Sunday, 17 March 2019


Neelagiriseya (Neelagiriya Maha Seya or Neelagiri Dagoba) is an ancient Stupa located in the woods of the Lahugala-Kitulana National Park in Ampara District, Sri Lanka.

Archaeological evidence has confirmed that Neelagiriseya had been in existence from the 2nd century B.C. Although the origin of this temple is not clearly known, there are several views about its establishment. According to one of such views, this is the Pasanadipika Viharaya built by King Mahadathika Mahanaga [(9-21 A.D.) Nicholas, 1963; Withanachchi, 2013]. However, some authors believe that this is a work of King Suratissa [(247-237 B.C.) Medhananda, 2003; Withanachchi, 2013].

Few scholars such as Rev. Handupelpola Punnyarathana, hold the view that this Stupa could be the Mahanuggala Stupa built by King Kavantissa (205-161 B.C.), as mentioned in the great chronicle, Mahawamsa (Somadeva, 2011). Rev. Ellawala Medhananda has quoted the same opinion in his book 'Pācīna passa – uttara passa, nägenahira paḷāta hā uturu palātē Siṃhala bauddha urumaya' (Medhananda, 2003; Somadeva, 2011). If it is true, this is the temple where King Kavantissa had made the ten giants swear never to pick sides in a war between his two sons, Gemunu and Tissa (Medhananda, 2003).

According to an inscription belonging to the reign of King Mahasen (277-304 A.D.), this institute had been called at the time Kulabariya Maha Vehera (Withanachchi, 2013). That inscription records a donation of Kahawanu to the aforesaid temple for the ceremonies named Ariyawamsa (Withanachchi, 2013).

Excavation, 2011
Relic caskets recovered from the Neelagiri Stupa
During the excavations done in 2011, archaeologists found two inscriptions within the monastery premises (Somadeva, 2011). The older of the two belongs to the reign of King Bhatikatissa (22 B.C.-7 A.D.). It records a decree proclaimed by a Queen named Chula Seeval Devi, a daughter of King Bhatikatissa (Somadeva, 2011). The inscription, however, has been erected during the period of Bhatikatissa when he was a viceroy (Uparaja) in Ruhuna. Therefore, according to Somadeva, one can assign this inscription to the period of King Kutakannabhaya (44-22 B.C.), the predecessor of King Bhatikatissa (Somadeva, 2011).

The second inscription also records a decree announced by a King named Jetthatissa. Here the king's name, according to Somadeva, could be either King Jettatissa I (263-273 A.D..) or Jettatissa II [(328-337 A.D..) Somadeva, 2011]. However, the palaeography of this inscription is said to be more related to the reign of King Jettatissa I (Somadeva, 2011).

Here, both inscriptions refer to a monastery named Uttara Seevali Pabbatha Vihara as a recipient institution of the above-proclaimed donations (Somadeva, 2011).

From the archaeological evidence found so far, this structure had been constructed during the pre-Christian era. The layer of stone which makes the Stupa pavement is said to belong to the 7th century A.D. The Yupa-stone and the basal rings are made of stone and bricks.

Presently, the Stupa is 73 feet (22.25 m) in height and has a circumference of 629 feet [(191.71 m) Withanachchi, 2013]. However, according to the studies, the height of the present Neelagiri Stupa is not complementary with the size of the circumference of its base and represents only about one-third of its complete/original height (Wijerathna et al., 2019; Withanachchi, 2013).

The restoration work of Neelagiri Stupa was started in 1960 but it became unsuccessful due to the terrorist activities of LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) around the Lahugala region. The Stupa was opened only after 2010 and restoration work was begun again in 2011 (Wijerathna et al., 2019). During the excavations, small Stupas with a bubble shape and paddy-heap shape were found from the site (Wijerathna et al., 2019).

A protected site
Neelagiri Dagaba and the adjoining premises with buildings with stone pillars in inscriptions and sites with archaeological ruins, cave complex with cave inscriptions and pre-historical arts situated in Perani Lahugala PP 10 Grama Niladari Division in the Divisional Secretary’s Division, Lahugala are archaeological protected monuments, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 10 October 2014

The Stupa Ruins to be excavated
1) Medhananda, Ven. E., 2003. Pacheena passa - Uttara passa: Negenahira palata ha uturu palate Sinhala bauddha urumaya (In Sinhala). Dayawansa Jayakody & Company. Colombo. ISBN: 978-955-686-112-9. pp.115-119.
2) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). p.22.
3) Somadeva, R., 2011. The Archaeological Survey in Neelagiri seya Area in Lahugala of Ampara District: Neelagiriseya Survey: The interim report. Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology. pp.1-23.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1884. 10 October 2014. p.917. 
5) Wijerathna, W.H.T.S., Ranasinghe, R.A.M.P. and Karunananda, P.A.K., 2019. Structural Assessment and Restoration of Neelagiri Maha Seya in Ampara, Sri Lanka. OUSL Journal, 13(2). pp.101-123
6) Withanachchi, C. R., 2013. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Ampara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-44-5. pp.21-23.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 7 June 2022
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map


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