Sandagiri Stupa (Tissamaharama)

Not to be confused with Sandagiri Stupa, Hantana and Sandahiru Stupa, Anuradhapura

Sandagiri Stupa

Sandagiri Stupa (Sinhala: සඳගිරි දාගැබ, තිස්සමහාරාමය) is a Stupa situated near Tissamaharama Viharaya in Hambantota District, Sri Lanka. This Stupa is considered one of the oldest Stupas in the country.


Sandagiriya ruins

The history of this Stupa runs back to the pre-Christian era. Although there is no reference to Sandagiri Viharaya in the chronicle Mahavamsa till the 12th century, other Sinhalese chronicles attribute the foundation of Sandagiri Vihara to Mahanaga (3rd century B.C.) and to Kavantissa [(2nd century B.C.) Abeyawardana, 2004; Nicholas, 1963].

As mentioned in Mahavamsa (Chap. 60. vv.58-63), Candagiri Viharaya (most probably Sandagiri Viharaya) was restored by King Vijayabahu I [(1055-1110 A.D.) Abeyawardana, 2004; Geiger, 1998; Nicholas, 1963].


Four inscriptions belonging to the period between the 1st and 2nd century A.D. have been found on the temple premises (Paranavitana, 1983; Somadeva, 2006). They have been indited on a limestone pillar about 2.4 m high (Paranavitana, 1983; Somadeva, 2006).

Sandagiri Stupa Pillar Inscription I of Vasabha (67-111 A.D.)

Sandagiri Stupa pillar inscriptions

Period: 1st-2nd century A.D.
Script: Later Brahmi
Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: (1) Kariha kubara va- (2) -ti tela muliya ko- (3) -tu pohota-karahi dine (4) Vahabaraje
Translation: Vasabha gave a Karisa of field on account of the price of oil for lamps in the Uposatha-house.
Citation: Paranavitana, 1983. p.76.

The Monastery

There are indications that there was a monastic complex built around the Sandagiri Stupa. The ruins of a Janthaghara (bathhouse), Bodhighara (Bodhi-tree shrine), Uposathaghara (chapter house), and Patimaghara (image house) have been found.

The Stupa

Sandagiriya Buddha

The shape of the Stupa is said to have been changed from time to time and it was last renovated during the Polonnaruwa Period by King Vijayabau I. The small original Stupa which had been constructed on a berm had a Pradakshinapatha (an ambulatory) around it. Also, the remains of the Stupa indicate that once it had a Chatra-stone (umbrella) and a Yupa-pillar.

The preliminary conservation work of the Stupa was initiated in 1987 by the Department of Archaeology. In 2004, with the involvement of the Central Cultural Fund, conservation works were again commenced. The completed Stupa is 60 ft. in height with a circumference of 330 ft. at the base.

The Image House

The ancient image house at Sandagiri Viharaya has been built according to the Gandhakuti tradition. It has been built on a raised foundation and to enter the image house one has stepped onto the porch built in front of the Garbha (sanctum) containing the Buddha image. A Pradakshinapatha (ambulatory) runs around the Buddha image. Depending on the architecture, this image house has been dated to the 8th century A.D.

The Buddha Statue

The Buddha statue that presently stands in the image house is thought to have been sculptured in Andra (India) and imported to Sri Lanka (Bopearachchi, 2020). It was discovered accidentally along with two small Bodhisattva images in December 2001 on a private property known as Baduwatta (Bopearachchi, 2020). According to the view of archaeologists, these statues were removed in the past from the original shrine and were hidden for an unknown reason in the present find-spot close to the image house (Bopearachchi, 2020). The right hand of the statue is damaged and it may have been upheld in Abhayamudra (Bopearachchi, 2020). The left-hand holds the hem of the outer cloak near the chest (Bopearachchi, 2020).

The Bodhi-tree Shrine

The Bodhi-tree shrine of Sandagiri Viharaya also belongs to the 8th century A.D. The brick-built square in the middle of this edifice indicates the spot where the ancient Bo tree had been planted.

A Protected Site

The ancient Sandagiriya Stupa in Sandagirigama village situated in Ranakeliya North in Tissamaharama Magam Pattuva is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 18 November 1949.

Sandagiriya ruins Sandagiriya ruins


1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Ruhuna: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-073-4. p.124. 
2) Bopearachchi, O., 2020. Roots of Sri Lankan Art. Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka. ISBN: 978-955-7457-31-4. p.60.
3) Geiger, W., 1998. The Culavamsa: Being the more recent part of the Mahavamsa. Part: I. Asian Educational Services, New Delhi. p.220. 
4) 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.61.
5) Paranavitana, S., 1983. Inscriptions of Ceylon, Late Brahmi Inscriptions, 2 (part 1). Archaeological Survey of Sri Lanka. pp.75-77.
6) Somadeva, R., 2006. Urban origins in southern Sri Lanka. Doctoral thesis in Archaeology at Uppsala University. pp.428-429.
7) The government gazette notification. no: 10045. 18 November 1949.

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This page was last updated on 12 January 2024
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