The construction of Ruwanweliseya was prophesied by the great Buddhist missionary Maha Thera Arhath Mahinda, who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka from India during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa (250-210 BC). Having heard of the prophesy of Maha Thera Mahinda to the effect that a great Stupa would be built by a great king at a certain location atAnuradhapura, King Devanampiya Tissa had an inscription pillar planted at the said location narrating the prophesy. A little more than a century later, the inscription pillar was destined to be found by a fitting hero: King Dutugamunu (101-77 B.C.), who rescued the Sinhalese Buddhist nation from the Dravidian invader. The Hero of the Nation wasted no time and commenced the construction of Ruwanweliseya also named Maha Stupa or Ratnapali Stupa or Swarnamali Stupa.
Following the declaration of the king that no work at the great stupa should go unrewarded, a streak of luck dawned on the pious king: a rich vein of Silver was discovered at a village subsequently renamed Ridigama meaning Village of Silver in Sinhala. The construction of the stupa cost the king 6.4 million coins in wages alone.
Standing at a circumference of 370 feet and a height of 180 feet, Ruwanweliseya, the third largest stupa of Sri Lanka, is the focal point of the Maha Vihara, the first monastery of Sri Lanka. It is believed that a considerable number of relics of Buddha is enshrined in this glorious stupa, built in replicating the shape of a bubble of water. At the eastern entrance to the stupa is a statue of King Dutugamunu. According to the records made by Fa Hsien, the Chinese Buddhist monk, who toured Sri Lanka in the 5th century CE, Maha Vihara monastery housed no less than 3000 Buddhist monks.
Since the death of King Dutugamunu, The Hero of the Nation the great stupa had been renovated by a succession of Sinhalese kings till King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196 AC). By the 19th century, Anuradhapura, once the greatest monastic city of the world also named Anurogrammon by the Greek cartographer Claudius Ptolemy (90-168 AD), was deserted; Ruwanweliseya was in ruins. In the year 1893, a patriotic and pious Buddhist monk called Naranvita Sumanasara Thera supported by a community of humble villagers in the region, took upon the Herculean task of reconstructing the great stupa. The community resulted in forming a society called Ratnamali Chaityawardhana Society.