Thanthirimale is a prominent Buddhist sacred place, situated about 40 kilometers north-west
to the city of Anuradhapura. The easiest access from Anuradhapura is to take Mahavilachchiya
Alternatively, it can be accessed from Medawachchiya-Mannar road too, by turning at the Gajasinghe junction. The road conditions are moderate and can be reached within an hour or so from Anuradhapura. Tourists may have to bear the inconveniences caused by the road renovation work on the road through Gajasinghe junction, these days. Thanthirimale was officially declared as a sacred city in Poson season in 2007, by the government.
With the evidence of existence from around 3rd century B.C., Thanthirimale is believed to have been called as Thivakka Bamunugama (Village of the Brahmin Thivakka) in the past. The significance is charged for this place with the fact that, during the sacred journey of the Sri Maha Bodhi from the coast of Dambakolapatuna, bhikkuni Sangamiththa and the escort had rested here for one night. Brahmin Thivakka took priority in hosting the procession as the area was under his supervision at that time.
According to folklore, Saliya, son of the great king Dutugemunu, who was expelled from the royal family for the reason of marrying Ashokamala, lived in Thanthirimale for years. Eventually, the couple was forgiven by the king and gifted with a golden necklace having a shape of a butterfly known as “Thanthiri”. It is believed the name Thanthirimale was derived in relation to that.
Kudakongaskada Wmalagnana thero, who pioneered revamping this place of worship for the general public in 1960s, is considered as the leader of the modern days of this temple. The thereo was assasinated by terrorists in 1992. Thereafter, ven Thanthirimale Chandrarathana thero became the incumbent.
Having spread over a vast area exceeding 300 acres, one highlighted feature is the location of the sacred Bo tree. Apparently, it is flourishing on the rock surface that accounts for over 250 acres of the coverage. This Bo tree is believed to be one of the eight sacred saplings obtained from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.
The main attractions include stone statues (a Samadhi statue and a reclined statue) , ancient inscriptions,
ruins of several ancient buildings, natural ponds, museum and the new shrine. There exists are caves
filled with pre-historic paintings. Those are situated few hundred meters away from other attractions
and these paintings are assumed to be nearly 4000 years old. Incomplete stone carvings are believed
to be the result of a sudden invasion which forced the civilization to be withdrawn from the area.