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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Famous Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka - Five Well Known Theravada Buddhist Temples
Joanna James Joanna James
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Famous Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka - Five Well Known Theravada Buddhist Temples

Sri Lanka is dotted with numerous temples with varying histories. Of these temples, the Kalutara Bodhi Complex, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya and the Kelani Viharaya remain quite prominent.


Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura

The Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura is considered to be one of the most important religious sites in Sri Lanka. The sacred fig tree is believed to be the southern branch of the Sri Maha Bodhi under which the Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment in Buddha Gaya, India. The sapling was brought to Sri Lanka during the 3rd century B.C by Sangamitta Thera, Emperor Asoka's daughter. The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya found within the Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura is believed to have been planted in 288 B.C by King Devanampiyatissa.


Kalutara Bodhi Complex

The Kalutara Buddhist Complex hosts the Kalutara Bodhiya on one side and the Kalutara Chaithya on the other. The Kalutara Bodhiya is actually one of thirty - two saplings of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura. The sapling is believed to have been planted upon the instructions of Arahat Mahinda Thera. The Kalutara Chaitya is also important as it is one of the few Buddhist stupas in the world that is hollow. Within the hollow chamber, visitors will be able to witness 74 murals depicting stories from the lives of the Buddha as well as four small stupas. The stupa was commissioned by Sir Cyril de Zoysa who also established the Kalutara Bodhi Trust in 1951.


Kiri Vehera Kataragama

Kiri Vehera located in Kataragama is believed to have been built during the 6th century B.C by King Mahasena. It is easily accessible from most hotels in Kataragama Sri Lanka. However, visitors to the Kiri Vehera can drive up to the Kiri Vehera parking lot only, for after that, one must walk through the complex. Those residing close to the Detagamuwa Wewa in accommodation such as Mandara Rosen Kataragama can opt to access the stupa by walking along the Kiri Vehera Mawatha, or alternatively, by crossing the Menik Ganga, and taking the Peeta Veediya or Main Street which will take them past the Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalaya directly to the Kiri Vehera. The Kiri Vehera religious sanctuary is one of the 16 sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the island known as Solosmasthana.


Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya

The Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya is believed to be one of the sites visited by Lord Buddha during his final visit to Sri Lanka. Historical records confirm that within the stupa at the temple, a gem studded throne upon which the Buddha sat and preached, has been enshrined. The temple flourished during the Kotte Kingdom and was refurbished during the 20th century.


Rankoth Vehera Pollonnaruwa

Built by Nissanka Malla of Pollonnaruwa, the King responsible for the constructions of the Hatadage and the Nissanka Lata Mandapaya, the Rankoth Vehera was completed in 1190. Though quite similar to the Ruwanweliseya in stature and form, the stupa later became to be known as the Rankoth Vehera. Historical records as well as stone inscriptions indicate that the King himself supervised the construction work of the stupa.