The snow-white Ruwanwelisaya Stupa in the holy city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka is an architectural masterpiece and, with a height of almost 100m, is one of the largest monuments in the world.
The Ruwanwelisaya Stupa in the holy city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka is an architectural masterpiece and a great Buddhist shrine. It is also known as "Mahathupa", "Swarnamali" or "Raghnamali Dagoba" and is one of our top 10 sights of Sri Lanka.
Construction of the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa
The impressive snow-white stupa was built in 140 BC by King Dutugemunu. With a height of 91 metres and a circumference of 290 metres, it is one of the largest monuments in the world.
The stupa itself stands on a massive platform, 145m on a side, resting on the backs of 344 stone elephants. The shrine is among the Solosmasthana, the 16 places of worship, and the Atamasthana, the 8 places of worship in Anuradhapura.
Historical texts described exactly how the mighty foundation of the Ruwanwelisaya was built and which materials were used from which places. The king himself laid the foundation stone on the night of the full moon in the month of "Vesakha" (April to May), because many historical events in Buddhism, such as the birth or enlightenment of the first Buddha or the coronation of kings, occurred on the night of the full moon.
The incredible ceremony of laying the foundation stone
King Dutugemunu buried the engraved stone erected by King Devanampiva Tissa, one of the first rulers of Sri Lanka, 7 cubits deep in the ground. Warriors then scattered round stones over the site, which were then smashed with hammers and elephants trampled into the ground.
This was followed in exact order by layers of clay from the Himalayan region, bricks, plaster, quartz, iron, clay again, white stones, rock crystals, stone tiles, a mixture of mercury, resin from a wood apple and clay, above this a 20cm layer of bronze, then a mixture of arsenic and sesame oil and then 10cm of silver.
After its completion, the foundation was decorated with water jugs, vases and ingots of silver and gold. "Arahants", spiritual Buddhist saints who have attained nirvana, gave their blessings.
In the middle of the stupa, a chamber was let in to keep relics of the Buddha. After the king delivered his eulogistic speech, he supposedly died after a 24-year reign and was reborn as a divine king.
Another legend tells of a terrible illness of the pious king, so that he could not live to see the completion of the foundation. But his brother covered the construction site with a white cloth so that it looked as if the ground was already finished and Dutugemunu could pass away happily.
Over the course of two millennia, mainly by invaders from South India, the Ruwanwelisaya was destroyed and looted several times, but subsequently always rebuilt, expanded and restored.