ancient stupa

Exploring the Ancient Stupas in Sri Lanka: A Buddhist Architectural Marvel

Curious about ancient architecture and its historical significance? Sri Lanka’s stupas, considered Buddhist architectural marvels, are sure to captivate your interest. This article delves into the enchanting world of these structure, providing insights on their design, importance in Buddhism, and how you can explore them.

Unearth the wonders of sacred relics and centuries-old stories waiting for you in the breathtaking lands of Sri Lanka – dive right in!

Key Takeaways

  • Sri Lanka’s ancient stupas are Buddhist architectural marvels that hold great historical and religious significance.
  • These structures, such as cave temples, dagobas or stupas, vatadage, and palaces, offer a glimpse into the rich cultural and religious heritage of Sri Lanka.
  • Visitors can explore places like Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to witness the grandeur of ancient stupas and delve deep into the practice of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
  • Travel packages tailored for adventure travelers provide unique opportunities to experience the wonders of ancient Buddhist architecture in Sri Lanka.

Overview of Ancient Buddhist Architecture in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s ancient Buddhist architecture is characterized by various structures such as cave temples, dagobas or stupas, vatadage, and palaces.

Cave Temples

Cave temples in Sri Lanka are gems to behold. They are hollow spaces in big rocks. Monks use them for prayer and rest. Buddha statues line the walls inside. Paintings cover the ceilings, telling stories of Buddhism’s past.

These caves sit high on mountainsides, giving great views out over forests and towns below. The Dambulla Cave Temple is one such place to see this beauty first hand!

Dagobas or Stupas

Dagobas or stupas are ancient structures found in Sri Lanka that hold great religious and historical significance. These architectural marvels were built to preserve and enshrine sacred relics of Buddha, such as his collar bone.

The stupas served as objects of worship for the Buddhist community, believed to contain the remains of Buddha and arhants. In Sri Lanka, dagobas are considered outstanding creations with their unique design and symbolic features.

They can be found in places like Anuradhapura, where visitors can explore the vast archaeological complex and witness the enduring traditions of Buddhism. Some of these stupas have become sacred pilgrimage sites, attracting adventure travelers from around the world who seek a deeper understanding of Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage.


The Vatadage is a unique architectural structure found in ancient Sri Lanka. It is a circular relic house that was built to enshrine sacred relics. The Vatadages were designed with intricate stone carvings and elaborate entranceways, showcasing the skilled craftsmanship of ancient Sri Lankan artisans.

These structures served as places of worship for Buddhists and were considered highly sacred. Some examples of well-preserved Vatadages can be found in Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, offering travelers a glimpse into the rich religious heritage of Sri Lanka.


Ancient Sri Lanka is not just known for its stupas, but also for its majestic palaces. These palaces were once the homes of kings and queens, and they are a testament to the grandeur of ancient Sri Lankan architecture.

One such palace is the Royal Palace in Anuradhapura, which was once the residence of King Pandukabhaya. The palace complex features intricate carvings, beautiful gardens, and expansive courtyards.

Another famous palace is the Lovamahapaya or Brazen Palace in Polonnaruwa, which was built by King Dutugemunu. This colossal building had nine stories and stood as a symbol of power and wealth during that time.

Sri Lankan Stupas: A Unique Buddhist Architectural Design

The Sri Lankan stupas are not only historical and religiously significant, but their unique architectural design will leave you in awe. From the intricate details to the grandness of the structures, these ancient Buddhist monuments are truly a marvel to behold.

Historical and religious significance

The ancient stupas in Sri Lanka have great historical and religious significance. These architectural marvels were built to preserve relics of the Buddha, such as his collar bone. Stupas played a crucial role in the practice of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and were considered objects of worship, enshrining the remains of the Buddha and arhants (enlightened disciples).

They are sacred places for the Buddhist community, representing their heritage and faith. With their rich history and deep religious symbolism, these ancient stupas are truly fascinating to explore for those seeking adventure and cultural experiences in Sri Lanka.

Features of Sanchi Stupa

The Sanchi Stupa is one of the most important Buddhist monuments in Sri Lanka. It is known for its unique architectural design and historical significance. The stupa stands tall and majestic, with a dome-shaped structure made of brick and stone.

At the top of the dome, you can find a harmika, which is a square railing that symbolizes the eightfold path to enlightenment.

The Sanchi Stupa also features intricate carvings and sculptures that depict various scenes from Buddha’s life. These carvings showcase the rich artistic heritage of ancient Sri Lanka and offer insights into Buddhist teachings and traditions.

Surrounding the stupa are ornate gateways called toranas, which are adorned with elaborate statues representing different aspects of Buddhism.

Visiting Ancient Stupas in Sri Lanka

Discover the must-visit places, travel packages, and tour options to explore the ancient stupas of Sri Lanka. Immerse yourself in the rich history and religious significance of these architectural marvels.

Places to visit

There are several incredible places to visit in Sri Lanka if you’re interested in exploring ancient stupas. Here are some must-see sites:

  1. Anuradhapura: This city is known for its rich Buddhist heritage and is home to many impressive stupas, including the Jetavanaramaya Stupa.
  2. Polonnaruwa: Another historical city that boasts stunning stupas, such as the Rankoth Vehera and the Gal Vihara.
  3. Mihintale: Considered a sacred mountain, Mihintale is an important pilgrimage site with ancient stupas and monasteries.
  4. Dambulla Cave Temple: Although not strictly a stupa, this UNESCO World Heritage site houses numerous cave temples adorned with beautiful murals and statues.
  5. Sigiriya: While primarily famous for its rock fortress, Sigiriya also has an ancient stupa called the Cobra Hood Cave.

Sri Lanka travel packages

For adventure travelers looking to experience the grandeur of ancient Buddhist stupas, Sri Lanka offers a variety of travel packages tailored to your interests.

Travel Package Duration Highlights Cost
Historic Sri Lanka 7 Days Visit Anuradhapura, home to some of the world’s oldest stupas and monasteries. $1,100
Stupa Explorer 10 Days Explore the grand Jetavanaramaya Stupa, a sacred pilgrimage site in Anuradhapura. $1,500
Buddhist Pilgrimage 14 Days Travel across Sri Lanka visiting ancient Buddhist architectural sites, including stupas known locally as dagobas. $2,000
Archaeological Wonders 21 Days Immerse in the enduring traditions of Buddhism, explore vast archaeological complexes, and witness the ancient stupa designs unique to Sri Lanka. $3,500

Each package offers a unique opportunity to delve deep into the history of Sri Lanka, appreciate the architectural marvels of ancient stupas, and understand the significant role they played in the practice of Buddhism. Be ready to embark on a journey that combines adventure, history, and spiritual awakening in the heart of Sri Lanka.

Tour packages

Explore the ancient stupas in Sri Lanka with exciting tour packages. Immerse yourself in the rich Buddhist heritage and witness these architectural marvels up close. Visit places like Anuradhapura, known for its sacred pilgrimage sites and stunning stupas. Experience the enduring traditions of Buddhism as you explore the vast archaeological complex. Choose from a variety of Sri Lanka travel packages that cater to adventure travelers like you. Discover the ancient religious structures and uncover the historical significance behind these magnificent monuments. Embark on a journey of exploration and immerse yourself in the beauty of Sri Lanka’s architectural wonders.

Experiencing the Best of Sri Lanka

Discover the wonders of Anuradhapura City, explore its top attractions, indulge in delicious local cuisine, and find the perfect accommodations for an unforgettable trip to Sri Lanka.

Anuradhapura City Guide

Anuradhapura is an ancient city in Sri Lanka that is known for its rich history and cultural heritage. Here is a guide to help you explore this fascinating city:

  • Visit the Jetavanaramaya Stupa, one of the most sacred places in Sri Lanka. It is believed to enshrine a relic of Buddha and offers a glimpse into the religious practices of ancient Sri Lanka.
  • Explore the Abhayagiri Monastery, a renowned Buddhist learning center dating back centuries. The monastery complex includes numerous stupas, meditation halls, and ruins that provide insight into the lives of Buddhist monks.
  • Discover the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, another impressive monument in Anuradhapura. This stupa is considered one of the tallest ancient dagobas in Sri Lanka and provides a serene atmosphere for reflection.
  • Take a walk through Mihintale, a mountain peak close to Anuradhapura where Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. Climb its 1,840 steps to reach various temples and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Don’t miss out on visiting Isurumuniya Temple, which boasts beautiful rock – cut statues and carvings. This temple showcases exquisite craftsmanship from ancient times.
  • Indulge in local cuisine at some of Anuradhapura’s well-known food stalls and restaurants. Try traditional dishes like rice and curry, hoppers (a type of pancake), kottu roti (chopped flatbread stir-fry), and fresh tropical fruits.
  • Stay at accommodations near the ancient city, ranging from luxury hotels to budget – friendly guesthouses. This allows easy access to key historical sites while providing comfort during your stay.

Top attractions

  • The Jetavanaramaya Stupa in Anuradhapura, one of the most sacred pilgrimage places in Sri Lanka.
  • The Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, known for its beautiful white dome and intricate carvings.
  • The Thuparamaya Stupa, believed to enshrine the collar bone relic of Buddha.
  • The Mirisaveti Stupa, famous for its ancient moonstone entrance and stunning views.
  • The Abhayagiriya Monastery Complex, showcasing impressive ruins and serene surroundings.
  • The Isurumuniya Temple, featuring a rock – cut temple with intricate carvings and a peaceful pond.
  • The Gal Vihara, home to four magnificent Buddha statues carved from a single granite boulder.
  • The Lovamahapaya (Brazen Palace), an ancient palace believed to have housed thousands of monks.
  • The Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site with breathtaking views and stunning frescoes.

Remember to check out these top attractions when exploring the ancient stupas in Sri Lanka!

What to eat

When exploring the ancient stupas in Sri Lanka, adventure travelers can also indulge in the local cuisine. Here are some delicious dishes to try:

  • Rice and curry: A staple dish in Sri Lanka, served with a variety of curries including fish, meat, and vegetable options.
  • Hoppers: Crispy pancakes made from fermented rice flour, typically eaten for breakfast or as a snack.
  • Kottu roti: A popular street food made with chopped roti, vegetables, egg, and your choice of meat or seafood.
  • String hoppers: steamed rice noodle cakes served with coconut sambal and curry.
  • Fish ambul thiyal: A tangy and spicy fish curry made with tamarind and dried goraka fruit.
  • Pol sambol: A spicy coconut relish often eaten with bread or roti.
  • Egg hoppers: Hoppers topped with a fried egg, creating a delicious combination of crispy and soft textures.
  • Coconut roti: Flatbread made with grated coconut, typically served with dhal curry or sambol.


Here are some accommodations you can consider when visiting the ancient stupas in Sri Lanka:

  • Luxury hotels and resorts: There are many luxurious options available near the ancient stupas, offering comfortable rooms, beautiful views, and excellent amenities.
  • Guesthouses and homestays: For a more local experience, you can stay at guesthouses or homestays run by locals. This allows you to interact with the community and learn more about their culture.
  • Budget-friendly hotels: If you’re traveling on a budget, there are also affordable options available. These hotels provide basic amenities at reasonable rates.
  • Camping sites: Some areas near the ancient stupas have camping sites where you can set up tents and enjoy the outdoors. This is a great option for adventure travelers who want to be closer to nature.
  • Eco-lodges: Sri Lanka is known for its lush greenery and wildlife. Staying at eco-lodges allows you to immerse yourself in nature while minimizing your impact on the environment.


In conclusion, exploring the ancient stupas in Sri Lanka is an incredible experience for adventure travelers. These Buddhist architectural marvels hold historical and religious significance, showcasing the rich heritage of Buddhism in the country.

From visiting Anuradhapura’s sacred pilgrimage sites to witnessing the enduring traditions, exploring these stupas allows you to immerse yourself in the fascinating world of ancient Sri Lankan architecture and spirituality.


1. What are stupas and why are they considered architectural marvels?

Stupas are large Buddhist monuments that house relics or sacred objects. They are considered architectural marvels for their unique designs, intricate carvings, and historical significance.

2. Are there any entrance fees to visit the ancient stupas in Sri Lanka?

Yes, there may be entrance fees to visit certain ancient stupas in Sri Lanka. The fees contribute to the maintenance and preservation of these historical sites.

3. Can I enter the stupas during my visit?

No, visitors are generally not allowed to enter the main chambers of the stupas as they contain sacred relics. However, you can still appreciate their beauty from outside and explore surrounding areas.

4. Is it necessary to hire a guide when exploring the ancient stupas in Sri Lanka?

While hiring a guide is not mandatory, it is highly recommended as they can provide valuable insights about the history, symbolism, and cultural significance of each stupa you visit.

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