In Sri Lanka, being a multi-religious country, yet a higher percentage stands for Buddhists, as Sri Lanka was ruled by kings who were Buddhists and the Buddhism arrived from India, through Mihindu Thero, centuries back, and our value of culture, sculpture, artifacts and building structure began with the Buddhist Doctrine which was preached first to the King Devanampiyatissa at Mihintale
Mihintale is a rock in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Centuries back in 247 BC, where Mihindu Thero, was seen on top of this rock, who preached the first lesson of the Buddhist Doctrine to the King Devanampiyatissa, who had gone on hunting and whilst chasing a deer, he was taught killing of animals according to Buddhist Doctrine is a sin.
History reveals, before Buddhism arrived to Sri Lanka, animal hunting was a routine of the people and they were mostly living in caves and mud thatched houses. After, the arrival of Mihindu Thero, Sri Lanka took a deep turn where today it is proved by seeing ruins of castles, monasteries, Stupas and Dagabos in the Cities of Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Polonnaruwa, Yapahuwa and Kandy.
Out of the famous ruin cities Mihintale, is the top most sacred place, where you find a long history far back to 247 BC. and Sri Lankans treat Mihintale as the cradle of Buddhism.
The devotees mostly visit to worship this place during the Poson Season which is now on till mid June, local Buddhist devotees flock to offer thanks giving of meditation and honour Mihindu Thero. who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
Mihintale is 13 km. East of Anuradhapura. The foreigners who are interested in studying history, by visiting Mihintale you could find many clues to enhance the knowledge of World’s eastern culture.
At the bottom of the hill, there you would find ruins of a hospital. The ruins of cells are still visible, which had been used for patients as rooms, a large stone trough (oil bathing basin) where the patients were immersed in for oil baths. The oil was made by crushing, grinding and pounding of herbs to prepare medicine for the patients. The stone is carved in the shape of a human body. Also, you find clay urns for storing herbs, grinding stones etc. mostly using heavy stones
Exploring Mihintale it involves quite a climb and it is advisable to visit early hours in the morning to avoid midday heat. For foreigners who visit this place off season that in other months avoiding month of June there are guides who would provide full information for a nominal rate per charter flight gathering.
Then you start up your journey on a series of steps. There are 1840 granite slab steps to climb up in the shade of “Araliya Trees” fully white floral tree which indicate an inviting image “pick us” we like to whither at the place where Mihindu Thero stepped on. If you cannot climb up the stairs specially for old devotees there is an old road from the west to walk up.
On your journey up first you find the ruins of a partly ruined dagoba Kantaka Chaitiya. This had been built by King Devanampiyatissa. Around you find, ruins of many monasteries which were built by the king for the Buddhist monks to live.
Then climbing a little further up you find ruins of a building which was used to store rice for the monks. Here you find inscribed stone slabs which had been written by the high priests, the rules and regulations and duties for the younger monks who reside in the monasteries to follow.
Then on the same level you find ruins of a hall, where ancient days elderly monks get together for holding discussions on common interests. There is a higher stone in the middle, most probably the leader of the elderly monks have sat to hold discussions.
Just below this place in the vicinity you find Sinha Pokuna, a small pool. This is surmounted by a rock lion, a best piece of animal carving in the country. Anyone placing one hand on each paw, water sprouts out from the lion’s mouth.
At the final section of the steep stairway is the Ambasthale Dagabo. This Dagabo was named in the area you find hundreds of mango trees. In Sinhala Language you call mangoes as (Amba). Even Mihindu Thero, to test the Kings intelligence, referred a mango tree. Even now you find variety of mangoes sold by residents in the area even in off seasons. This is the place where king and Mihindu Thero met. The Dagabo was built at the spot where Mihindu Thero stood.
Nearby stands a statue of the king, and behind the Dagoba you find a a large white coloured Buddha statue. At this place, as a mark of respect no one is allowed to wear a cap/hat, shoes, and umbrellas above the head.
To the Southwest of the Ambasthale Dagabo you would see the Mahaseya Dagoba. This Dagabo is built to house relics of Mihindu Thero.. From here there is a view over the lakes and trees to Anuradhapura, a horizon studded with the domes and spikes of all massive dagobas. Here, donations are accepted. In a side you find statues of Hindu Gods, Ganesh Vishnu, Saman and Murugan.
From the Ambasthale Dagabo to the Northeast you find a cave where there is a large flat stone. This place is believed to be Mihindu Thero’s lodging and resting place.
Then you lead up to a point where there is a great view with railings. This place is Aradhana Gala” which means meditation rock.
At the bottom of the hill where the ruins of the hospital, you find the museum which display remnants of stone tubs, gold plates olla leaves, pottery fragments and many more.
Just near the Indikatu Seya, on a hill you find the Raja girilena (Royal Cave Hill) and some other caves. One of the caves, bears the name of Devanampiyatissa. A flight of steps leads up to the caves. Here history reveals king Devanampiyatissa had rested in here when he came to worship “Mihindu Thero”.
Nearby you find Kaludiya Pokuna (darm water pool). This an artificial pool constructed to look real. Also you find ruins of monasteries surrounded.
There are hardly any five star or three star hotels in Mihintale, specially for tourists to lodge in., but there is a hotel run by the Tourist Board which has only 10 comfortable bed rooms and quite a pleasant place. The tourists who arrive to Mihintale must book their hotels in Anuradhapura before arriving to the Northern Province.
As the writer of this article, except the locals who come to worship during the month of June (Poson) season when the full moon shines on the skies, I advise the foreigners better avoid the month of June to visit Anuradhapura and Mihintale as it is filled with local devotees and it is difficult to book a hotel or to see the ruins leisurely.
The Government has arranged a special fleet of buses and trains to travel to Mihintale with a sticker depicting free of charge for all devotees and “Dansals” (cooked food served freely) organized for all three meals during the Poson Week.
Also, Government expects from devotees to maintain cleanliness in the sacred city, not to tamper the beautiful wilderness and not to disturb the jungle animals specially the monkeys who run about freely. Where bathing in tanks, streams or pools, one has to be very cautious. Always try to bathe in a place where you find plenty of people in a certain spot never try to bathe at solitary places.