Coordinates: 8°21′06″N 80°24′13″E / 8.35167°N
80.40361°E / 8.35167; 80.40361
Denanaka and Denavehera
Anuradhapura,North Central Province, Sri Lanka
122 m (400 ft)
233,000 m2 (2,508,000 sq ft)
Jetavanaramaya (world's tallest stupa) is a stupa located in the
Jetavana in the sacred world heritage city of Anuradhapura,
Sri Lanka. At 122 metres (400 ft) It is the world's tallest
Anuradhapura (273–301) initiated the
construction of the stupa following the destruction of the mahavihara.
His son Maghavanna I completed the construction of the stupa. A
part of a sash or belt tied by the Buddha is believed to be the relic
that is enshrined here.
The structure is significant in the island's history for it represents
the tensions within the
Mahayana sects of Buddhism; it
is also significant in recorded history as one of the tallest
structures in the ancient world; and the second tallest
non-pyramidal buildings after Pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria; the
height of the stupa is 400 feet (122 m), making it the tallest
stupa in the ancient world. The structure is no longer the tallest,
but it is still the largest, with a base-area of 233,000 m2
(2,508,000 sq ft). Approximately 93.3 million baked
bricks were used in its construction; the engineering ingenuity behind
the construction of the structure is a significant development in the
history of the island. The sectarian differences between the Buddhist
monks also are represented by the stupa as it was built on the
premises of the destroyed mahavihara, which led to a rebellion by a
minister of King Mahasena.
This stupa belongs to the Sagalika sect. The compound covers
approximately 5.6 hectares and is estimated to have housed 10,000
Buddhist monks. One side of the stupa is 576 ft (176 m)
long, and the flights of stairs at each of the four sides of it are
28 ft (9 m) wide. The doorpost to the shrine, which is
situated in the courtyard, is 27 ft (8 m) high. The stupa
has a 8.5 m (28 ft) deep foundation, and sits on bedrock.
Stone inscriptions in the courtyard give the names of people who
donated to the building effort.
2 Design and construction
3 Late history
5 See also
8 External links
Following king Jettha Tissa's death his brother Mahasena was
consecrated as king by monk Sanghamitta, under the monk's influence
king Mahasena brought about a campaign against Orthodox Theravadins
dwelling in the mahavihara. The differences between the Theravadins
and Mahayanins escalated to an extent to which a penalty was
established to any person providing alms to monks dwelling in the
Mahavamsa quotes Sanghamitta: "The dwellers in the
Mahavihara do not teach the (true) vinaya, we are those who teach the
(true) vinaya, O king".
Mahavihara was eventually abandoned. The monks dwelling at the
premises moved to
Malaya Rata and Ruhuna, this followed by the
Mahavihara by Sanghamitta and minister Sona, all valuable
were transferred to Abhayagiri vihāra. The pillaging prompted a
rebellion by minister Meghavannabhaya, the minister raised an army
from Malaya and set camp by the Duratissaka tank. King Mahasena
marches an army to meet minister Meghavannabhaya, where negotiations
ensue the night before the battle and the king apologizes for the
pillaging and agrees to build a vihara at the grounds of Mahavihara,
Mahavamsa quotes the king: " will make the vihara to be dwelt in
yet again; forgive me my fault". Sanghamitta was assassinated by a
labourer on the instructions of a wife of the king, following his
demise and the construction of parivena by Meghavannabhaya marked the
return of monks to the site of Mahavihara.
Thus the construction of
Jetavanaramaya began and offered to the monk
Tissa, but the monk was accused of a grave offence upon investigation
and proof by a minister, monk Tissa was disrobed and expelled from the
order. The dakkinagiri monks were then entrusted with the premises of
Design and construction
Carving of a Nāgaraja (see Nāga)
As the largest ancient stupa constructed and one of the tallest
ancient structures in the world, the structural ingenuity and
engineering skills employed for the construction are significant. The
foundations of the structure were 8.5m deep and the size of the
structure required bricks which could withstand loads of up to
166 kg. The solid foundation lay on bed-rock and the dome was
constructed of full and half bricks and earth fill, the unique shape
of a perfect ellipsoid allowed for stress and thus allowed the
construction of the large structure. The
Mahavamsa describes the
foundation laying, where fissures were filled with stones and stamped
down by elephants whose feet were protected with leather bindings. The
bricks used for the construction were a significant development of
ancient Sri Lankan engineering, the bricks used for
a composition of 60 percent fine sand and 35 percent clay, the bricks
could withstand 281 kg/in2. Linear elastic finite element
analysis under self weight produced a maximum compressive stress of
839 kPa at the bottom centre, thus the maximum stress in the dome is
ten times less than what the bricks could withstand.
Finely crushed dolomite lime stone, sieved sand and clay provided the
bonding material for the bricks. The clay employed was pliable and
thus accommodates movement within the structure. One of the sides of
the brick was roughened to trap the bonding slurry thus limiting
lateral movement. The stupa was then covered with lime plaster; the
plaster used contained seashells, sugar syrup, egg whites, coconut
water, glues, oils, plant resin, sand, clay and pebbles. The plaster
also provided waterproofing for the structure. The
mentions the use of copper sheets over the foundation and arsenic
dissolved in sesame oil to prevent insect and plant intrusions inside
the stupa. It is estimated that
Jetavanaramaya took 15 years to
complete and would have required a skillful workforce of hundreds,
including brickyard workers and bricklayers, and stonemasons.
Carvings at Jetavanaramya
Jetavanaramaya was under the monks of the Sagalika sect. The
Sagalica sect was closely linked with the Abhyagiri viharaya. Towards
the end of the
Jetavana had developed into one of
the three fraternities of the island along with
Abhyagiriya. The fraternities were united during the reign of King
Parakramabahu I. A pasada constructed by King Sena I was destroyed by
fire. King Agghabodhi VI constructed and added a new pasada. Chola
invaders during the reign of king Udaya IV destroyed the gold images
of Buddha by King Sena. Repairs were completed by King Mahendra IV.
Juma, a Sri Lankan merchant, presented King Silakala with a Mahayana
book Dhammadatu brought from Benares. King Silakala held a festival
annually in celebration of Dhammadatu. Monks of
boycotted the festivals, citing the
Mahayana origins of the book, but
were later persuaded by Abhayagiri monks to participate in the
festivities. The leadership of the
Mahavihara was later accepted
during the reign of King Aggabodhi I, following the defeat of a public
debate between the monks.
Carvings at Jetavanaramya
Until 1909 the colossal structure was covered with shrub jungle. Monk
Kumbuke Dhammarama of Sailabimbaramaya temple of Gammanpita received
approval to clear the stupa and the court from the Atamasthana
committee. The approval was subsequently canceled as the monk decided
to settle down. Palannaruwe Sobita thereto sought and received
permission to continue clearing the premises but approval was once
again canceled when the monk initiated the collection of
contributions. However, the monk refused to leave; in the legal
procedures which ensued he was forced to leave.
Conservation work has been funded by the income from ticket sales,
mainly to foreign tourists to the three cultural triangle sites of
Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya. Bricks were burned using the
same kind of mixture that was used by the builders of the original
dagoba. Excavations have revealed artifacts indicating that Sri
Lanka was the primary entrepot for trade activity connecting the
Indian rim countries as well as the Mediterranean and the Far East,
and artistic influences that point to a shared culture in South
Ancient stupas of Sri Lanka
List of tallest structures built before the 20th century
Timeline of three tallest structures in the world
Ancient Constructions of Sri Lanka
Architecture of ancient Sri Lanka
Architecture of Sri Lanka
^ "Tallest stupa". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2018-01-08.
^ a b "Jetavanaramaya". Archived from the original on
^ Silva, R. 1990, "Bricks – A unit of construction in ancient Sri
Lanka", ICTAD Journal, Vol.2, No. 1, pp. 21-42, Colombo.
^ a b "Jetavana, back to the people". Sunday Times. 7 June 2009.
^ Ranaweera, Munidasa P (December 2004). "Ancient Stupas in Sri Lanka
Brick Structures in the World". CHS Newsletter.
Construction History Society (70).
^ a b c "XXXVII".
Mahavamsa [Great Chronicle]. Translated by Wilhelm
Geiger; Mabel Haynes Bode. Ceylon Government. 1912. Retrieved
^ a b c d e "Engineering skills in ancient and medieval Sri Lanka".
LankaLibrary Forum. 2008-12-24. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
^ Ranaweera, M.P, 2000, "Some structural analyses related to the
Jetavana Stupa", Proceedings of Engineering Jubilee
Congress, University of Peradeniya.
^ Chandani Kirinde & Sunil Jayathilake (27 May 2001). "Renovation
of archaeological sites: Is it a question of preserving or
perishing?". Sunday Times.
This page incorporates content from Dr. Rohan Hettiarachchi's
lankalibrary.com used with permission of website owner.
Ratnayake, Hema (1993) Jetavana. In The Cultural Triangle of Sri
Lanka. Paris: Unesco Publishing/CCF.
Schroeder, Ulrich von. (1990). Buddhist Sculptures of Sri Lanka. (752
p.; 1620 illustrations). Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications, Ltd.
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