Mihintale, the First Buddhist Temple in Sri Lanka

The over 1080 feet high Mihintale rock is situated about 13 kilometres east of Anuradhapura.It is on this rock that the historic meeting between King Devanampiyatissa and Arahath Mahinda, the son of Emperor Asoka of India, is said to have taken place in 247BC. This meeting led to the King converting to Buddhism and the establishment and growth of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The link between Buddhism and the environment in Sri Lanka grew even stronger with the arrival of Arahat Mahinda Thera. On this day, Sri Lanka's king, Devanampiya Tissa was deer-hunting in the jungles of Mihintale. The sight of the king pursuing a deer greeted Mahinda Thera on his arrival in Sri Lanka. The Thera, who stopped the king in his tracks, preached to him that all mammals, birds and other creatures enjoy an equal right to live in this land, wherever they may want. The land belongs to all the people and animals. The king is only the ruler and not the owner of this land, the Thera said. With that, Mahinda Thera advised King Devanampiya Tissa to designate Mihintale and the surrounding jungle areas as a sanctuary for wildlife. The Mihintale Wildlife Sanctuary, which is believed to be the first sanctuary in the world
From ancient times a large number of steps were constructed to climb Mihintale. It is stated that King Devanampiyatissa constructed a vihara and 68 caves for the bhikkhus to reside in. At Mihintale there gradually grew a number of Buddhist Viharas with all the dependent buildings characteristic of monasteries of that period. At the foothill of the mountain are the ruins of a Hospital, medical bath (or stone canoe in which patients were immersed in medicinal oil) a stone inscription and urns belonging to the ancient period have been unearthed. Between the hospital and the steps leading to the rock are the ruins of a large monastery. On the floors of the square building which is 125 feet on one side, are beautiful carvings and also are stone balustrades and guard stones. As this side is precipitous, the steps are on the eastern side of the slope, spacious and in 4 sections. The stairway has 1840 steps made of granite, leading to the summit. At the end of the first set of steps on the right side of the plain, is a small mountain peak. On this is situated the most famous Kantaka Cetiya.

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