Jetavanaramaya is a stupa and one of the many world-renowned religious sites to visit during holidays in Sri Lanka. It is located in the city of Anuradhapura in the North Central Province and is the best surviving structure among the ruins of the Jetavana Monastery. As with all such sites, a relic of Buddha is kept inside, which in the case of Jetavanaramaya, is a part of a belt worn by the deity. The shrine constructed by King Mahasena, between AD 273 and AD 301, belongs to the Sagalika Sect of Buddhism. Its construction is connected to the differences between the Theravada and Mahayana sects of the faith.
The Theravedin Buddhist monks, living inside the Mahavihara monastery, were expelled by the king and the institute was desecrated and looted. One of the ministers of Mahasena, who followed the defiled sect, launched a rebellion and assembled an army of his own. Following negotiations on the night before the beginning of the battle, the wife of the king had his anti-Theravada teacher killed and the former apologised to the dispelled monks. The Mahayanist monks returned to the site where the Mahavihara stood and started building the Jetavanaramaya.
Details of Design and Construction
The detailed description of the design and construction process of this amazing monument is well-documented in the Pali epic, Mahavamsa. According to the text, the stupas stands on an 8-feet deep foundation and each of its bricks can withstand a weight of 166 kg. Along with bricks, soil was also used to construct this symmetrically perfect ellipsoid. Its foundation was laid by filling the fractures in the ground with stones and having elephants, with their feet protected by leather bindings, stomp on them. Mahavamsa states that the composition of the bricks used in the building process was a combination of sand and clay.
Due to its unique design, the stress on the bricks was a lot less than their sanctioned strength. Dolomite, clay, sand and limestone were made into a slurry and applied between the bricks. After the construction, the entire structure was plastered with a mixture, supposedly containing seashells, egg whites, coconut water, sugar syrup, glues, oils, resin, pebbles, sand and clay. The Mahavamsa also mentions that to prevent the growth of plants and intrusion by animals, the foundations were smeared in arsenic and sesame seed oil and then covered with copper sheets.
Structure and Directions
The stupa occupies a floor area of around 5.6 hectares and measures roughly 122 metres in height. In total, about 93.3 million bricks were used to build it, and the monument has a mammoth volume of roughly 233000 cubic metres. Four flights of stairs, each about 9 metres wide, surround the dome shaped monument and its doorway has a height of around 8 metres. The dome is surmounted by a quadrangular pedestal, which is further topped by a stone spire. People, desiring to visit this fabulous tourist attraction, first need to catch flights to the national capital of Colombo. From there, they can reach Anuradhapura by road or trains along the Northern Railway line. The city is also approachable by road from other important Sri Lankan places such as Dambulla and Kandy. Tourists, interested in Buddhism and stupas, can also pick Nepal tour packages as this country also has many such religious monuments.