Ruwanwelisaya: An Iconic Landmark of Anuradhapura

by | Sep 16, 2023 | Asia | 0 comments

Sri Lanka, with its rich tapestry of history and culture, is home to some of the most awe-inspiring and spiritually significant landmarks in the world. Among these, the Ruwanwelisaya in Anuradhapura stands tall, both literally and figuratively. This ancient stupa, a monumental dome-like structure, holds a special place in the hearts of Buddhists and draws visitors from around the globe. In this blog, we embark on a journey to explore the Ruwanwelisaya, an iconic landmark of Anuradhapura.

A Stupa of Magnificent Proportions

The Ruwanwelisaya, also known as the Ruwanweliseya, is a towering testament to the architectural and engineering prowess of ancient Sri Lanka. This massive stupa, or dagoba, stands at an astonishing height of 103 meters (338 feet), making it one of the tallest stupas in the country. Its sheer size and commanding presence make it a sight to behold from afar, and as you draw nearer, its intricate details and profound symbolism become more apparent.

A History Steeped in Faith

The history of the Ruwanwelisaya is intertwined with the island’s deep-rooted Buddhist heritage. This stupa was constructed during the reign of King Dutugemunu, one of Sri Lanka’s legendary monarchs. It is said that the king, upon uniting the country after a period of conflict, embarked on this colossal project as an offering to Buddhism and a symbol of reconciliation.

Construction of the Ruwanwelisaya began in 140 BCE and continued for many years. It was a labor of love, supported by thousands of devoted workers, artisans, and craftsmen. The stupa’s name, “Ruwanwelisaya,” translates to “The Stupa of Jewels,” which is a fitting name for this precious gem of Sri Lankan history.

Architectural Marvels and Sacred Relics

The Ruwanwelisaya’s architectural beauty is truly captivating. As you approach the stupa, you’ll notice the magnificent white dome, adorned with a conical spire that tapers gracefully towards the sky. The intricate carvings and decorative elements on the stupa’s exterior showcase the remarkable skill of the craftsmen of yesteryears.

The stupa also houses sacred relics believed to be associated with Lord Buddha himself. In a chamber within the stupa, visitors can see a golden casket containing these sacred relics, which have been preserved and venerated for centuries. This adds to the spiritual significance of the Ruwanwelisaya and draws pilgrims and devotees from far and wide.

A Place of Pilgrimage and Devotion

The Ruwanwelisaya is not merely a historical relic; it is a living testament to the enduring faith and devotion of the Sri Lankan people. Pilgrims and visitors flock to this sacred site to offer flowers, light oil lamps, and pray for blessings. The atmosphere is permeated with a sense of serenity and reverence, making it an ideal place for introspection and spiritual contemplation.

Visiting the Ruwanwelisaya during religious festivals or poya days (full moon days) is a particularly moving experience. The stupa and its surroundings come alive with the sounds of chanting, drumming, and religious rituals. The sense of unity among the devotees, regardless of their backgrounds, is a powerful reminder of the unifying force of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Preserving the Legacy

The Ruwanwelisaya, like many ancient structures, has weathered the ravages of time, including earthquakes and invasions. Yet, it has been painstakingly restored and maintained over the centuries by successive generations of Sri Lankans. Today, the stupa stands proudly, a symbol of resilience and devotion.

In recent times, efforts have been made to ensure the preservation of this cultural and spiritual treasure. Conservation projects and research have shed light on the stupa’s history and significance, ensuring that it continues to inspire awe and reverence for generations to come.

Tourism at the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa

The Ruwanwelisaya Stupa is a popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka. Visitors can climb to the top of the stupa for stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Visitors can also learn about the history and religious significance of the stupa at the museum that is located on the temple grounds.

Tips for Visiting the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa

  • The Ruwanwelisaya Stupa is a sacred place of worship for Buddhists, so visitors should dress respectfully. Visitors should remove their shoes before entering the temple grounds.
  • Visitors can climb to the top of the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, but they should be aware that the steps are steep.
  • There is a museum located on the temple grounds that provides information about the history and religious significance of the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa.
  • Visitors should be aware that the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa is a popular tourist destination, so it can be crowded at times.

Practical Information for Visitors

If you plan to visit the Ruwanwelisaya, here are some practical tips to enhance your experience:

  1. Dress Modestly: As with many religious sites, it’s advisable to dress respectfully, covering your shoulders and knees.
  2. Visiting Hours: The stupa is typically open from morning until evening. It’s a good idea to check the specific opening hours before your visit.
  3. Quiet Contemplation: Take a moment to sit in the peaceful surroundings and soak in the spiritual ambiance of the place.
  4. Local Customs: Observe and respect local customs and practices, especially during religious ceremonies.
  5. Photography: While photography is usually allowed, be mindful of the sanctity of the place and ask for permission if you wish to photograph devotees or religious rituals.

In Conclusion

The Ruwanwelisaya in Anuradhapura is not just an iconic landmark; it is a living testament to the enduring faith and devotion of the Sri Lankan people. Its grandeur, history, and spiritual significance make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka and witness the profound beauty of Buddhist architecture and devotion. A visit to this ancient stupa is a journey back in time and a spiritual experience that will leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul.

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