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Demala Maha Seya:

Bringing back Polonnaruwa's magnificent past



Monument established for first preservation project in 1982

The site preservation works of the 'Demala Maha Seya' in Polonnaruwa, the next largest archaeological project of the Central Cultural Fund, will begin on March 25. 'Demala Maha Seya' is the largest ever found stupa in Sri Lanka so far, according to archaeologists.

Sri Lanka is rich with a diverse archaeological heritage. Archaeological sites are not scarce in this tiny island.

Among them the most significant ones had been fascinating the world over centuries. The 'Demala Maha Stupa' is one such monument which carries many tales and speculations of archaeologists.

According to Dr. Roland Silva, highly acclaimed as an archaeological expert and the founding Director General of the Central Cultural Fund, the word 'Demala Maha Seya' means two storey (demahal) stupa. The Sri Lankan chronicle on history, the Mahawamsa, states in 76 and 77 paragraphs that King Parakramabahu the great built this stupa using the labour of Tamil (Damila) prisoners brought from India following the victory over Chola Kingdom in South India and thus it became 'Demala Maha' stupa. It is also believed that the king, as a sign of victory wished to build this stupa to be visible to the South Indian Chola Kingdom.

According to the written history this stupa has been built on the instructions of the King Parakramabahu who reigned Sri Lanka from 1153 to 1186.

Though this is gigantic and believed to be an uncompleted stupa it is recorded to be the largest ever built in Asia. Located in the Polonnaruwa ancient city complex, the total height of the stupa is approximately 625 feet.

The circumference of the stupa is more than 1,950 feet.

If King Parakramabahu had been able to complete this Stupa, this would have been the largest Buddhist monument built by man.


The Demala Maha Seya

First attempts to preserve the 'Demala Maha Seya' was in 1982 initiated by Dr. Roland Silva.

A Japanese bhikkhu Sojun Hatsusan extended his fundings for the preservation works.

With the demise of the Buddhist monk the project halted and revamping of the project did not happen until now. According to Dr. Roland Silva if this stupa preservation works got completed it would be the largest stupa in Asia.

This site is rarely visited by the casual pilgrim mainly due to the road leading to the stupa being in a highly dilapidated state. The walk is about 50m and worth every step. The flattened top of the stupa is overgrown with huge trees and large enough to build a football ground. This is the mountain you see to your right, covered with thick foliage while travelling from Gal Vihare to the Thivanka pilgrimage or the Image house. The climb is not that easy but worth the effort. With the earlier efforts in 1982 the

The Central Cultural Fund had been able to preserve 35 feet of the three 'pesa walau' of the stupa. And the earlier excavations done by the Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle has revealed that the stupa has been build around a mountain of quartz.

As the initial step of the site preservation process, research and excavations will be started from the right side of the stupa. This stupa is larger than the already preserved Jethawanarama, Abhayagiriya stupas. The Central Cultural Fund plans to excavate and bring out one fourth of this stupa by the end of this year.

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