President seeks Blessings of Somawathiya Viharaya for Country, People | Daily News


President seeks Blessings of Somawathiya Viharaya for Country, People

Somawathiya, Sacred Stupa

Somawathiya which was built in the 2nd Century BC is believed to enshrine the Right Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha.  

According to chronicles, Prince Giriaba and Princess Somawathi (sister of King Kavanthissa) lived in a small community called ‘Somapura’ on the beds of Mahaweli River. Prince Giriaba constructed Somawathi Chethiya on the request of his wife who wanted to engage in religious activities. Upon completion of the Stupa, the Prince requested a monk named Mahinda for some relics to be kept in the relic chamber of the Stupa. Maha Thera Mahinda gave him the Right Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha.  

This tooth relic was received by ‘Na’ (serpent) King Jayasena when the remaining relics from the Buddha’s cremation site were distributed. He took this to the ‘Naga Lokaya’ (the Kingdom of Serpents) and deposited it in a Stupa made out of gold for worship. Upon the request of Prince Giriaba, Maha Thera Mahinda visited ‘Naga’ Kingdom and brought this tooth relic to be deposited in the Stupa built by the prince.  

Upon completion of the Stupa and five Viharayas, the prince and princess handed over the temple to Mahinda Thera. The site was re-discovered in the 1940s. The Somawathi Sacred area, presently known as the Somawathiya Vihara, which is situated at Minvila about 50 km north-east of Polonnaruwa consists of a Stupa and a few other monumental remains. There are two ways to reach the site: from Minneriya via Hingurakgoda to Sungavila, and the other from Polonnaruwa to Sungawila.  

The Somawathiya site is located 10 km ahead of Sungavila. Further, a branch of the Mahaweli River runs through Sungawila. Floods often occur during the rainy season inundating the area surrounding the Stupa site. It is evident that the Stupa of Somawathiya was under about 20 feet of floodwaters in 1947.  

Before starting the restoration of the Stupa, excavations were conducted by the Archaeological Survey of Ceylon under the direction of C.E. Godakumbura who had revealed a previously constructed Stupa (five feet-five inches) that is established as the inner Stupa with a strong foundation. It was noted that the outer Stupa did not have a proper foundation. Apparently, two foundations were identified after the excavation.

(In Archaeology of Buddhism: Recent Discoveries in South Asia pp. 557). (Our thanks to Angelifire, R.M.M. Chandraratne of University of Peradeniya and Dilan Ranaweera of University of Sri Jayewardenepura)

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