Eight miles east of Anuradhapura, close to the Anuradhapura - Trincomalee Road is situated the "Missaka Pabbata" which is 1000 feet in height and is one of the peaks of a mountainous range. Though this was called Cetiyagiri or Sagiri, it was popularly known as Mihintale - the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Thera Mahinda came to Ceylon from India on the Fullmoon Day of the month, called Poson (June) and met King Devanampiyatissa and the people, and preached the doctrine. The traditional spot where this meeting took place is revered by the Buddhists of Sri Lanka. Therefore in the month of Poson, Buddhists make their pilgrimage to Anuradhapura and Mihintale.
From ancient times a large number of large steps were constructed to climb Mihintale. It is stated that King Devanampiyatissa constructed a vihara and 68 caves for the bhikkhu’s to reside in. At Mihintale there gradually grew a number of Buddhist vihara’s with all the dependent buildings characteristic of monasteries of that period.
At the foot of the mountain are the ruins of a hospital, medical bath (or stone canoe in which patients were immersed in medicinal oil) a stone inscription and urns belonging to the ancient period have been unearthed. Between the hospital and the steps leading to the rock are the ruins of a large monastery. On the floors of the square building which is 125 feet on one side, are beautiful carvings and also are stone balustrades and guard stones. As this side is precipitous, the steps are on the eastern side of the slope, spacious and in 4 sections. The stairway has 1840 steps made of granite, leading to the summit. At the end of the first set of steps on the right side of the plain, is a small mountain peak. On this is situated the most famous Kantaka Cetiya.
It is stated that King Suratissa may have built this Stupa. The Pesavalalu and the frontispiece have been preserved to a great extent. On the four sides of the stupa are frontispieces. These and the altar are decorated with figures of dwarfs and elephants. The stupa has a circumference of 425 1/2". There are ruins of the stupa which are 40 ft in height. The monks would have resided in the caves close to the stupa. As this stupa was renovated by King Lajjitissa there is no doubt that this belongs to the 1st century B.C.
The Courtyard is situated at the end of the third flight of steps. To the left of the courtyard is the refectory. The quadrangle is 62 feet in length and 25 ft in breadth and is surrounded by the storeroom. Since a part of a pipe line has been discovered here, it can be concluded that a systematic and well planned pipe borne scheme was provided. Two stone troughs can be seen here, which would have been used to store food close to the refectory. On either side of the entrance to a building, are 2 inscriptions engraved on 2 large slabs of granite known as the Mihintale stone inscriptions. The rules and regulations pertaining to the administrative purposes of the monastery are engraved on these 2 stone slabs. This inscription installed by King Mihindu (956 - 976 AD) contains records of payments made to the service staff. In the vicinity on another plain is the meeting hall of the monks. Here the monks met, to discuss the Dhamma and the Vinaya. This is an open building which is 62 feet square and was constructed on 48 stone pillars. In the middle of the hall is a platform with 4 entrances.
To the East of the refectory is a stupa, 88 feet in circumference. It has not been identified so far.
Is situated on the plain close to the peak of the mountain, and is said to have been built by King Makalantissa. The ruins show that there has been a house built encircling the stupa. The Dagaba itself is said to enshrine the relics of the great Apostle Mahinda. It is here that King Devanampiyatissa first met Arahant Mahinda. The traditional spot where this meeting took place is marked by the Ambasthala Dagaba.
The Cave of Arahant Mahinda
When proceeding from Ambastala dagaba along the narrow road, on the slope is the cave known as Mihindu Guhawa or the cave of Arahant Mahinda, where he resided. Out of the caves the most famous and incidentally the most sacred to Buddhists is this cave with its flattened slab on which Thera Mahinda was accustomed to rest.
This large stupa known as the Maha Saya is on the summit of the Mihintale hill, built by King Mahadathika Mahanaga (7-19 AD) the base of which is 136 ft in diameter. The stupa which was in a dilapidated condition was completely restored.
Which faces Maha Seya is on a summit of a hill. Even during very windy weather pilgrims do not fail to visit this rock, which has iron railings to help them to climb.
Naga Pokuna Passing Ambasthalaya on the western side are a flight of steps. When going down the steps one could see the Naga Pokuna. This has been constructed by King Agbo I and its name is derived as there are figures of snakes with their hoods spread out in the back ground and is one of the most famous ponds.
Is also one of the famous ponds at Mihintale? The name is derived from the fact that the water in the pond appears to be black in color. It is believed that on new moon day Kalu Buddha Rakkhita Thera sat under the Thimbiriya tree, close to the Kaludiya Pokuna, preached on sermon based on Kalakarama Sutta.
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