WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

Lesser known sacred sites of Mihintale

(by Kishanie S. Fernando)

Rising prominently above the surrounding plains is the jungle clad Rajagiri Kanda or the mountain of the kings, accessible from the road almost directly in front of the entrance to the Kaludiya pokuna complex.

Rajagirilena Cave

Amongst its awesome boulders on the summit are found a series of natural caves "which have been occupied by monks of great virtue and wisdom from time to time" and said to be some of the first dwellings of the Buddhist monks of the earliest period of the Buddhist history of Sri Lanka.

Bell who examined these caves described them in the following words: "A better hermitage for Buddhist monks could hardly be selected than these airy caverns. They provided every facility for quirt retreat: within two gav (8 miles) of the Anuradhapura shrines, and hoo cry of the adjacent yet wholly distinct monasteries at Mihintale and Anai-kutti kanda, they command from their peaceful secluded elevation an unimpaired restful view across many miles of dark green forest and silvery tanks".

A considerable number of cave inscriptions belonging to the earliest period have been found here. Some of them read as follows: The cave of the Chief Sena, the Treasurer, son of the Chief Sena, is given to the Sangha, the cave of the Thera Dhammagutta is given to the Sangha of the four quarters present and absent, the cave of the lay devotes Cuda Honda .

A short walk inland from the main road will bring you to a flight of granite steps under an avenue of profusely flowering white araliya trees leading up to the most accessible Rajagiri lena.

The cave consisting of many compartments, appears to have once housed a shrine now destroyed by ruthless treasure hunters whose cruel chiseling drilling and breaking of the shrine room is still evident in the mass of broken brick and mortar.

A diversion from the main Mihintale pilgrim's trail takes you along a steeper ascent to the highest point of the Mihintale mountain range, the Et Vehera literarily the stupa of the elephant. The origins of this modest stupa are not clear. However the birds eye view of the surrounding plains and mountains are worth the climb. From one side - somewhere half way up your climb you can see the sacred Mihintale mountain including the Maha seya, Aradhana gala, Kantraka chaithiya extending further away to the silvery waters of the Mahakandara wewa and its surrounding jungle. On the other - when you reach the summit, the Kaludiya pokuna extends towards the Rajagiri kanda.

An evening atop this mountain is a delightful experience. It is the one place you may be treated to the grand climax of a visit to Mihintale.


Indikatuseya complex

By the side of the road in close proximity to the Kaludiya pokuna and Rajagiri lena a stone parapet encloses the monastic establishment identified as Indikatu Seya monastery.

The complex includes two stupas the larger being known as the Indikatuseya, literarily meaning the stupa of the needle.

The stupa here has basal terraces that differ from the other stupas of Mihintale.

Amongst the ruins of building and walkways found here are charming guardstones, plain moon stones and reliefs of full pots.

An early morning walk here will expose you to an abundant bird life and the unending antiques of chattering monkeys.

At the foot of the Mihintale mountain are the vast ruins of a Vejja Sala or hospital complex attributed to King Sena II of the 9th century.

Mihintale hospital complex

The ground plan indicates a well planned building complex consisting of a central court yard housing a shrine room, around which are arranged rows of separate cells on all four sides.

In a connected building are rooms identified as a refectory, room for preparation and storage of medicines, a room for hot water baths and a consulting room.

A bet oruwa or stone trough with a cavity in the human form is found here, used for immersing the body in medicinal oil baths.

Excavations at the site unearthed many other medical utensils testimony to an advanced medical knowledge of the early times.

The flat land in this vicinity, where sprawls these ruins are today shaded by numerous mango trees lending a restful park like atmosphere, filled at all times with birds butterflies and squirrels.

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka