Thuparamaya - History and Facts | History Hit


Sunatha Camp Junction, North Central Province, Sri Lanka

Thuparamaya is a 3rd century BC Buddhist shrine believed to hold one of Buddha’s relics.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Thuparamaya

Thuparamaya is believed to be the first Buddhist dagoba built in Sri Lanka. Constructed around the 3rd century BC by King Devanampiya Tissa, Thuparamaya is a white domed structure in the ancient city of Anuradhapura also known as the Thuparama Dagoba.

The shrine is most notable for housing one of the relics of Buddha – his right collarbone – making it a pilgrimage site for Buddhists from around the world.

Thuparamaya history

This is the first stupa to be built in the country after the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Located in the sacred area of Mahamewna park, the Thuparamaya Stupa is the earliest Dagoba to be constructed in the island, dating back to the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa (247-207 BC).

A distinctive feature of the famed Thuparamaya is the vatadage: a dome-shaped construction which once held within it the stupa. The name Thuparamaya is said to be derived from the words ‘stupa’ and ‘aramaya’ which denotes a monastic complex for monks.

Out of the estimated 176 pillars that used to stand in a circular pattern around the dagaba, over 30 can still be seen, some retaining the lotus-shaped crown and polished surfaces. A widely recognised element is the two guard stones on either side of the entrance.

Archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of an ancient hospital that had been in existence over 2,000 years ago. Artefacts such as medical equipment and remains of a latrine system have been discovered. Not far from the stupa are the vestiges of an image house and several tanks.

The Thuparamaya also supposedly enshrines the sacred collar bone of the Budha, placed there by King Devanampiya Tissa.

Thuparamaya today

Today visitors can see the Thuparamaya’s distinctive bell shape and rows of stone pillars surrounding the stupa. The temple surroundings show signs of a vatadage that was built around it back in the day.

Over the centuries, the Thuparamaya is recorded to have been demolished by various forces and through natural disasters. It has been renovated many times throughout the years and the last known renovation in history was carried out in the 19th century CE and sees the dagoba with a diameter of 59 feet at its base and at a height of a little over 11 feet.

The Thuparamaya has been officially identified as an archaeological site in Sri Lanka by the country’s government.

Getting to the Thuparamaya

The temple is located in Mahamewna Uyana, in the sacred city of Anuradhapura which is one of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka.

Anuradhapura can be reached through many routes from Colombo. The two main routes are through Puttlam (Puttalama) and through Kurunegala. Travelling from Puttlam visitors 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.