Abhayagiri Vihara

One of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Anuradhapura, Abhayagiri Vihara, is considered to be one of the most extensive ruins in the world and one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage complexes in the nation, due to its strong connection to the origins of Buddhism in the country. Its temple ruins are so well preserved that it even rivals the ancient wonders of the Pyramids in Giza, which further reflects the rich heritage the paradise island of Sri Lanka possesses, making it a major center for cultural visits.

Best Known For

Culture and Heritage:

  • The Abhayagiri Vihara has gained worldwide acclaim for its stunning architecture, especially the Abhayagiri Monastery and Abhayagiri Stupa that once enshrined the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha.
  • The holy site is best known for being a converging point to the three main branches of Buddhism, namely Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
  • The Vihara is known for being a well preserved showcasing the ancient society that thrived in the island of Sri Lanka, just after Buddhism was introduced to the country from India, further illustrating the country’s rich heritage.
  • The Vihara also boasts of the oldest preserved moonstones (reminiscent of a welcome-mat to an entrance carved out of stone), an ancient masterpiece preserved with great commitment and effort.

Interesting Facts

  • The Vihara’s interesting origin story starts with King Vattagamani Abhaya also known as King Valagamba establishing the complex in 88 BC, as a symbol of his triumph over the South Indian Dravidian invaders.
  • According to the ancient chronicles, King Valagamba who once ruled the area was driven out by seven Dravidian chiefs.
  • During the king’s retreat a Jain monk called ‘Geri’ cried out "The great black Sinhala is fleeing", which prompted the king to respond "if my wish (of regaining the kingdom) is fulfilled, I will build a Temple here".
  • 14 years after the king’s exile, he amassed a large army and regained the kingdom after defeating the Tamil King Bhatiya.
  • King Valagamba kept his word and constructed the magnificent spectacle known as Abhayagiri Vihara, which still stands today after facing the rigors of time for more than a 1,000 years.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The Abhayagiri Vihara is open throughout the year, however, its beauty is best experienced during the months of April to September.
  • There is no fee for entering the Vihara with the exception of the museum, however, it is important to note that a proper dress code should be adhered to (clothes that cover the shoulders and legs).
  • Morning visits to the complex, when the crowds are at their lowest allows one to admire the spledour of the structure due to the unhindered view of the ancient marvel.

All in all, if the walls of the Abhayagiri Vihara could talk, an epic story of conquest, solitude and spirituality would be expressed in an elegant manner.

Title image by: Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau The information displayed is provided by Abhayagiri Vihara

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Guided Tour

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Culture and Heritage

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