Raja Maha Vihara is an ancient Buddhist temple in
Tissamaharama, Southern Province of Sri Lanka. It was one of the four
major Buddhist monasteries established in Sri Lanka, after the arrival
of Arhant Mahinda Thera to the country. The site of the Tissamaharama
Raja Maha Vihara was consecrated by
himself, who spent
some time in meditation there with 500 arhats (individuals who have
reached enlightenment), during his third visit to the island.
monastery had been recognized as a pre-eminent Buddhist
educational center of the southern
from the 3rd century B.C.
to the 11th century A.D. The
Dagoba which is situated
in the premises of the monastery is one of the largest stupas in Sri
Lanka. The present chief incumbent of
Vihara is Ven. Devalegama Dhammasena Nayaka Thera.
2 Great stupa
4 See also
During the reign of emperor
Asoka of India
Asoka of India (304–232 BCE), many
prominent Buddhist monks were sent as missionaries to neighboring
kingdoms to propagate Buddhist philosophy. As a part of these
missions, Arhant Mahinda Thera, the son of emperor Asoka arrived in
Sri Lanka during the reign of king Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura
in 3rd century BC. After the establishment of Buddha Sasana in Sri
Lanka, major Buddhist monasteries such as
Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya
Mihintale Raja Maha Viharaya
Mihintale Raja Maha Viharaya were established in the North central
region of the country while
Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya and
Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya
Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya were established in the Southern region.
According to the chronicle
Mahawamsa this temple was built in the 2nd
century BC as Silapassa Pirivena, by then King
Kavan Tissa (186-161
Ruhuna (Southern Sri Lanka) and in the reign of King Ilanaga
(38-44 A.D.) the temple had been expanded and renovated. But
according to some historians the temple was initially built by king
Mahanaga in the 3rd century BC and later it was expanded as a major
temple by king
Kavan Tissa in the 2nd century BC.
The beginning of kingdom of
Ruhuna dates back to the reign of king
Devanampiyatissa in 2nd century BC. His younger brother Mahanaga left
the then capital
Anuradhapura to avoid an assassination attempt and
moved to the southern area of the island and became the ruler of the
area. Mahanaga is regarded as the first king of Ruhuna, where
the capital of was Magama. King Mahanaga did a great service to
improve agriculture and was responsible for raising a peaceful and
prosperous civilization in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. He
was succeeded by his son Yatala-Tissa, who was able to rule the
province virtuously. After Yatala-Tissa his son Gothabhaya became the
king of the south, and by this time the kingdom of
Ruhuna was well
established and developed. After Gothabhaya, his son Kavan-Tissa
succeeded to the throne. King Kawan Tissa is regarded as the
founder of many Buddhist monasteries located in Southern and Eastern
areas of Sri Lanka.
Thissmaharama Vihara was the largest Buddhist monastery in historic
Southern Sri Lanka. Some of the notable resident Buddhist monks of
this great monastery includes Arhant Mahasiva Thera, Arhant
Dhammadinna Thera and Arhant Pindapathika Tissa Thera. King Kawan
Tissa who founded Tissmaharama Vihara also modified the Tissa wewa
(tank) to cater the water requirement of
Tissamaharama monastery, as
well as for the irrigation purposes of surrounding area. Many ancient
Sri Lanka had also offered lands to the Tissamaharama
monastery for the welfare of Buddhist monks who lived there. According
to ancient stone inscriptions found, many land donations to the
Tissamaharama Vihara were made during the reigns of king Jettha Tissa,
Wasabha and Mihindu. From 3rd century to the 5th century the monastery
owned more than 18 000 acres of land. These land donations were made
by the kings for the maintenance work of the monastery and the stupa
as well as for the needs of the resident monks.
First evidences of renovating
Tissamaharama Vihara goes to the reign
of king Illanaga in 38 AD, after two centuries of its initial
construction. King Voharaka Tissa (215 -237 AD) in the 3rd century had
also made some renovations to the stupa. Prince Mahanaga renovated
the stupa in 560 AD, when the status of the stupa deteriorated once
again in the 6th century. It had also undergone renovations during the
reign of king Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 AD). But later Thissamaharama
Vihara was raided by the armies of invader
Kalinga Magha in the 13th
century. It appears that no major restoration work was done on this
stupa till the last half of the 19th century after this rifling.
However sources reveal that in 1662 AD, king Veera Parakrama
Narendrasinghe donated two lands to the temple for the maintenance
purposes, when Kadurupokune Budhdha Rakkhitha Thero was the chief
incumbent. But later in the 18th century Tissmaharama Vihara was
abandoned after the state of the temple deteriorated badly, during the
Dutch Colonial rule in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka.
Stupa is the largest stupa in the Southern region of the
country with a height of 156 feet and 550 feet in circumference.
According to chronicles, King Kawan Tissa had sought blessings and
instructions from Arhant Gothama Thera, who was a spiritual adviser to
the king, when constructing Tissamaharam stupa. The stupa was
built to commemorate lord Buddha's visit to the area, at the same
place where Buddha spent time in meditation with 500 arhant Buddhist
monks. The stupa which has a 'Bubble Shape' and was built by using
bricks on a square platform made of granite stones. King Kawan-tissa
received the instructions of Buddhist monks throughout the
construction period of the stupa. The relics enshrined in this stupa
is subjected to debate. According to
Mahavamsa the frontal bone relic
(Lalata Dhathu) is enshrined in Tissamaharam stupa as the main
relic. However some believe that the frontal bone relic of Buddha
was temporally enshrined in this stupa but later it was enshrined in
the Seruvila Mangala Maha Chethiya. A recent discovery of a pillar
inscription in Kirinda, reveals that the left tooth relic of Buddha
was also enshrined in this stupa.
The more recent restoration work of this stupa had begun in 1858 due
to the efforts of Wepathaira Sumana Thera, who rediscovered
Thissmaharama Vihara after making a pilgrimage to the area. He built a
hut in the visinity of the stupa and started living there to supervise
the restoration works by him self. It took 16 years to complete the
renovation work of the Garbhaya, semi spherical part of the stupa
which is 86 feet in height. But Wepathaira Sumana Thera could not
complete the restoration of Thissmaharama stupa in his lifetime and
after the death of Wepathaira Sumana Thera, Walpita Medhankara Thero,
a monastic brother of Wepathaira Sumana Thera took over the renovation
works. By 1878 Walpita Medhankara Thero managed to complete the
restoration of Hatharaskotwa of the stupa and enshrined relics in
In 1882 the British governor general of Ceylon, Sir James Robert
Longden visited Thissamaharama Vihara and appointed Walpita Medhankara
Thero as the chief incumbent of the temple. He also vested the power
Siyam Nikaya to take care of
Tissamaharama Raja Maha Vihara. In
1895 Walpita Medhankara Thero managed to complete the work of Dewatha
Kotuwa and enshrined relics there. In 1897 the
Tissamaharama Raja Maha
Vihara development committee was formed with the leadership of
Mudaliyar S. F. Jayawickrama of Matara and N. Amarasingha of Tangalle
and the restoration works completed in early 20th century. In 1900
the Koth Kerella of the stupa was completed and placing the pinnacle
(Chuda Manikya) of the stupa was done on Poson poya day of 1900. The
pinnacle consists of a red colour gem which was imported from Bohemia.
Tissamaharama stupa had developed a series of vertical cracks right
round the dome of the stupa and in some other parts around in 1990.
The department of Archeology of
Sri Lanka and State Engineering
Co-operation intervened on the request of chief incumbent of the
temple and prevented further cracking of the stupa by using galvanized
steel cables tied around the circumference of the dome in the mid
section. This final repair works were completed in February 1998
at a total cost of 6 million Sri Lankan rupees.
Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya
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Tissamaharama Rajamaha Viharaya –
තිස්සමහාරාම විහාරය, Amazing Lanka
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