Buddhism in Sri Lanka

Mahatma Buddha has always been referred as the ‘light of Asia’. He is regarded as one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu as well.

Starting of Buddhism

Buddhism started to make its mark on Sri Lanka in early 3rd century BC. Buddhism is more than 2 millennia old in Sri Lanka and has been practiced since then. Sri Lanka was not just introduced to Buddhism with Buddhist missionaries coming to Sri Lanka. They were introduced to the culture, dynamics and civilization of Buddhist India.

As per the story goes, Mahindra, son of emperor Ashoka introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa. And as the story extends, the nun Sanghamitra was said to have bought southern branch of the original Bodhi tree, and it was planted at Anuradhapura. And ever since then, Buddhists of Sri Lanka have given utmost respect and reverence to this branch, under whose shade Mahatma Buddha achieved Enlightenment. And since then, Buddhism has grown facing some issues time and again.

Places to visit related to Buddhism in Sri Lanka

Anuradhapura: It is one of the most important and well known cities of Sri Lanka. The city is now more of picturesque ruins and was once a major center for Sri Lankan civilization. The fascinating ancient ruins include huge bell-shaped stupas which built with small sun-dried bricks, temples, sculptures, palaces, and ancient drinking-water reservoirs. The city has always had lots of residents, but it became even more prominent after the part of Bodhi tree, aka Tree of Enlightenment was planted in this city.

There is much to see at Anuradhapura, including the sacred Bodhi tree, the eight major palaces, monasteries and monuments.

  • Sri Maha bodhiya
  • Ruwanwelisaya
  • Thuparamaya
  • Lovamahapaya
  • Abhayagiri Dagaba
  • Jetavanarama
  • Mirisaveti Stupa
  • Lankarama
  • Isurumuniya
  • Magul Uyana
  • Rathna Prasadaya
  • Dakkhina Stupa
  • Sela Cetiya
  • Naka Vihara
  • Kiribath Vehera
  • Kuttam Pokuna
  • Samadhi Statue


– With destruction of Anuradhapura by the Tamil Chola ruler Rajaraja Chola, Polonnaruwa became the new capital of then Ceylon. During this time, it became home of many Buddhist sanctuaries, of which the Atadage (Temple of the Tooth Relic) is the most renowned.

Some of the great places to see and visit in Polonnaruwa are: –

The Lankatilaka, an enormous brick structure which has preserved a colossal image of Buddha.
The Gal Vihara, with its gigantic rock sculptures which may be placed among the great works of Sinhalese art.
The Tivanka Pilimage, where wall paintings of the 13th century illustrate the Jataka (narratives of the previous lives of the Buddha)


Kandy (also known as Maha Nuwara, “Great City”) was designated a World Heritage site in 1988, and presently has a population of over 100,000. It is an administrative, commercial, cultural and educational center that attracts pilgrims and tourists alike.

It has many beautiful places to visit that includes

  • The Gadaladeniya Vihare (Buddhist)
  • The Lankatilaka Vihare (Hindu)
  • Most important of all the Buddhist temples, is the Temple of the Tooth. This temple has the relic of Mahatma Buddha’s tooth.
  • Kandy’s annual Esala Perahera, a 10-day torchlight parade of dancers and drummers, dignitaries, and ornately decorated elephants, commemorate the sacred tooth.
  • Kanda Uda Pas Rata (“Palace on Five Hills”)

Sri Lanka is one of the best places to visit and enjoy the true nature of Buddhism.