Thuparamaya Dagoba – Anuradhapura
This stupa is the oldest in Sri Lanka. Though not as crucial as other stupas in Anuradhapura, it is sacred because it retains a collarbone relic of the Buddha. The construction that we see today is a complete renovation that was done in 1862, although some of the original columns still stand throughout the main building.
King Devanampiyatissa first built Thuparama Dagoba in the 4th century to residence the collarbone relic. Other parts from the original dagoba hold pillar bases, stone carvings, temple ruins, and an excellent moonstone.
Historical Significance of Thuparamaya
- Introduction to the first stupa in Sri Lanka after the introduction of Buddhism
Thuparamaya holds the distinction of being the inaugural stupa built in Sri Lanka following the advent of Buddhism. Its construction signifies the establishment of Buddhism as a prominent religion in the country and a landmark in Buddhist history.
- King Devamnampiyatissa and the construction of Thuparamaya
King Devamnampiyatissa, a devout Buddhist ruler, played a pivotal role in the construction of Thuparamaya. Under the guidance of Mahinda Thero, who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka, the stupa was built to enshrine the right collarbone relic of Lord Buddha.
Sacredness and Importance of Thuparamaya
- Buddha's presence at the site during his 3rd visit to Sri Lanka
According to the Mahavamsa, Thuparamaya stands on the sacred ground where Lord Buddha visited during his third visit to Sri Lanka. The presence of Buddha at this location elevates its sacredness. It grants it a place among the Solosmasthana and Atamasthana, the sixteen Buddhist sacred sites and Anuradhapura's eight most sacred holy sites, respectively.
Construction of Thuparamaya
- Mahinda Thero's instructions and the right collar-bone relic of Lord Buddha
Following King Devamnampiyatissa's instructions, Mahinda Thero supervised the construction of Thuparamaya. The stupa was built to house the right collar bone relic of Lord Buddha, which was brought from the Silumini Seya under the divine intervention of Sakra, the king of the Gods.
- The role of the elephant and the height of the stupa
While transporting the relic to the stupa location, the elephant carrying the relic refused to descend to ground level. Mahinda Thero advised the king to build a mound of dry clay at the height of the elephant's back, allowing the relic to be transferred. King Devamnampiyatissa promptly followed the advice and completed the stupa as a paddy heap (Dhanyakara).
Architectural Features and Additions
- Stone mantel and Vatadage
Over the centuries, various kings made additions and enhancements to Thuparamaya. For example, King Lanjatissa repaired the stupa's stone mantel, while King Vashaba introduced a unique architectural feature known as Vatadage or Stupaghara. The Vatadage, supported by concentric circles of decorated stone pillars, housed the stupa.
- Relocation of Buddha statues and restoration efforts
King Jettatissa moved giant Buddha statues from Thuparamaya to Pacinatissa Pabbatha Viharaya, followed by King Mahasena, who relocated them to Abhayagiriya Viharaya. Finally, restoration efforts were undertaken by several kings, including Upatissa I, Dhatusena, Aggabodhi II, and Parakramabahu the Great, preserving the architectural and cultural heritage of Thuparamaya.
Repairs and Renovations over the Centuries
- Contributions by various kings and restoration of the stupa
Throughout history, Thuparamaya experienced multiple repairs and additions. Kings such as Dathopatissa I, Kassapa II, Manavamma, Mahinda I, Dappula II, and Sena II contributed to the restoration and beautification of the stupa. These renovations were aimed at preserving the sacredness and grandeur of Thuparamaya.
Present Condition and Changes
- Stone pillars and the ancient features of Thuparamaya
The remnants of four concentric circles of stone pillars encircle the stupa. These pillars, which once supported a dome-shaped roof, are a testament to the architectural splendour of Thuparamaya. Despite the time, 31 complete pillars with capitals have survived, offering glimpses of the stupa's past glory.
- The renovation of 1862 and the current bell-shaped stupa
In 1862, Thuparamaya underwent a significant renovation that altered its ancient features. The stupa was transformed into a bell-shaped (Ghantakara), deviating from its original paddy-heap shape (Dhanyakara). This renovation, though changing the stupa's appearance, aimed to preserve its spiritual essence and structural integrity.
Description of Thuparamaya
- Dimensions and measurements of the stupa and its surroundings
Thuparamaya encompasses a square area and stands within a circular basement. The stupa's measurements, including diameter, height, and other architectural details, showcase the scale and craftsmanship of its construction. The complex also includes other structures, such as the Bodhigara, the image house, and the chapter house, which add to its historical and architectural significance.
Thuparamaya stands as a testament to the rich Buddhist heritage of Sri Lanka and the country's deep-rooted connection with Lord Buddha. From its inception during the reign of King Devamnampiyatissa to the present day, Thuparamaya has undergone numerous repairs, additions, and renovations, making it a symbol of resilience and devotion. Despite the changes, Thuparamaya remains an iconic pilgrimage site and a treasured piece of Sri Lanka's cultural heritage.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
- What is the significance of Thuparamaya in the history of Buddhism? Thuparamaya holds immense historical and religious importance as the first stupa built in Sri Lanka after the introduction of Buddhism. It enshrines the right collarbone relic of Lord Buddha and serves as a sacred pilgrimage site for Buddhists worldwide.
- Who was responsible for the construction of Thuparamaya? Thuparamaya was built under the supervision of Mahinda Thero, who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka on the instructions of King Devamnampiyatissa.
- What are the architectural features of Thuparamaya? Thuparamaya exhibits various architectural features, including a stone mantel, a unique Vatadage or Stupaghara, and concentric circles of stone pillars. These elements showcase the skill and craftsmanship of ancient Sri Lankan builders.
- How has Thuparamaya been preserved over the centuries? Thuparamaya has undergone multiple repairs and restoration efforts by various kings, ensuring its preservation. Despite changes to its appearance, the stupa's spiritual and historical significance has been upheld.
- What is the present condition of Thuparamaya? Thuparamaya retains its spiritual aura and draws countless visitors each year. While some of its ancient features have been altered, the stupa and its surrounding structures continue to inspire awe and reverence.