This massive pagoda named Jetavana Stupa built by King Mahasen for the first time, the Jetavana Buddhist Monastery, located in the Anuradhapura World Heritage Site, plays an important role in the development of the threefold Sasana of the Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka. The buildings of this monastery complex are spread over an area of about 80 hectares.

  • Jetavana Stupa
  • entrance to stupa
  • jetawana stupa shrine room ruins
  • jetavana stupa offering table

Origin, Development and function of Jetavana Stupa

Jethawana Aramaya is located in the Nandana Uyana, an ancient amusement park, southeast of the ancient fort of Anuradhapura. According to the records of the great historical chronicles of Sri Lanka. Nandana Uyana is the first Buddhist sermon preached to the people of the island by Arahant Mahinda who brought Buddhism to Ceylon from India in the 3rd century BC. To the delight of all who heard the sermon, the park was renamed Jotivana, and the name Jetavana was derived from the Pali word Jotavana, which means “Forest of Bliss”.

King Mahasen of Anuradhapura built the Jetavana Aramaya which greatly influenced the teachings of the Vaithulya Buddhist monks. He later gifted it to a monk named Sagaliya who was a preacher of Vaithulya Dhamma who lived in the Dakkhina Vihara in Anuradhapura. From then on, the Jetavana monastery became the center and fort of the new Sagaliya sect. The monastery was organized into several sources or facilities. The foremost among them was Senevirad Mula, another of Wilgam Mula.

Jethawana Aramaya was started by King Mahasen on the south east side of the ancient fort at Anuradhapura and was completed by his son and successor to the throne Kithsiri Mevan. From the 11th century onwards, the invasions and political upheavals of the 11th century adversely affected all the monasteries in the kingdom. However, from the middle of the 13th century AD, the city, with all its monasteries and castles, was ravaged by foreign invasions, political upheavals, and natural disasters.

Archaeological excavations began in the mid-19th century to restore the monuments and site due to modern antiquity interest and the establishment of the Department of Archeology in 1890. The Central Cultural Fund has been involved in the conservation, management and archeological research of this heritage since 1980.

Jetavana Stupa monastic plan and architecture

If the size of the food can be used as a measure of the huge boat-shaped stone trench for rice found in the restaurant of the Jetavana monastery, it can be estimated that the monastery was designed to house 3,000 monks. It is noteworthy that both the floor plan and the construction of the buildings of the monastery complex have been done on a large scale to accommodate 3000 monks. Jetavana is a multi-faceted complex that provides all the various facilities required by its Buddhist community of monks.

In the layout of the monastery, the centerpiece is the Great Jetavana Stupa, surrounded by other buildings. According to the plan, the image house will be located to the west of the stupa, the Bodhi Tree Palace and the chapter house to the south and the restaurant to the east. The clergy residence complex is arranged as a ring around the stupa. These are surrounded by large brick walls for the privacy of the monks. The stone gates built in various places around the wall are positioned to face the stupa. Separation of this residential complex from the stupa is an open space (a sacred area) for public use during religious ceremonies and for holding processions.

To date, many shrines, monasteries, and allied sites have been unearthed. Thus, the 700-year-old architectural features of the complex can be seen in the monuments from the 3rd century AD to the 10th century AD. These monuments exhibit the highest tradition of classical monastery architecture.

The world’s highest stupa

The most attractive feature of the monastery is the Great Jetavana Stupa at its center. Built by King Mahasen, the stupa was the third tallest monument in the world by the 4th century AD, with only the two Great Pyramids of Egypt taller than the Jetavana Stupa. Even today, the Jetavana Stupa is reputed to be the tallest brick monument in the world. According to the Mahavamsa, this giant stupa originally rose to a height of 120 meters. Approximately 93300000 fired bricks were used for its construction.

In this creative masterpiece of architecture and engineering, a high level of religious symbolism is represented and the modern technology used for construction is integrated and Jetavana surpasses such buildings built anywhere in the world at that time. Ancient chronicles state that a set of clothes used by the Buddha was kept in the stupa.

Other monastic buildings

The Bodhi Tree Palace and the Image House are among the notable buildings in the Jetavana complex. The house and roof of the house, which dates from the 8th to the 9th century AD, have a walled (walled structure) style. The 8 meter high stone door frame is an attractive feature of this house. It was used to place an image of a standing Buddha. The building known as the Bodhi Tree (Bodhi Tree Devalaya) and orally known as the Galgaradi Vata (Buddhist Siege) is a fine example of Buddhist architecture.

This is a rectangular structure measuring 43 X 34 meters. The ridge is 1.6 meters high and is beautiful to look at, with four entrances to the building from the four main directions. The monks of the Jetavana monastery used the chapter house to perform special religious rites. The massive structure is 34.5 meters long in front and 18.8 meters wide. The building is now in ruins and has huge stone pillars to show that it was once a multi-storey structure. Experts believe that the upper part of the building was made of wood and the roof was made of copper tiles. In this complex there is another interesting building called Janathaghara (hot water bath) for the monks who perform Sil daily.


Among the priceless artefacts found in the archeological excavations here are numerous sculptures, statues and statues from various designs and periods. Among them are a pair of marble female figures, a carving of Mayadevi (Mother of the Buddha) and the famous Nagaraja or Naga Raja guard stone. One female figure is adorned with a lotus headdress. These show a clear influence on the artistic style of the Andhra-Amaravathi school in India in the late 2nd – 3rd century AD.

This work of art belongs to the 9th – 10th centuries. Eight statues of Hindu deities are found here, including a large statue of Lord Shiva. The statue of the Bodhisattva (a future Buddha) from the 6th to the 7th century AD is a masterpiece. Many other sculptures on display at the Jetavana Museum include stone Buddha statues, symbolic representations of the Buddha’s sacred footprints, and images of half-gods (dwarfs).

Map information

  1. Jetavana Stupa
  2. Timbiri Pokuna
  3. Gate House
  4. Image House no 1
  5. Resident Complex
  6. Principal residential unit
  7. Residential unit
  8. Doorway
  9. Well
  10. Janataghara no 1
  11. Well no 1
  12. Doorway
  13. Principal residential complex
  14. Lavatory and toilet
  15. Dharma-Sanghani gruha
  16. Toilet
  17. Lavatory
  18. Congregation hall
  19. Toilet
  20. Well 11
  21. Bodhi – tree shrine
  22. Pond no 1
  23. Assembly house
  24. Jantaghara no 11
  25. Preaching hall
  26. Image house
  27. Refectory
  28. Pond no 11
  29. Museum
  30. Western boundary wall
  31. Eastern boundary wall