Mihintale – Anuradhapura
Mihintale is a hill peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is assumed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist hermit Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa, which inaugurated the appearance of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is now a pilgrimage place and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures. According to the Mahavamsa, Thera Mahinda (son of India’s Emperor Asoka) came to Sri Lanka on the full moon day of Poson (June) and met King Devanampiyatissa preached the doctrine to the King and his people. The Buddhists of Sri Lanka revere the traditional spot where this meeting took place.
The Historical Significance of Mihintale
Mihintale marks the place where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka. The historic event occurred in 247 BCE when King Devanampiya Tissa encountered Arahat Mahinda, the son of Emperor Ashoka, on the grounds of Mihintale. This encounter led to the king's conversion and the entire nation to Buddhism. Mihintale holds immense religious and cultural importance as the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Mihintale: The Cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka
The Four Mountains of Mihintale
Mihintale is comprised of four mountains, each housing important religious sites that contribute to the overall spiritual ambience of the area.
- Mihinthalawa: This mountain is where King Devanampiya Tissa met Arahat Mahinda, initiating the spread of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Mihinthalawa is a place of great reverence and historical significance.
- Ath Vehera Mountain: Located in the southern part of Mihintale, Ath Vehera Mountain is home to ancient stupas and ruins. It is a serene and peaceful place, ideal for meditation and introspection.
- Anaikutti Mountain: Situated in the northern part of Mihintale, Anaikutti Mountain boasts a beautiful view of the surrounding landscapes. It is adorned with ancient ruins and inscriptions, offering visitors a glimpse into the region's rich history.
- Rajagiri Lena Mountain: Rajagiri Lena Mountain is known for its impressive cave temples, including the Cave of Arahat Mahinda. These caves served as secluded spaces for monks to meditate and seek enlightenment.
Main Sites in Mihintale
Mihintale is replete with significant sites that showcase the deep-rooted religious and historical heritage of Sri Lanka. Some of the major sites include:
- Meda Maluwa: Meda Maluwa is a grand terrace at the entrance of Mihintale. It features a flight of steps to the upper levels, where visitors can witness the mesmerizing view of the surrounding countryside.
- Refectory or the Alms Hall: This ancient building served as a place where monks gathered to share meals. It stands as a testament to the communal nature and the importance of charity in Buddhist culture.
- Dalada Ge (Relic House and the Inscription of King Mahinda IV): Dalada Ge houses relics of great importance to Buddhists. The inscription of King Mahinda IV provides valuable insights into the historical context and religious practices of the time.
- Assembly Hall: The Assembly Hall was a place for religious congregations and discussions. It was a centre for intellectual and spiritual exchange among Buddhist scholars and monks.
- Sela Chaithya (Ambastala Dagoba): Sela Chaithya is a magnificent stupa believed to enshrine the relics of Arahat Mahinda. It stands as an emblem of devotion and reverence for Buddhism.
- The Cave of Arahat Mahinda (Mihindu Guhawa): This cave served as the dwelling place for Arahat Mahinda during his stay in Mihintale. It holds immense spiritual significance and attracts pilgrims seeking spiritual enlightenment.
- Maha Seya of Mihintale: Maha Seya is a colossal stupa atop Mihintale. It is considered one of the oldest and largest stupas in Sri Lanka, symbolizing the deep-rooted connection between Buddhism and the region.
- Mihindu Seya: Mihindu Seya is a stupa built to honour the memory of Arahat Mahinda. It is a place of pilgrimage where devotees pay their respects and seek blessings.
- Aradhana Gala (The Rock of Invitation): Aradhana Gala is a sacred rock where Arahat Mahinda delivered his first sermon, inviting King Devanampiya Tissa and his people to embrace Buddhism. It holds historical significance and serves as a reminder of the pivotal moment in Sri Lanka's religious history.
Lesser-Known Sites of Mihintale
Apart from the main sites, Mihintale also houses several lesser-known yet equally beautiful locations:
- Eth Vehera: Eth Vehera is an ancient stupa surrounded by beautiful stone pillars and ruins. It offers a serene atmosphere for contemplation and meditation.
- Kantaka Chethiya: Kantaka Chethiya is a small stupa nestled amidst lush greenery. It exudes tranquillity and provides a peaceful retreat for visitors seeking solace.
Mihintale stands as a testament to the profound impact of Buddhism on Sri Lankan culture and history. With its sacred mountains, ancient ruins, and religious sites, Mihintale continues to inspire and attract visitors worldwide. Exploring Mihintale is a journey back in time, where one can witness the birthplace of Buddhism and experience the spiritual serenity that emanates from this sacred land.
- What is the best time to visit Mihintale? The best time to visit Mihintale is during the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the scorching heat and to experience the tranquil atmosphere.
- Are there any entrance fees for Mihintale? Yes, there is an entrance fee for Mihintale. The cost contributes to the maintenance and preservation of the sacred sites.
- Is Mihintale suitable for children and elderly visitors? People of all ages can visit Mihintale. However, wearing comfortable shoes and carrying water is advisable, especially for elderly visitors.
- Are there any accommodations available near Mihintale? Several accommodations are available near Mihintale, ranging from luxury hotels to budget guesthouses, providing options for different preferences and budgets.
- Can photography be done within Mihintale? Yes, photography is allowed within Mihintale. However, particular areas may have restrictions, so it's best to inquire and adhere to any guidelines provided by the authorities.