Mihintale Mountain, with the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, began to serve as a residential area for the venerable monks headed by Arahath Mahinda Mahathera. But soon, with the royal patronage, the sanctuary housed a multitude of with monastic buildings-stupas, uposathgharas, bodhigharas- to serve the monks.

Sixty eight cave dwellings provided the monks shade and shelter. Mihintale, the sanctuary for many thousands of laymen as well as holy men, had all the facilities and amenities for basic living.

13 top things to do in mihintale

Things to do in Mihintale
Things to do in Mihintale

1) The great stairway

The great stairway that leads up the Mihintale Mountain consists of no less than 1840 rock cut steps. While some of the neat steps are carved into the natural rock, the rest are paved with cut granite. Exceedingly wide for a pedestrian climb, the impressive staircase of unique distinction, well sheltered and shaded with frangipani flower trees and ever-green wood makes a very pleasant climb

The blossoms of Araliya (frangipani) make the staircase fragrant while the intrusive hoards of monkeys hover around and hang in the branches of the trees to grab snacks off the visitors.

2) The sixty eight caves

The sixty eight caves, the earliest dwellings of the monks at Mihintale are located around the Kantaka Cetiya. The Mahavamsa, the great historical chronicle of Sri Lanka narrates on the donation of caves to the monks by King Devanampiya Tissa. Furthermore the inscriptions engraved above the drip ledges of these caves too elaborate of the offering.

3) Refectory, the Alms Hall

To the left of the first level of Mihintale is the main refectory. Two stone cut troughs used for serving rice are lined up along the walls to the north and east. The larger of the trough with a length of 23 feet is an indication of the large number of monks. Interior of these troughs were believed to be lined with a layer of metal. Refectory also consists of overhead water pipes and elaborates drainage system. A rock cut inscription reveals the members at the refectory: 12 cooks, warden and firewood suppliers.

4) Dage, the Relic House, the Main Shrine

Mihintale’s main shrine is located at an elevated level adjoining the refectory. A flight of stairs leads to the main shrine. Two large slabs of stone contain inscriptions in length on both sides of the entrance to the shrine. The beautiful inscription on polished slabs of granite made by King Mahinda the fourth (956-972 A.D.), one of the longest ancient inscriptions of Sri Lanka shed a great deal of information on the monastery.

5) Kantaka Chetiya

It is unknown who built this stupa but it is said that the King Lanjatissa (119-109 BC) has built a stone mantel built for this stupa. Therefore we can assume that the stupa was built prior to 119 BC. The present stupa is 425 feet in diameter and is about 40 feet high. This stupa is most popular for one of the most well preserved vahalkada which can be seen today.

6) Sinha Pokuna (Lion pond)

To the south of the Assembly Hall in the middle terrace at a lower level is the Lion pond amidst the ruins of a monastic building. The pond built into a natural rock has water channeled from Naga Pokuna at a higher elevation. The water is discharged through the open mouth of the life size-lion carved onto a rock wall. Right round the pond are sculptures depicting dancers, Elephants, musicians and dwarfs.

7) Ambasthala Chetiya

The first monument that comes into view when entering the upper terrace is Ambastala dagoba built by King Mahadatika Mahanaga (09-21 AC). It is a small stupa surrounded by stone pillars forming a circle. The pillars are the unmistakable evidence that Ambastala dagoba was a circular relic house with a roof of wooden construction over the stupa supported on those pillars.

The site of Ambasthala Dagaba is believed to be the precise location at Mihintale where Mahathera Mahinda met King Devanampiya Tissa and the great sage delivered his first sermon on the mount, Cula Hatthipadopama Sutta.

8) Sila Chetiya

The first monument that comes into view when entering the upper terrace is Ambastala dagoba built by King Mahadatika Mahanaga (09-21 AC). It is a small stupa surrounded by stone pillars forming a circle. The pillars are the unmistakable evidence that Ambastala dagoba was a circular relic house with a roof of wooden construction over the stupa supported on those pillars.

The site of Ambasthala Dagaba is believed to be the precise location at Mihintale where Mahathera Mahinda met King Devanampiya Tissa and the great sage delivered his first sermon on the mount, Cula Hatthipadopama Sutta.

9) Mihindu Seya

Mihindu Seya was built by King Uttiya (210-200 BC) to enshrine a portion of the bodily relics of Mahinda Mahathera and visiting this place is a one of the main things to do in Mihintale.
The site of Ambasthala Dagaba is believed to be the precise location at Mihintale where Mahathera Mahinda met King Devanampiya Tissa and the great sage delivered his first sermon on the mount, Cula Hatthipadopama Sutta.

10) Aradhana Gala (The Rock of Invitation)

On the eastern side of the Ambasthala Cetiya is the rock called Aradhana Gala. It is believed to be the location where the novice monk Sumana invited the gods and deities to the first sermon of Mahinda Mahathera in Lanka.

11) Mihindu Guhawa, the cave of Mahinda

About three hundred yards downhill from the Upper terrace, on the eastern side a stone slab sheltered by another rock called Mihindu Guhawa Cave. It is believed to be the location where Mahinda mahathera mediated. The rectangular area is believed to be the bed of Mahathera Mahinda. This place is one of the main things to do in Mihintale

12) Rajagirilena Kanda, the Royal Rock Cave Hill

About half a kilometer from Indikatusaya along the gravel road and on the turning to the left is located Rajagirilena Kanda. On the low hill with a height of about of 100 feet, among the boulders at the summit are caves once occupied by the monks. Fairly roomy cells were formed by brick and clay walls that divide the interior sheltered by an overhanging rock roof. Rajagirilena Kanda with its airy caverns in a pleasant setting is believed to be first dwellings of the Buddhist monks at Mihintale.

13) Kaludiya Pokuna, the Black Water Pool

A short path of about fifty meters through the boulders at Rajagirilena Kanda leads to Kaludiya Pokuna, the central attraction of the hill named Porodini in the Mihintale Tablets of King Mahinda the 4th. Kaludiya Pokuna, the largest pool at Mihintale measures 200 feet in length and 70 feet in width. Around the pool are the ruins of meditation halls, bathing houses and walled caves. The name Black Water Pool was a result of the dark shadows left upon the waters by the rock boulders and shady trees surrounding the pool.

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