The Jetavanarama Dagoba - History and Facts | History Hit

The Jetavanarama Dagoba

Anuradhapura, North Central Province, Sri Lanka

The Jetavanarama Dagoba is a vast Buddhist shrine in Anuradhapura built in the 3rd century AD.

Peta Stamper

13 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About The Jetavanarama Dagoba

The Jetavanarama Dagoba is a vast Buddhist shrine, and at the time of building was the third tallest monument in the world. The stupa is located in the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka and is believed to hold part of a sash worn by Buddha.

With its huge dome and reddish-copper hue – accounted for by the millions of burnt bricks used to build it – Jetavanarama Dagoba remains an incredible structure.

The Jetavanarama Dagoba history

When he was consecrated as King in the 3rd century AD, Marsahena of Anuradhapura brought about a campaign against the Orthodox Theravadins sect of Buddhist teaching, who dwelled in the Mahavihara – a large Buddhist monastery. The differences between the two Buddhist cultures escalated into penalties for those aiding monks dwelling in Mahavihara, which was eventually abandoned.

The monks moved to Malaya Rata and Ruhuna, with Mahavihara being pillaged, provoking a rebellion by a minister against King Mahasena who met the rebels with an army. Negotiations were fruitful and the king agreed to build a vihara for the monks to return to, marking the beginning of constructing Jetavanaramaya.

The foundations were laid on bedrock, stamped down by elephant feet, and the dome was built from strong sand bricks. The stupa was then covered in lime plaster. Overall the process took around 15 years to complete and required skillful brick workers, layers and stonemasons.

Until 1909, the colossal stupa was covered in jungle. It was then that Monk Jumbuke Dhammarama gained approval to clear the building. Excavations revealed that Sri Lanka was the primary location for trade activity connecting the Indian rim countries with the Mediterranean and the Far East.

The Jetavanarama Dagoba today

Together with its sister stupa, Ruwanwelisaya, the Jetavanarama Dagoba remains one of the best-preserved monuments to the ancient city of Anuradhapura. The stupa towers over 89 metres, shorter than its original 121 metres, and you can see on stone inscriptions the names of those who contributed to the building effort.

Be aware that you are not allowed to wear shoes around the site and the hot floor heated by the sun means you should take some socks to wear. Viewing the stupa in the early morning or evening will be cooler and at night the structure is lit up spectacularly.

Getting to The Jetavanarama Dagoba

The Jetavanarama Dagoba is located within a large park of Anuradhapura’s sacred sites. There is a grassy car park on site along Watawandana Road. The city train station is a 20 minute walk away, and there are bus stops along the close by A12 along the 1-Apr and 4 routes.

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