First built by King Mahasen, the Jetawana Buddhist Monastery in the Anuradhapura World Heritage Site has a significant place. In the development of the threefold order of the Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy. The buildings of this monastery complex including jetavana stupa are spread over an area of about 80 hectares.

Origin, Development and function of Jetavana Stupa

The Jetavana Monastery is located in Nandana Uyana. In an ancient pleasure garden, to the southeast of the Anuradhapura Ancient Fort. According to the records given in the great historical annals of Sri Lanka. Nandana Uyana was the first Buddhist sermon preached to the inhabitants of the island by Mihindu. Ven. Mihindu who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka from India in the 3rd century BC. Because of the joy experienced by all who heard the sermon. The park was renamed as Jyothivanaya, the “Blessed Forest”, the name Jetavanaya being broken from Jyothivana in Pali.

The Founder of Jetavana Stupa

The Mahasen King Anuradhapura , who was greatly influenced by the teachings of the Vaitulya Buddhist monks, built the Jetavana Monastery. He then gifted it to a monk named Sagalia, who was an exponent of the Vaitulya Dharma. This monk resided at the Dakkhina Vihara in Anuradhapura. Since then, the Jetavana Monastery became the center and stronghold of the New Sagalia sect. The monastery was organized into several Mulas or facilities. Prominent among them was Senevirad Mulla, Wilgam Mulla another.

Completed by King’s Son

The Jetavana Monastery, founded by King Mahasen in the south-east of the ancient fort of Anuradhapura, was completed by his son and successor to the throne, Kitsiri Mevan. The Jetavana Monastery was patronized by all subsequent rulers and flourished. Invasions and political upheavals in the 11th century until the 11th century adversely affected all the monasteries in the kingdom.

However, from the middle of the 13th century AD, the city with all these monasteries and palaces fell victim to foreign invasions, political upheavals and destruction caused by natural factors. Modern antiquarian interest in the mid-19th century and the establishment of the Department of Archeology in 1890 led to archaeological work. It is for recover the monuments and the site. Since 1980, the Central Cultural Fund has been engaged in the conservation, management and archaeological research of this heritage site.

Monastic plan and architecture

If the amount of food in the enormous boat-shaped stone trough for rice found in the dining hall. This Jetavana Monastery can be taken as a measure, it can be calculated that the monastery was designed to accommodate three thousand monks. It is noteworthy that both the floor plan and building construction of the monastery complex were done on a large scale to accommodate 3000 monks. Jetavana was a multifaceted complex that provided all the various facilities needed by its community of Buddhist monks.

The centerpiece of the monastery’s layout is the Maha Jetavana Stupa, around which other buildings are arranged. According to this plan, the image house is located to the west of the stupa. The Bodhi tree shrine and chapter house to the south. And the restaurant to the east. The Sanghavasa (residential complex) is arranged in a ring around the stupa. These are surrounded by large boundary walls made of bricks for the privacy of the monks. Stone gatehouses built at various points around the ramparts are positioned to face the stupa. Separating this residential complex from the stupa is an open space (sacred area) for public use during religious ceremonies and for holding processions.

To date, many shrines, monastic residential complexes and associated sites have been uncovered. Thus, the architectural features of the 700-year period from the 3rd century AD to the 10th century AD are seen in the monuments of the complex. These monuments exhibit the highest tradition of classical monastic architecture.

Jetavana Stupa The World’s Highest Stupa

The most impressive feature of the monastery is its focal point, the Great Jethavana Stupa. Built by King Mahasen, this stupa had become the third tallest monument in the world by the 4th century AD, taller than only the two Great Pyramids of Egypt. Even today, the Jetavana Stupa is reputed to be the tallest brick monument in the world. According to the Mahavansa record, this giant stupa originally rose to a height of 120 meters. Approximately 93300000 burnt bricks were used for its construction. In this creative masterpiece of architecture and engineering, a high level of religious symbolism is depicted and the modern technology used in the construction combines to make Jethavana surpass such buildings anywhere in the world at the time. Ancient chronicles mention that a wardrobe used by the Buddha is kept in the stupa.

Other monastic buildings

The Bodhi Tree Hall and the Image House are among the notable buildings in the Jetavana complex. The image house, dating from 8th to 9th century AD, has a roof and walls in the Gedi (protected structure) style. The 8 meter high stone door frame is an attractive feature of this image house. It was used to house a standing Buddha image. The building known as Bodhigara (Bodhi Tree Temple) and colloquially known as Galgaradi Vata (Buddhist enclosure) is a fine example of Buddhist architecture.

This is a rectangular structure measuring 43 X 34 meters. The stone wall is 1.6 meters high and beautiful to look at, there are four entrances to the building from the four cardinal directions. The Chapter House was used for special religious ceremonies by the monks of the Jetavana Monastery. The front of this massive structure is 34.5 meters long and 18.8 meters wide. The building is now in ruins, with massive stone pillars to indicate that it was once a multi-storied structure. Scholars believe that the upper parts of the building were made of wood and the roof was covered with copper tiles. In this complex there is another interesting building called Jantaghara (hot water bath) for the monks who performed daily ablutions.


Among the priceless artifacts discovered in archaeological excavations here are numerous sculptures, statues and figurines of various styles and periods. Among them are pair of marble female figures, en engraving of Maya-devi (the mother of Buddha) and famed Naga-raja or the cobra-king guard-stone. One female figure is adorned with a lotus head-dress. These show a clear influence of the artistic style of India’s Andhra-Amaravati school of the latter part of the 2nd – 3rd centuries A.D. the Naga-raja guard-stone is regarded as the finest piece of sculpture found in Anuradhapura to date. This work of art belongs to the 9th – 10th century period. Eight sculptured figures of Hindu deities are among the finds here, including a large statue of God Siva. a Bodhisatva (a future Buddha) sculpture found here, dating from the 6th – 7th centuries A.D. is an exquisite work of art. Among numerous other sculptures displayed in the Jetavana site museum are Buddha images made of stone, symbolic representations of the sacred foot-print of the Buddha and figures of demi-gods (vamana).