MihintaleDating back to 247 BC, this is a monastic city of caves, temples and ruins where Buddhism first took a hold of the island. The then ruling King Devanampiyatissa, was a pen pal of Emperor Asoka of India. The Emperor sent his son, Arahat Mihindu Thera (a Buddhist Priest), to impart the Buddhist philosophy to his friend in Sri Lanka. It was at Mihintale that the King met Arahat Mihindu Thera and had his first introduction to Buddhism.
Kantaka Chaitiya is one of the earliest religious monuments on the island, excavated in 1934. The 130 m (425 ft) base consists of three giant steps of dressed stone, characteristic of Sinhalese stupas. The dome above has worn out reaching a mere 12 m (40 ft) height.
Dhatu Ghara is a relic house containing the Mihintale tablets that state the rules and regulations that governed the monks.
Assembly Hall is where the monks met to discuss matters of interest.
Monks Refectory is the central courtyard where the monks ate communally.
Aradhana Gala is the Rock of Convocation where Arahat Mihindu Thera preached his first sermon.
Dating back to the 1st century BC, is the largest stupa in Mihintale. It enshrines a single hair relic of the Lord Buddha.
Mihindu Seya is where a small golden reliquary was discovered along with a bronze statue. This resembles the earliest Indian stupas surmounted by an umbrella.
Arahat Mihindu Thera’s bed was a smooth slab of stone. An enormous boulder towered above it and was its roof. This was where the Arahat reposed.
Naga Pokuna is a long pool in the shadow of a large low rock. It is carved with a mythical five-headed cobra. This is the pond of the serpent. The Naga (Cobra) is supposed to be the guardian of treasure, protector of water and maker of rain. The carving on the rock emphasizes its association with water. It is said that the Naga’s tail reaches down to the bottom of the pool.
Sinha Pokuna (Pond of the Lion)
The Lion gargoyle spurts water into a square bath surrounded by a wide step carved with a frieze.
Kaludiya Pokuna(Pond of black water)
An artificial pond at the foot of the Western slope of Mihintale. It served a monastery of the 10th or 11th century.
Indikatuseya Dagaba Stupa of the needle)
Only the base of the stupa exists now, adorned only with broad bands of dressed stone.
Dates back to the third century AD, some 400 years before the earliest hospital in Europe. Among the remnants of the walls and pillars are the basins for bathing the sick. These medicinal boats were hewn from a single rock and the internal cavern was shaped to immerse a recumbent body.