Sri Lanka: Somawathie Stupa cover

Sri Lanka: Somawathie Stupa


In 1947, Buddhist Monk Sirimalwatte Piyaratana Thera was traveling with several other monks through the remote jungle in the northern part of Sri Lanka when they noticed a bright ray of light rising from the jungle towards the sky. As they reached this light, they discovered an ancient stupa covered by the jungle. Thus the legendary and mysterious Somawathie Stupa was rediscovered two millenia after its construction.

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Sri Lanka: Somawathie Stupa

Ancient Times

In the 2nd century BC, before any of the major stupas were built, the first Arahant (the Enlightened) of Sri Lanka Aritta Thera returned from his voyage to the abode of Gods.

He brought home a valuable relic, the Sacred Right Tooth of Buddha. This relic was handed over to prince Giriabha and his consort Queen Somawathie (Soma), sister of King Kavantissa (father of the great king Dutugamunu). With this present Somawathie was inspired to build a large stupa to venerate Buddha and her wish was supported by Giriabha and Kavantissa.

Somawathie Stupa

Somawathie Stupa

Somawathie Stupa

Ancient Times (cont.)

They searched for the best place to build this stupa and stopped when they reached Somapura where the monks, led by Arahant Mahinda, resided.

They found a suitable place at the Mahaveli River and works were started upon the silent agreement of Mahinda .

The new temple became very popular and was visited by thousands of piligrims and monks who wished to venerate Buddha. Hundreds of smaller temples for meditation appeared in the jungle around the shrine.

During these times Sri Lanka was divided among three kingdoms - Anuradhapura, Kelaniya and Ruhunu, the last one governed by Kavantissa. Sri Lanka was a highly developed country that possessed impressive irrigation systems.

Medieval Times

As centuries passed, the centre of Sri Lankan civilization moved to the south-west while the jungle reclaimed the north-east.

Former man-made irrigation systems deteriorated and the Mahaveli River changed its course. As a result the stupa was not easily accessible. Since the end of Anuradhapura Kingdom (9th century AD) this great shrine of the past was almost forgotten. When Europeans came, the area around Somawathie Stupa was sparsely populated amongst developed plantations.

Somawathie Stupa

Somawathie Stupa


(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Recent History

The Somawathie Stupa arose from the realm of legends in 1947. The ancient stupa was in ruins and reconstruction began.

The work proceeded slowly and then came to a complete halt due to the terrible civil war in 1987. Terrorists killed many people in this area and tried to desecrate the shrine.

At this time miracles started to happen more frequently, such as when the monks abandoned the shrine, a group of elephants (numerous elephants live in the floodplains of Mahaveli) started to guard it. Every evening these animals left the forest to stand around the temple.

Recent History (cont.)

Another time a monk came and warned police that a group of people were digging treasure at the stupa.

As the policemen reached the spot, they found that somebody had indeed been digging. Meanwhile the monk seemingly disappeared and the policemen realized that monks have not been seen in this location in years. As the civil war ended, reconstruction was completed. Now a new shell of the stupa encloses the ancient one completely obscuring the original stupa from sight.

For a while, many people thought that terrorists had stolen the gem that adorned the summit of the stupa. It was later found under a tree near the stupa and placed back on the pinnacle in 2002. Since then numerous people have observed rays of light emanating from this gem.

Mystery Lights

Mystery Lights

Mysterious Light Effects Above Somawathie Stupa

Screenshot From the YouTube Movie Somawathi Budu Ras Malawa

Most likely filmed in 2013


Few places in the world are as rich with legends and testimonies about miraculous events as Somawathie Stupa.

The diversity of the mysterious events happening here is striking. Many have seen a small white elephant running inside the temple... and disappearing. An adult, real elephant loves to come to the stupa and is seen when there are less people. Some have seen mysterious processions coming out from... the closed temple.

But most frequent are cases when unusual light phenomena are observed here. Rays of light, different floating and flashing lights, halos and rainbows are observed by thousands of visitors.

Miracles (cont.)

Somawathie Stupa is not the only shrine in Sri Lanka with such mysterious properties.

Similar miracles have been observed also at Ruwanwelisaya Stupa and other sites but at Somawathie Stupa the frequency of unusual events is much higher than elsewhere. Miracles (and peace after the long war) attract more and more people to this area.

The drive to the remote temple takes considerable time and the site is not suitable for mass tourism. For several months during the year it is much harder to make the visit due to flood waters that raise the river water level making the stupa reachable only by boat.

Somawathie Chaithya

Somawathie Chaithya

Dennis S Hurd

(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Main Characteristics

Coordinates: 8.1209 N 81.1689 E

No: 449 (list of all attractions)

Categories: Buddhist shrines, Sites of legends

Values: Unexplained, Art, Architecture, History

Rank: 3

Address: Asia, Sri Lanka, North Central Province, some 35 - 40 km north-east from Polonnaruwa

Alternate names: Somawathie Raja Maha Viharaya, Somawathie Chaithya, Somawathi, Somawathiya, Somawathe, Soomawathiya

Age: 2nd century BC

Religion: Buddhism