Mihintale – the cradle of Buddhism

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With the passing of Poson Poya I couldn’t help remember our trip to Mihintale last month (July 2010), which by coincidence was on Vesak Poya. Having covered the Atamasthana in Anuradhapura we traveled 12 kms east of Anuradhapura to get to Mihintale. Broad stone laid steps lead to the Maha Stupa in three or four stages. The path is lined with Frangipani trees. Each time you climb a flight of steps there is a landing for a bit of respite and set of steps awaits you (in a different direction; the intention probably is to make it look alot easier). Later I found out that there is 1846 steps!

At the end of the first set of steps on the right side of the plain is a small mountain peak. On this is located the Kantaka Cetiya built by King Suratissa in the 1st century B.C.  The stupa is partly in ruins & we decided not follow that trail but to continue the climb. Along the way we also saw ruins of an old monestry.

 

Bubble shaped Mihintale Maha Seya

Mihintale is considered the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka because it was here that the apostle Mahinda met King Devanampiyatissa on a full moon day and introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka (307 BC). The King is said to have built 68 rock cells for Mahinda Thero and his retinue. And the Thero remained resident in Sri Lanka spreading Buddhism, which I believe was the way Lord Buddha would have liked it.

On a plain closer to the summit is the Ambasthala Stupa built by King Makalantissa. This is said to be the very spot at which the famous Close Encounter between the Thero & the King took place. The stupa was once roofed over in vatadage style, as testified by the two rows of pillars around it. Taking the steps further up the climb you come across an interesting pool called the Naga Pokuna, with a carving of a five-headed cobra whose tail reaches all the way down the bottom.

I’m not extremely religious but a spiritual aura envelopes you when you start  a journey of this nature. You don’t quite cuss & grump as you would otherwise do. May be because you know a marvelous site awaits you at the end of the trail or you are aware that thousands of pilgrims who have made their  way, probably felt the same. The joy of it comes days later.

Mihintale is considered the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka because it was here that the apostle Mahinda met King Devanampiyatissa on a full moon day and introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka (307 BC). The King is said to have built 68 rock cells for Mahinda Thero and his retinue. And the Thero remained resident in Sri Lanka spreading Buddhism, which I believe was the way Lord Buddha would have liked it.

On a plain closer to the summit is the Ambasthala Stupa built by King Makalantissa. This is said to be the very spot at which the famous Close Encounter between the Thero & the King took place. The stupa was once roofed over in vatadage style, as testified by the two rows of pillars around it. Taking the steps further up the climb you come across an interesting pool called the Naga Pokuna, with a carving of a five-headed cobra whose tail reaches all the way down the bottom.

At the summit of the Mihintale rock lies a large bubble shaped stupa known as the Mihintale Maha Seya. Enhanced by the wondrous setting,  the Maha Seya make Mihintale absolutely unforgettable. The stupa was built by King Mahadathika Mahanaga (07-19 AD). Dusk was upon us and the moon shone bright as a lamp lit in the sky. The summit provided a wonderful all round view of the surrounding countryside.

Aradhana Gala, Mihintale

Next we climbed the ‘Aradhana Gala’ which is where Mihinda Thera and his retinue stood. It is a steep climb but not a terribly scary height to ascend. However the rowdy crowds spoilt the experience. (my pics were too dark to discern the rounded dough like shape of the rock) What marvelous rocks our old Kings seem to have found?

We savoured delicious mangoes pickled with salt & chillies & soon made our way down. Since we had to cover everything that’s considered important in and around Anuradhapura, we next proceeded to Isurumuniya, another rock temple. (where the famous sculpture of the ‘lovers’, that of Saliya & Asoka Mala lay)

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