Sri Lanka's first stupa after the introduction of Buddhism, Thuparamaya is an important part of the Island’s history. After King Devanampiyatissa (250BC – 210BC) embraced the doctrine of Buddhism delivered by the Arahant Mahinda thero, the construction of the stupa began. It would usher in an era of architectural and design marvels in the Anuradhapura Kingdom.
The bell shaped dagoba, which encases the sacred right collar bone of the Buddha, was designed and constructed on the instructions of the Arahant Mahinda thero. The relic was a gift from Indian Emperor Ashoka. Interestingly, the site was selected by the thero as it is believed the Buddha visited the site during his third tour to the Island. It therefore a part of the Atamasthana and Solosmasthana pilgrimage made by Buddhists.
The structure was destroyed by South Indian invaders and was rebuilt by King Agbo II. Surrounding the sparkling white dagoba are stone pillars, believed to have once been a Vatadage, a structure built around a stupa for its protection from weather and invasions. Of the initial 176 pillars, 31 continue to stand. Later the area became a monastery. Over time shrines were added around the dagoba. Today worshippers lay flowers and other offerings before the statues.
Near the stupa there are ruins of an image house, built by King Devanampiyatissa. Though slanted today, the pillars demonstrate finesse, with the lotus crown carving at the top and a well-polished surface. Guard stones (muragala) and balustrades (korawakgala) with detailed carvings are also well preserved remnants of the bygone grandeur of Thuparamaya.