Hidden in the outskirts of Anuradhapura, is the ancient Buddhist temple complex of Thanthirimale. Considered as one of the oldest settlements of Sri Lanka, this area is not just home to a temple complex but also acts as a window in to the glorious past, even beyond the written history of Sri Lanka.

Even though this location holds high significance both in terms of Buddhism and also the history of this island, not many are aware of its existence or whereabouts.

Getting there:- There are two well known routes to reach Thanthirimale

  1. Through Anuradhapura-Mahawilachchiya road.
  2. Through Madawachchiya- Mannar road.

Thanthirimale Rajamaha Vihara is thought to have been built in the third century BC. Following many years of neglect and countless invasions and changes in Kingdoms, it was hidden from the eye of man until the 19th century when archaeologist rediscovered this magnificent complex and the surrounding ruins.

When you enter the compound you will first come across the much modern temple and then a museum which is home to many of the artifacts that were found on site.


Once you pass the museum you will come to a wide opening with huge rock boulders and small natural ponds of many sizes scattered around the area, nature at its best.

From there onward there are five main points of interest that you should make sure to visit.

  • Ashta pala boo tree

Once you climb up a stone cut stairway you will come to the much worshiped “Ashtapala Boo tree”. Considered as one of the most important religious boo trees found in Sri Lanka, it is thought to have comes from one of the 8 saplings that grew from the original boo tree brought to Sri Lanka by Arhat Sangamitta Theri.


  • The next most important land mark would be the  Buddha statue carved in to a rock, located just off the Boo tree.


Following the great Buddha statue, the most noteworthy of  rock carvings are the two statues on ether side of the Buddha which has been only partly completed along with a half done section of the staircase. It is believed that due to a foreign invasion that happened on the Kingdom during the end of the Anuradhapura era the artist was not able to finish his masterpiece leaving it incomplete.


  • Towering the raised natural rock formation located at the end of the beautiful pond is a square shaped building which was used as the pothgula or a safe heaven for puskola poth (Religious script written on the leaf of Palmyrah).


At the base of this boulder a man made cave like structure, complete with Kataram can be found which is believed to have housed meditating monks.



  • Rock caves and prehistoric drawings


Once you pass the pothgula and walk along a trail going deep in to the forest you will come across two natural caves on whose wall you will be able to see many prehistoric drawings depicting animals, sun, moon and humans. According to the renown historian Prof. Senarath Paranawitharana these drawing may date back 4000 years.


Just across these caves you will find a few more natural ponds and a huge rock bolder which you can climb to see a 360 view of the area around.

  • The reclining Buddha stute

This Buddha state has many similarities to the world famous Polonnaruwa Buddha statue. Some parts of the statue has been damaged by time and treasure hunters



Thanthirimale temple complex has survived through invasions by Chola, Pandya and Magha dynasties and had been in ruins encroached by the jungle up till the 1960’s, when it was rediscovered and renovated to what it is today. Even thought many people are not familiar with the history and stories surrounding this masterpiece, it is one of the most important relics of the old world and should be preserved  for generations to come.

So if you do find yourself in Anuradhapura don’t forget to go off the much known touristy route and explore the wonders of this hidden historical site.

Until next time,

Safe travels



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