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Buddhist Temples

Below are some of the most sacred sites of the Buddhist world and offer excellent insights to the country's Buddhist history.

  • Seema Malaka is one of Sri Lanka's most modern Buddhist Temples and was designed by Geoffrey Bawa, who is one of Sri Lanka's foremost 20th century architects. This stylish small building sits atop three podiums perched amid the sluggish waters of Beira Lake and is truly spectacular if visited during sunset.

  • Sri Maha Bodhi, Bo Tree In Anuradhapura is the oldest known tree in the world and has been tended devotedly for 23 centuries and is a sapling from the very tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodhi Gaya in India. The cutting was brought here by Mahinda's (the Buddhist monk that brought Buddhism into Sri Lanka) sister Sanghamitta as part of the attempt to spread Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

  • Dambulla which dates from the 1st century BC houses the most impressive and venerated Buddhist cave temples in Sri Lanka. This 160metre (52 ft) rock has attracted millions of pilgrims since they were created by the formerly exiled King Valagambahu I in the 1st Cenury BC. He sought refuge in the caves for 14 years after losing his throne to Tamil invaders, and built the caves in gratitude after successfully reclaiming his throne in Anuradhapura.

  • Ruwanweliseya, the Great Stupa in Anuradhapura was built in the 1st century BC and inspired by King Dutugemunu's vision of a bubble floating on water. To attempt to recreate the weightless quality of a bubble on such a vast scale might seem futile, but somehow it works. You don't see the thousands of tons of masonry and the 100 million bricks that were required to raise this dome to its full height of over 55 meters (180 ft). All you see is the skin of white paint that seems to envelope a pocket of air.

  • The Mango Tree Stupa in Mihintale is built over the exact spot where Mahinda stood when converting King Devanampiyatissa to Buddhism. A statue of the king is places where he stood – a respectful distance away. The great sage Mahinda preached his first sermon from the Rock of Convocation (Aradhama Gala) near here. From this plateau trails spread out in all directions. One leads to the 1st century BC Mahaseya Dagoba, the largest stupa in Mihintale which enshrines a single hair relic of the Buddha. Another path wends its way to Mihindu Seya where a small golden reliquary resembling the earliest Indian Stupas surmounted by a chattra (umbrella) was discovered, along with a bronze statue.

  • The Dalada Maligawa is one of the holiest shrines in the Buddhist world and the resting place of the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha's. The relic was bought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD. The Chinese traveler Fa Hien, who visited the site when the relic was still here, gives a vivid description of its exhibition.

  • Buduruwagala where seven colossal figures stand carved in low relief into a high rock face. The statues are thought to date back to the 9th and 10th centuries; the large central standing Buddha is the tallest in the island, at around 16 meters (52 ft) high. The trio of figures to this left is believed to represent the Mahayana Buddhist diety Avalokitesvara, along with two attendants. Those on this right are thought to show the Tibetan Boddhisattva Vajrapani, the future Buddha Maitreya and Vishnu.

  • The Aukana Buddha dates back to the 8th century and is the island's best preserved ancient statue. The Aukana Buddha is about a 30km Northwest of Dambulla. This is a 13 meter (43 ft) tall gigantic statue and is a perfectly preserved ancient Buddha statue in Sri Lanka. The imposing image was curved out of a single rock with supreme assurance. Although the Abhayamudra Buddha stands erect, firmly planted on both feet, the body is graceful. This effect is helped by the beautifully flowing drapery which appears almost transparent.

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