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Stupa conservation project completed after 28 years:

Jetawana Stupa open to public from June 18

The historic Jetawana Stupa is one of the eight great places of Buddhist worship situated in Mahamevuna Uyana in the Sacred City of Anuradhapura.

The Jetawana Stupa conserved by the Central Cultural Fund will be opened to the public for their religious performance by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the invitation of Minister of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana at 4.00 p.m. on June 18.

The Jetawana Conservation Project launched in the latter part of 1981 by the Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle program and later continued under the CCF for nearly 28 years before the completion.


View of the historic Jetavana Stupa at the beginning of the chetiya conservation project in 1981.


The Stupa as it appears today after restoration by the Central Cultural Fund.

Pictures by Nimal Wijesinghe - Anuradhapura Additional District Group correspondent

According to the Mahawamsa, King Mahasena (276-303 BC) one of the two sons of King Gotabaya constructed the Stupa on the advice of one of his Ministers Megawarnabaya to rectify his errors and mistakes committed by the destruction of many Buddhist Shrines including Maha Seya alias Ruwanweli Chetiya being misguided by a sect of Buddhist Bhikkhus for consoling the wrath of the Buddhist community. However according to historical sources King Mahasen offered the new Stupa and the hermitage complex affiliated to it to one Kohontissa Thera belonged to the particular clan of Bhikkhus with whom the king had been highly pleased.

The Jetawana Chetiya comprises a diameter of 367 feet at the base. Though the present height is estimated as 232 feet (71 m) and the original height of the stupa was believed to have been 160 cubits. It has been observed that the foundation goes straight down nearly 30 feet to a stone bed-rock. The Jetawana Stupa is the world's largest and the highest Stupa completely made out of bricks.

The Jetawana Stupa premises has become highly sacred and venerated since the Buddha had stayed and meditated there having attained deep meditation and due to the Buddha's relics and the portion of 'Pati Dhathu' (waist belt used by the Buddha) treasured in the relic chamber of the Stupa.

The British rulers who governed the country since 1815 endeavoured to protect, conserve and rehabilitate some of the dilapidation and ruined Buddhist religious monuments of great historical and archaeological importance including the Jetavanaramaya.

British Governors, such as Gregory and Gorden and renowned Western Archaeologists of the Calibre of H.C. Bhel initiated a few very important archaeological excavations in the Jetawana Stupa premises extending to about 250 acres. In recent time the most archaeologically and religiously valuable item unearthed at the Jetawana excavation site has been the finding of the casket, with golden strips (sheets) on which the Buddha's Pragnna Paramitha (the perfection of wisdom) was written.

The Chief Incumbent of the Jetawana temple Venerable Ihala Halmillewe Rathanapala Nayake Thera who is also a Japanese language lecturer at the Rajarata Bikkhu University is very keen in the Jetawana Stupa conservation project.

"It is a great coincidence that the completion of the Jetawana Stupa having been revived to its past glory, simultaneously with the completion of war launched for the total eradication of the LTTE terrorism which prevailed in the country for three decades."

"The President had shown an extraordinary interest about the restoration work of Jetawana Stupa when he was Minister and the Prime Minister. President Rajapaksa on a number of occasions visited the Jetawana Stupa to inspect the work been carried out. It is the fortune of the nation that President Rajapaksa was destined to emancipate the country from evil forces and now to offer the Jetavana Stupa to the nation and the whole Buddhist Community for worshipping, on June 18 a one month after rescuing the Motherland from the LTTE clutches.

This is a good omen predicting the impending prosperity, unity, harmony and independence of the country", the Nayaka Thera reiterated.

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