Attracting over thousands of pilgrims every year, Mihintale is one of the most precious consecrated sites in Sri Lanka. Located in the district of Anurudhapura, Mihintale is complete with ruins and tales of the origins of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Tracing its antiquity to the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura, Mihintale was known as Chethiyagiriya during this period. Historical chronicles such as Dipavamsa and the Mahavamnsa illustrate the relevance of Mihintale.
King Devanampiyatissa of Anuradhapura was friends with emperor Asoka who had conquered almost the whole of India, had converted in Buddhism. At this point in history, King Asoka was a dedicated in spreading the peaceful teachings of Lord Buddha as far and wide as he could. As a result, he sent emissaries to King Devanamapiyatissa.
The Buddhist delegation sent by King Asoka consisted of his son Mahinda Thero. The story unfolds that King Devanampiyatissa was on a hunt in the region of Chethiyagiriya. When he was about to kill the deer he was in pursuit of he heard a voice call his name. He then looked up and it was Mahinda Thera with his assembly of Arahats. Mahinda Thero then took to ask a series of questions from the king to gage the king’s humility and capacity of understanding the principles of Buddhism. It was here that King Devanampiyatissa embraced Buddhism and spread it to the entire island.
It was this historic moment that shaped the future of the country. Having identified as a Theravada Buddhist country today, Sri Lanka bases its founding trajectory on this enigmatic episode.
Chethiyagiri was renamed Mihintale after the arrival of Mahinda Thero, when the locals at that time revered him as Mihindu Rahathan Vahanse.
Attractions in Mihintale
Since embracing Buddhism, King Devanampiyatissa and reigning kings after have taken significant effort to fortify the rock accessible for both theros and pilgrims.
One of the most intriguing sites in Mihintale, Kantaka Chetiya was constructed during King Suratissa of Anuradhapura’s reign. Bearing influences of Indian art and motives, the chetiya is complete with intricate designs.
Literally translated to ‘snake’ ‘pond’, the pond here was constructed on an existing natural pond referred to as Nagacatusca during King Aggabodhi of Anuradhapura’s time. Fascinating viewers, this pond also supplies water to an adjacent pond called the Lion Pond.
Found at the foot of the mountains are remnants of a hospital. Displaying medicinal baths for patients to immerse themselves and receive treatment, historians claim that the hospital is one of the oldest in the world.
A remarkable symbol of the everyday life of the theros who inhabited Mihintala, the refectory here was where they congregated and shared knowledge regarding Buddhism. This large quadrangle is complete with two large inscriptions regarding the administration of Mihintale.
The Cave of Arahat Mahinda
Mihindu Guhawa as it is referred as is a vital site for devout visitors. The caves are said it to be where Mahinda Arahat Thero resided. A flat slab carved out of rock positioned in the cave is where the Thero took rest .