Ambastala Stupa and Vatadage

Ambastala Stupa and Vatadage
Ambastala Stupa (Sinhala: මිහින්තලේ අම්බස්ථල දාගැබ හා වටදාගෙය) is a Stupa located in the ancient monastery of Mihintale in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka. The Stupa site is considered the entourage where Arhat Mahinda met King Devanampiyatissa (247-207 A.D.) in the 3rd century B.C. (Wikramagamage, 2004).

Ambastala Stupa
This Stupa 
has been built on the highest point of the Ambastala plain. As a belief of the people, this place has been hallowed by the Buddha on one of his visits to the island (Jayasuriya, 2016). King Kutakannatissa is said to have built a Stupa called Sila Cetiya to the east of the Uposatha House which is probably the present Ambastala Stupa (Nicholas, 1963). 

According to other sources, a Stupa named Sela Cetiya was erected at this place by King Mahadathika Mahanaga (9-21 A.D.) and a Vatadage (circular Stupa shrine/house) was constructed around it by King Kanittha Tissa [(165-193 A.D.) Wikramagamage, 2004]. A Later Brahmi Rock Inscription at Habarana reveals that a king styled Mahaparumaka maharaji [probably Kanittha Tissa (164-192 A.D.)] repaired the Stupa house of the Silachetiya at Ambastala in Mihintale (Paranavitana, 2001). This Stupa house is said to have been restored later by King Gothabhaya [(249-263 A.D.) Nicholas, 1963].

A few inscriptions have been found engraved on stone pillars of the ancient Vatadage as well as on several flagstones on the pavement of the Ambastala Stupa (Dias, 1991; Paranavitana, 1934; Paranavitana, 2001; Ranawella, 2005). Of them, the records on the stone pillars are donatory inscriptions dating from about the 8th century A.D. (Paranavitana, 2001). The inscriptions on the flagstones belong to the period between the 6th-10th century A.D. (Dias, 1991; Paranavitana, 1934; Ranawella, 2005).

Mihintale Ambasthala Stupa inscription
Period: 6-7th century A.D.                Script: Later Brahmi               Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: (1) [Jayapa....pura ma]..... (2) vaharala vata katu......>>
Translation:......gave for the purpose of maintaining the compulsory service at the monastery. May the merit be achieved by all beings.
Citation: Dias, 1991.

Mihintale Stupa pavement inscription
Period: 9-10th century A.D.                Script: Medieval Sinhala               Language: Medieval Sinhala
Transcript: (1) Swasthi Karnala Seni... (2) Kere vu tamba siddhi
Translation: Hail! The (stone) pillar founded by Seni... of Karnala. Prosperity!.
Citation: Ranawella, 2005.

The word Vatadage means "the circular Stupa shrine". As evident by the stone pillars remaining, the Ambastala Stupa at Mihintale once had a Vatadage built around it. Centred in the middle, the Stupa has been built on an elevated circular platform. Two rows of stone pillars surround the Stupa and the roof had rested on these pillars in ancient times. The pillars in both rows measure 4.2 m each (Wikramagamage, 2004).

1) Dias, M., 1991. Epigraphical notes (Nos 1 -18). Colombo: Department of Archaeology. pp.85,90.
2) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. p.59.
3) 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.164.
4) Paranavitana, S., 1934. (Edited and translated by Codrington, H.W.; Paranavitana, S.) Seven Sinhalese inscriptions of the seventh and eighth centuries. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. IV. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. pp.146-148.
5) Paranavitana, S., 2001 (Edited by Dias, M.). Inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. II. Part II. Archaeological Survey Department, Sri Lanka. pp.157-161.
6) Ranawella, S., 2005. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume V, Part III. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 955-91-59-57-7. p.162.
7) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.169.

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This page was last updated on 14 November 2022

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