Ruwanweliseya: The gem of sanctity | Sunday Observer

Ruwanweliseya: The gem of sanctity

22 May, 2022

Standing majestically in the Anuradhapura Sacred City is the Swarnamali Stupa, blessed with the presence of the Buddha and venerated by gods, great kings and Buddhists for over centuries and beyond.

The immaculate dagaba reaching to the appeared almost like part of the sky, harmonising with the spiritual and celestial worlds above. The Ruwanweliseya enshrined with the sacred relics of the Buddha evokes reverence in the hearts of the Buddhist devotees converging on the sacred site.

Sand of gems

Built by King Dutugemunu, a devout Buddhist and the benevolent ruler of the country in 137 BC, the stupa is also known as the Swarnamali Seya, Ratnamali Chetiya and the Maha Thupa. The name denotes ‘sand of gems’, probably owing to a large extent of invaluable gems, gold, pearls and silver contained in the stupa.

The mesmerising view of the Ruwanweliseya

Apart from its material treasures the Swarnamali Chetiya is venerated and has become a pinnacle for Buddhists all round the world as it contains the largest portion of relics from the sacred body of the Buddha got from his funeral pyre. According to the ancient chronicle Dhatuwamsa, one-eighth of the whole-body-relics of the Buddha has been deposited in the stupa making it one of the treasured places of worship for Buddhists.

The largest stupa built for the first time in the ancient world being 300ft in height and with a diameter of 370ft is indeed a testimony to ancient Sri Lankan architectural design.

Entering through the main gate on the East, one is greeted by finely carved punkalas and lion figures. There are three other entrances from three directions to enter the sandy compound. It ends with the magnificent Tusker Wall with 338 elephant figures embedded in it.

The stone podium is inside the Tusker Wall sprawls over five acres.

It is carpeted with smooth granite slabs which were designed to drain the rainwater adding another distinction to the hallowed site.

The four small dagabas facing the four sub directions inside the stone podium appear as venerating the immaculate Swarnamali Chetiya which is in the middle of the inner compound filling hearts with devotion.

The stupa built in the shape of a giant water bubble depicting the concept of impermanency in Buddhism reflects the essence of Buddhism in its structure.

The kothkeralla

The glistening kothkerella, the sacred golden pinnacle of the dagaba holds the crest gem, which is made of crystal, out to the sky in the way the ultimate truth – Nirvana – stands above the rest.

Of the four structures, the Wahalkada adorned with carvings of lions, tuskers, horses, cattle, lotus and kalpawruksha – the wish conferring tree, the one on the west side is restored to its ancient stage. Faint traces of the paintings done during ancient times are still alive on this Wahalkada.

The Shrine Room built facing East has four Buddha statues: they are of Buddhas Kakusanda, Konagama, Kashyapa and Gautama and Maitree Bodhisatva. sculptured in the verandah. Statues of King Dutugemunu and Chola King Elara are placed in the shrine room. A spectacular marble footprint of the Buddha adorned with 108 auspicious marks is a rare sacred footprint stone found in the world.

The 18 riyana Buddha statue

The 18 riyana (measurement of ancient times) long Buddha statue depicting the pirinivan manchakaya – the passing away bed of the Buddha – is another heartening creation and a seated statue of the Buddha made of granite placed in a chamber on the left of the shrine room is painted according to ancient tradition.

Near the main entrance the statues of King Dutugemunu and his mother Queen Viharamahadevi and King Bhatikabhaya worshipping the stupa have been built.

Goddess Swarnali

According to folkore, a beautiful goddess named Swarnamali was dwelling in the Ran Thelambu tree in the site.

She agreed to leave the site only after King Dutugemunu agreed to build the stupa in her name.

Finally, the construction work started on an auspicious day, Vesak Full Moon Day.

It says that a very large number of arahant bhikkhus from all four directions of the world attended the ceremony. The architect of the Stupa was said to be Arahant Indragupta Thera. As the ancient chronicle re-cords it, the foundation of the Stupa was sunk nine times to the earth.

Before construction work came to an end, Emperor Dutugemunu was drawing his last breath and King Saddatissa covered the Stupa with a white cloth to show the completed view of the Stupa to the dying Emperor.