The Sacred Fig Tree of Enlightenment


Ruwanweliseya, located in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, stands as a testament to the island nation’s rich cultural and architectural heritage. This magnificent stupa, dating back over two millennia, holds great religious significance for Buddhists around the world. In this article, we delve into the history, architecture, and cultural importance of Ruwanweliseya, offering a glimpse into the grandeur and spiritual significance of this iconic site.

Historical Significance

Ruwanweliseya is believed to have been constructed during the reign of King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century BC, following the unification of Sri Lanka. The stupa was built to enshrine a sacred relic of the Buddha—a lock of his hair—which was gifted to King Dutugemunu by the Emperor Ashoka. The construction of Ruwanweliseya was a monumental undertaking, showcasing the ingenuity and architectural prowess of ancient Sri Lankan craftsmen.

Architectural Marvel

Ruwanweliseya exemplifies the architectural brilliance of ancient Sri Lanka. The stupa stands at an impressive height of approximately 338 feet (103 meters) and has a diameter of around 290 feet (88 meters). It was constructed using millions of bricks, meticulously arranged in concentric circles. The stupa is adorned with intricate carvings, depicting various scenes from Buddhist mythology, as well as motifs symbolizing peace and enlightenment.

At the pinnacle of Ruwanweliseya, there once stood a magnificent conical spire made of gold, but it was destroyed over the centuries. The stupa underwent significant restoration efforts in the 19th century, restoring its grandeur to its former glory.

Religious and Cultural Importance

Ruwanweliseya holds immense religious and cultural significance for Buddhists in Sri Lanka and around the world. It is considered one of the Solosmasthana, the sacred places of worship in Buddhism, and is revered as a symbol of faith and devotion. Devotees flock to this holy site to pay their respects, offer prayers, and engage in religious rituals.

The stupa also serves as a center for religious festivals and ceremonies. The annual Esala Perahera, a grand procession featuring traditional dancers, drummers, and elephants, takes place in Anuradhapura, attracting thousands of locals and tourists. This vibrant event celebrates the rich Buddhist heritage and the history associated with Ruwanweliseya.


Ruwanweliseya stands as an architectural masterpiece, a symbol of faith, and a testament to Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage. Its grandeur and historical significance make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a deeper understanding of the country’s Buddhist traditions. Ruwanweliseya’s enduring presence is a source of inspiration and a reminder of the spiritual and artistic achievements of ancient civilizations.

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Useful Tips

  • The best time to visit Ruwanweliseya is early morning or late afternoon when the weather is cooler and the light is better for photography. It is also less crowded during these times, giving visitors a chance to explore the site in peace.

  • Visitors to Ruwanweliseya are required to dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. Shoes must be removed before entering the premises.
  • Visitors are required to purchase a ticket to enter the site. The ticket price varies depending on nationality.
  • While in Anuradhapura, visitors can also explore other ancient sites such as the Sri Maha Bodhiya, Isurumuniya temple, Abhayagiri vihara, and Samadhi Buddha statue.
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