Mirisawetiya

mirisavetiyaDutugemunu (162-137 A.D) who captured the kingdom of Anuradhapura from the Tamil invadar Elara, had take part in an aquatic festival held at Tissawewa. This appears to be a customany festival held at the coronation ceremony of a king in that period.. The king after bathing wanted to return in the evening found that the royal sceptre with relies of the Buddha could not be moved from the place where it had been struct in the earth. That the king caused a dagaba to be built enshring this sceptre41 with this dagaba which took three years to complete, the king built a monastory too for the Bikkus.This dagaba was called mirisawetiya because as mentiied in the Mahavamsa the king had built this dagaba as an act of explanation for the partaking of dried chillies without giving a share to the sangha42 The king from the start of the war against king Elara carried with him the sceptre referred to above after encasing relics in it42 and its power is believed to have made him win the battle fought against the Tamils.

This was the first cetiya built by king Dutugemunu who later built the famous Ruwanweliseya. According to the Mahavamsa king Gajaba (114-136) made a mantle to the cetiya and gave land for the maintenance of the viharaya which King Voharikatissa (209-231) restored the umbrella of the cetiya and built a wall, too.44 This cetiya too was damaged by the Chola invaders and king Parakramabahu renovated it to a height of 120 feet 45.At the time of the present renovation the diameter of the base was 168 feet.

The monastery at the beginning, appears to have been affiliated to the mahavihara and had gradually developed into a monastery of its own. But it continued as part of the Mahavihara and had gradually developed into a monastery of its own. But it continued as part of the Mahavihara fratenity.The chronicle do not give any light as to the nature of the relations that had existed between the Mahavihara and other monasteries like the Thuparama and the Mirisawetiya which belonged to the same fraternity. The Mahavamsa mentiones that king Dutugamunu after building the cetiya built an Uposatha hall and caused the Sangha to reside there 46 Another massive prasada was erected by the side of the Mirisawetiya by king Kasayapall(650-59)and caused a “Mahathera” to live there and granted a village for the supply of necessities47 king Kasayapa(914-23) had restored the vihara which had been destroyed with its various buildings and granted villages for the maintenance of the Bhikku residing there48 king Mahinda(956-72) had built a prasada called Chandana Prasada to house the keshadatu or hair relic49 As mentioned elsewhere this keshadatu was brought to Sri Lanka during the time of king Moggalana(495-513) and was kept in a house close to the king’s place and annual festivals were conduct in honour of it after conducting the hair reli to Jetavanarama. It is clear by the time of king Mahinda that a separate mansion at the monastery of the Mirisawetiya was constructed to house mis relic.lt is not yet clear as to when this relic was brought under the preview of the Mirisawetiya of the Mahavihara fraternity from the Jetavana faternity.

The ruins found around the cetiya indicate that the Mirisawetiya monastery may have spread over an area of over 50 acres. Among the ruins, the most important are ,except for the cetiya itself ,14 groups of buildings used as residence of the monks in the monastery which situated on the three sides of the cetiya except for the North.49

Mirisawetiya is highly valued by archeologists because of its Vahalkada. As indicated by Paranavithana the western Vahalkada of this cetiya was till recently “the most complete example of this type of structure “50 The Vahalkada of the tree other large stapas of Anuradhapura are in a ruined state. The Vahalkada “are from and architechtural point of new, among the most important features of Ceylon stupas and supply the earliest examples of plastic art of the Island”60 The Vahalkada of the three stupas at Anuradhapura in their present from appear to be later in date than the stupas themselves61 For instance the Vahalkadas of the Abayagiriya as epigraphical evidence shows appear to have been added to the cetiya after its enlargement in the reigin of Gagaba I and during the time of king Kanitthatissa. The flight of steps ascending the terraces at the Mirasawetiya are not placed behind the Vahalkadas as they are at the Ruwanwelisaya and other Dagabas . 62 The Rankothvehara and Kirivehara at Polonnaruwa have each eight small shrines with images of the Buddha. These image houses were built against me basement of the stupa. Among the Anuradhapura Stupas similar shrines are found only at the Mirisawetiya but they are arranged differently from those of Polonnaruwa .It is believed therefore that the shrines at the Mirasawetiya were added later ,probably .during the Polonnaruwa period63 When the Chola invaders pllundered and damaged the cetiya,king Parakramabahu I of Polonnaruwa had it restored. The chronicles mention the restoration of the Mirisawetiya again by king Parakramabahu n who came to power after the defeate of Magha a well known devastator of religious sites in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

Henry Parker report that when in 1873, he visited Anuradhapura, the Mirisawetiya was merely a mound of earth covered with trees and schrub jungle64 J.F.Dickson, the first Govt. Agent of the province with the assistance of Smither had cleared the cetiya as well as the sourrounding jungle. During the clearence they had come across the ruins of an old image house on the western site of the cetiya65 When J.F.Dickson became the president of the Royal Asiate sociely(Ceylon Branch) he managed with the assistance of Governer Gregory to allocate Rs.lOOO/= from the funds of the sociely for excavation purposes of the cetiya Accordingly, excavations were commenced in 1885 under the guidence of Burrows. The exacavators expected to find three similar image houses like the one found on the western side in the three other directions as well When they found that the image house on the east had been destroyed, they gave up any further attempts66 Again in 1888 Burrows recommendenced the exacavations. At this time he would find only the ruins of two image houses in the northen and the southern sides.

Meanwhile Governer Gorden started the reconsrructions of the cetiya with bricks through a donation of Rs 1000/= by a Sames price in 1888. The construction plan was prepared by the Provincial Engineer Murray, according to the measure ments of the Rankothvehera of Polonnaruwa. The construction had to be stopped due to lack of funds.up to the commencement of the modern reconstruction work What we could see were the remains of the work carried out by Burrows. Owing to a crack in the brick wall the government made no further attempts to complete the work.67

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