As the oldest stupa in Sri Lanka, Ruwanwelisaya is considered an icon of architectural glory in ancient Sri Lanka. Also known as the Great Stupa, Ruwanwelisaya was built by the victorious King Dutugemunu in 140 BC. It was his ambitious project and this stupa bears witness for its unparalleled service to revive Buddhism in the country. The compound of the stupa is characterised by a parade of elephants carved around the base of the stupa. This site was designed with the teachings of the Buddha in mind. Its dome signifies the vastness of the doctrine, the four facets above represent the Four Noble Truths, the concentric rings indicate the Noble Eightfold Middle Path, and the large crystal at the pinnacle represents the ultimate Buddhist goal of enlightenment.
It is located within a short distance from the Jaya Maha Bodhi Tree in Anuradhapura. Buddhists all over the world worship this sacred stupa since it enshrines many of Buddha’s relics.
Standing tall at 388 feet with a diameter of 90 metres at the base and a circumference of 950 feet, Ruwanwelisaya is revered to be one of the world’s tallest monuments. This stupa is one of the 8 places of reverence situated in Anuradhapura which are places believed to have been visited by Buddha during his three visits to Sri Lanka. As a place of worship, shoes have to be removed to enter the area.
Ruwanwelisaya is usually listed as among the sights of ‘Sacred City’ Archaeological Park, but it lies outside the paid area, therefore, entry is free. From here it is a short distance to the ruins of Lovamahapaya Brazen Palace and Sri Maha Bodhi, the chief Buddhist site in the area.
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