs of stones; and had bronze sheets eight inches thick laid over these.
  • He had arsenic and sesame oil mixed together; had these spread over the bronze sheets; and had silver sheets four inches thick laid over these.

When the king had thus built and completed the foundation of the Great Stupa, he arranged that the foundation stone should be laid on the full-moon day of the month of Āâsàëha (June-July).

He then had Anuradhapura decorated like a divine city along with the terrace of the Great Stupa. Ninety-six koñis of Arahants came by from India. On the full-moon day of the month of Āsāëha, under the constellation of Uttarā-sāëha, he laid the foundation-stone of the Great Stūpa and determined: 'Should the work I carry for this Stupa be completed safely, may then the Venerable Arahants Buddharakkhita, Dhammarakkhita, Saïgharakkhita and Ānanda arrive and stand at the four quarters of the Great Stupa's terrace.'

This happened as he determined. The Arahant Indagutta arranged that it should thus happen. In addition, the Venerable Arahants, Siddhattha, Maïgala, Paduma, Sivalī, Candagutta, Indagutta, Suriyagutta, Cittasena, Jayasena, and Acala looking eastwards arrived and stood in front of the pitcher placed at the gate of this festive occasion. Supatiñhita, the son of Nandisena and Sumana devi, and the minister appointed for the festive ceremonies, walked around the relic-chamber and went and brought a staff made of silver for measuring the circular boundary of the Stupa. When Arahant Siddhattha saw the minister walking thus around the relic-chamber and measuring too large dimensions, he ordered him to measure moderate ones. On hearing the name of Arahant Siddhattha, the names of the eleven other Arahants, and the name of the minister and his parents, king Dutugemunu felt particularly glad, thinking: 'The work on the Stūpa will certainly be successful.'

He then had eight large water pots of gold and eight of silver placed in the midst of the Great Stupa, and had a hundred and eight vases placed around the large water pots. He had, likewise, eight bricks of gold placed in eight corners and a hundred and eight bricks of silver around each of the bricks of gold.

The Stupa is blessed

Arahant Cittasena placed a lump of fragrant resin in the east side upon the boundary line drawn around the Great Stūpa. Arahant Jayasena sprinkled scented water over it, and when, under the constellation of Uttarāsāëha, Supatiññhita, the minister for the festive ceremonies, placed bricks of gold together with lavish offerings over the scented water.

It is said that: the earth, all of two hundred seventy thousand yojanas, roared and quaked at that time.

He had through his sons, similarly, placed bricks of gold in the other seven sides of the Great Stupa. Afterwards, king Dutugemunu and the people there honoured with gifts the Arahants who were seated at the four quarters, and took themselves seats to hear a Dhamma talk delivered that day by the great Arahant Piyadassī.

Having heard it, forty thousand people became Arahants, forty thousand were established in the fruit of stream-entry (sotāpatti-phala), a thousand became once-returners (sakadāgamis), and a thousand became non-returners (anāgamis). Eighteen thousand monks and fourteen thousand nuns became Arahants.

Buddha's Relic

After The Buddha's Parinibbāna, His relics were enshrined and worshipped in stupas by Princes of eight countries two quarts in each country. The two quarts of relics that were enshrined in the village Rāmagāma were, according to The Buddha's determination, destined to be enshrined in the Great Stūpa Ruvanveli.King Dutugemunu who, on the full-moon day of the month of Āsāëha (June-July), under the constellation of Uttarāsāëha, would officiate in the ceremony for the enshrining of the relics in the Great Stūpa, worshipped the Sangha (Order of monks) on the day before the full-moon day, reminded them that tomorrow is the appointed day for the enshrining of the relics and requested them to give him the relics. The Saïgha ordered then the novice Arahant Soõuttara, who was gifted with the six supernormal faculties, to bring the relics, which Arahant Soõuttara manages to bring and offer to the Sangha.

Then king Dutugemunu received from the Sangha the Buddha's relics upon his head in a casket and departed from the golden pavilion in the midst of manifold offerings and honours made by gods and Brahmas. He circumambulated the relic-chamber three times, entered to it from the east, and when laid the relic-casket on a silver couch one koñi worth, that was arranged in the north side. An image of the Buddha was then, according to the Buddha's determination, created in the lion's reclining posture (sīhaseyya), and all the relics were enshrined within that image. When the enshrining of the relics in the Great Stūpa Ruvanveli was completed, the two novices Uttara and Sumana closed the relic-chamber with the stone-blocks that were previously hidden to be used as a lid.

"The relic-chamber shall not shake even by an earthquake; flowers such as jasmine that were offered on that day shall not wither till the end of Buddha Gotama's Dispensation; the lamps that were kindled with ghee-oil shall not be extinguished; the clay that was mixed with perfume and sandalwood shall not dry; even a single scratch shall not appear within the relic-chamber; stains shall not appear in any of the golden goods that were offered.' All this occurred by the determination-power of all Arahants present. They determined also that inimical persons should not be able to even see the relic-chamber. Furthermore, by order of king Dutugemunu, the people of Srī Lanka enshrined, along with many other objects such as golden and silver caskets, thousand more of the Buddha's relics over the relic-chamber."

The Great Stupa is constructed

When the unique Great Stūpa Ruvanveli was completed as far as the square turret 10, and while ninety-six koñis of Arahants were chanting protective suttas, the great king Dutugemunu who reigned in Srī Lanka for twenty-four years, had his record of meritorious deeds read and, while looking at the Great Stūpa, he died and was born as a divine king in the Tusita-heaven. His brother, the king Saddhatissa, completed the remaining work at the Great Stūpa and later was also born in the Tusita-heaven.

The Great King

During the Dispensation of the future Buddha Metteyya, king Dutugemunu will become the Buddha's chief disciple on His right side. King Saddhātissa will become the chief disciple on His left side. Kāvantissa and Vihāra Mahā- Devī will become the parents of the future Buddha Metteyya. Princess Anulā, the younger sister of king Kāvantissa, will become the chief Queen of the Bodhisatta Metteyya. Prince Saliya will become the son of the Bodhisatta Metteyya. Saõgha, king Dutugemu's Chancellor of the Exchequer, will become the chief attendant of the Buddha Metteyya. The Chancellor's daughter will become the chief she-attendant.

External links

Listed in the following categories:
Post a comment
Tips & Hints
Arrange By:
Maduka Jayalath
16 January 2014
One of the best place you can stay calm and relax your mind... You can be proud of Srilanka's great history and ancient technologies.
Tharanga Chandrasekara
My most loved place. Visit here in the evening and sit on some corner and just listen to breeze. It is the perfect medicine for your mind.
Susan Natalia
19 December 2014
We saw a ceremony, very interesting. Great dagoba (stupa).
Chandima Walpita Gamage
There will be four " prarthana gala" (wishing stony foot steps)aroud daagaba...make ur wish by stepping on it.They say ur wish will come true....Theruwan Saranayi !
Glorious Bygone
24 January 2015
To learn more about other historical places similar to Ruwanveliseya, visit
Sameera Malinda
4 May 2013
With the new painting it looks more beautiful. One of the most awesome sights in Sri Lanka.
Load more comments
EnMork and 100,058 more people have been here
0.2km from Abhayawewa Road, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka Get directions
Thu 10:00 AM–Noon
Fri 9:00 AM–1:00 PM
Sat 7:00 AM–11:00 PM
Sun 7:00 AM–9:00 PM
Mon 8:00 AM–2:00 PM
Tue 9:00 AM–Noon

Ruwanvelisaya Temple on Foursquare

Ruwanwelisaya on Facebook

Hotels nearby

See all hotels See all
Rajarata House

starting $17

Hotel Randiya

starting $59

Hotel T And T

starting $10

Jayabima Rest Hotel

starting $18

Pinidiya Resort

starting $20

London Palace

starting $40

Recommended sights nearby

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (Sinhala:ජය ශ්‍රි මහා බොධිය) is a Sacred

Add to wishlist
I've been here

The Jetavanaramaya is a stupa, located in the ruins of Jetavana

Add to wishlist
I've been here

Anuradhapura, (Шаблон:Unicodein Sinhala, Шаблон:Unicode in Tamil), is

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Avukana Buddha statue

The Avukana statue is a standing statue of the Buddha near Kekirawa in

Add to wishlist
I've been here

Sigiriya (Lion's rock) is an ancient rock fortress and palace ruin

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Dambulla cave temple

Dambulla cave temple also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Polonnaruwa Vatadage

The Polonnaruwa Vatadage (Sinhala: පොළොන්නරුව වටදාගේ) is an ancie

Add to wishlist
I've been here

The second most ancient of Sri Lanka's kingdoms, Polonnaruwa

Similar tourist attractions

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here
Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus and Athena Ergane (Greek: Ναός του Ηφαίστ

Add to wishlist
I've been here

Persepolis (Шаблон:Audio Old Persian: Pārsa, Modern Persian: تخت جم

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Temple of Debod

The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple which was rebuilt in

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Temple of Athena Nike

Nike means 'victory' in Greek, and Athena was worshiped in this form,

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Temple of Edfu

The Temple of Edfu is an ancient Egyptian temple located on the west

See all similar places