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Ruwanwelisaya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

What is a Buddhist Stupa?

The construction of Ruwanwelisaya Stupa (or Stūpa Ruvanveli) was prophesied by missioner Arahat Mahinda Thera, who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka from India in III century BC. Having heard about the prophesy that a century later a Great King will build a Grand Stupa, King Dewanampia Tissa buried a pillar in the destined place with engraved prophesy. A century later King Dutthagamani found the hidden pillar and took up the construction.

According to the legend during the construction of the stupa, different materials were used, such as gold, silver, pearls, corals, steel, clay bricks and precious stones. The construction of stupa was launched on full moon of Vesak month. All the important events in Sri Lanka took place on this very night: Buddha’s birth and death, his arrival to Sri Lanka etc. In the center of the stupa King put 8 big pots of gold and 8 pots of silver. He also put 108 vases around them. In the each of 8 corners of the stupa he put a gold bar, surrounded by 108 silver bars. However he wasn't able to see his creation fully completed: king Dutthagamani died when the roof was being finished. His brother had to continue the construction.

Ruwanwelisaya is one of the world's tallest historical monuments, standing at 91 m and with a diameter 90m. It used to be the center of first Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka, and about 10 000 monks lived here. According to the legend Buddha's relics are kept here. It's supposed that the architect got the inspiration of the stupa shape when watching an air balloon fly on the water. Despite its height and hundred thousand tons of bricks used for the construction, the initial "balloon" idea isn't corrupted: when looking at this huge building painted in white one can't get rid of the feeling of lightness and calm. The precious stone on the tip of the building is a gift from Myanmar (Burma).

It is difficult to describe the glory this building instills. To pass around the whole stupa you'll need at least 15-20 minutes. Taking into consideration that shoes and hats must be took off while being on the territory of temples and stupas, one automatically starts feeling the spirit of this Place. For me, one of the most striking thing is the fact, that during the whole history the stupa has never been robbed. This is another proof of how extremely religious local people are.

Sacred city of Anuradhapura, along with it's historical monuments, is listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By Sona Gasparian,, Photos by Narek Bakhtamyan


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