Sri Lanka is a popular destination for Pilgrimage Tours because,
- Sri Lanka is a highly religious country with four main religions practised within it – Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.
- A large number of pilgrimage sites can be combined to be visited in a single pilgrimage tour.
- This is because there are small distances between most of the pilgrimage sites.
- The pilgrimage sites can be visited on cheap ticket prices when compared to other countries.
- The festivals at the pilgrimage sites are very spectacular when compared to other countries.
- Some of the pilgrimage sites date back to the 1st century BC.
- Some of the pilgrimage sites are worshipped by people of all four religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.
- Sri Lanka is the only country in the world that preserved Theravada Buddhism in its purest form over the centuries.
- Strong evidence suggests that Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka three times.
- On such visits, he had left his sacred footprints in certain locations and now people are attracted from all over the world to worship them.
- The highest number of relics related to Lord Buddha is found in Sri Lanka.
- Sri Lanka was famous for pilgrimage tours from the ancient times.
- The Buddha statues and the God statues of these pilgrimage sites differ from each other.
- The architecture on which these pilgrimage sites were constructed differs from each other.
- There are old murals and beautiful paintings in these pilgrimage sites.
- Most of the pilgrimage tours are suitable for people of all ages.
Below listed some of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka.
Anuradhapura is the main pilgrimage site of Buddhists in Sri Lanka. The Atamasthana or the eight sacred places in Anuradhapura is the most visited because the Buddhists believe that the Buddha visited these eight places during his three visits to Sri Lanka. The eight sacred places are Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweliseya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, Abayagiri Stupa, Jethawanaramaya, Mirisaveti Stupa and Lankaramaya.
The most visited sites out of Atamasthana are Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweliseya and Jethawanaramaya.
- Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is the most sacred Bo tree in Sri Lanka. It is located in the Mahamewna Gardens of Anuradhapura. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi a sapling of the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi of Buddha Gaya in India, under which the Buddha attained his enlightenment.
- Ruwanweliseya is a whitewashed stupa with a height of 55 meters. It was built by King Dutugemunu in 140 BC.
- Jethawanaramaya is a monastery complex built by King Mahasen. It was the third-highest monument in the ancient world with an original height of 122 meters.
2. Adam’s Peak
Adam’s Peak (also known as the ‘Sri Pada’) is a 2243 high pilgrimage site in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Millions of pilgrims visit Adam’s Peak annually to see the scared footprint located at the top of the summit. The scared footprint here is claimed by all the four religions in Sri Lanka. Buddhists believe the footprint belongs to Buddha, Hindus believe it belongs to Lord Shiva, Muslims and Christians believe it’s Adams first step after being banished from the Garden of Eden.
The climb is not so easy because there are about 5500 steep stone steps to the summit! It will take about 6 hours for the ascend and the descend. Journeys usually start at about 2.30 AM to be at the top in time before the sunrise at 6.30 AM. You can visit the temple first, see the sacred footprint and start the descend after witnessing the beautiful sunrise.
Mihintale, often known as the cradle of Buddhism is a sacred mountain peak located near the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It was the site where Buddhist teachings were first introduced to Sri Lanka, after preaching them to King Devanampiyatissa by Arahath Mahinda. Arahath Mahinda, the son of Emperor Ashoka of India, arrived in Sri Lanka and from Mihintale he had called King Devanampiyatissa by his first name ‘Tissa’ to stop him from shooting a deer in the jungle. Then he had explained the purpose of him coming to Sri Lanka – to deliver the Buddhist doctrine. This meeting took place in the month of July (Poson), and today thousands of Buddhist pilgrims visit Mihintale annually on Poson Full Moon Day to be engaged in religious activities.
You have to climb about 2000 steps to reach the top of the rock. The first group of ruins are the ruins of a hospital. After that, you will be passing an ancient monastery, Kantaka Stupa, Mihintale Slab Inscriptions, Ambasthala Dagoba, a Buddha statue, Kaludiya Pokuna (Blackwater pond), Naga Pokuna (Snake pond) and the Singha Pokuna (Lion Pond).
At the summit, you will see a stupa which is known as Maha Stupa. It is the largest stupa in Mihintale. It was built by King Mahadathika Mahanaga. Then comes the Aradhana Gala, where Arahath Mahinda landed to preach the Buddhist doctrine to King Devanampiyatissa.
4. Temple of the Tooth
Temple of the Tooth or Sri Dalada Maligawa is a Buddhist temple in Kandy, housing the most important relic of Buddha in Sri Lanka – the sacred tooth relic. The sacred tooth relic was brought to Sri Lanka from India in the 3rd century BC by Princess Hemamala and her husband Prince Dantha. It was housed at Anuradhapura and then after several years, it was brought to Kandy in the reign of King Wimaladharmasuriya I. It was housed within a building in the Royal Palace Complex of Kandy. The present-day temple which houses the sacred tooth relic was built by King Weera Parakrama Narendrasinghe. The octagonal Paththirippuwa was added during the reign of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe.
Thousands of Buddhist pilgrims visit the Temple of Tooth to attend the daily rituals and to worship the tooth relic of Buddha. These rituals are performed three times daily… in the early mornings, in afternoons and in the evenings.
5. Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is a Hindu temple located in Jaffna District of Sri Lanka. It is the largest Hindu temple in Sri Lanka. The main shrine is dedicated to Lord Murugan. He is commonly known as God Katharagama. There are shrines for Lord Ganesh, Lord Palliyarai, Goddess Gajavalli Mahavalli as well. The original Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is believed to be built in 9th century under the instructions of a Minister called Buwenakabahu. The temple you see today is the fourth temple, and it was built in the 17th century by ‘Don Juan’ Ragunatha Maapaana Mudaliyar. Ragunatha Maapaana Mudaliyar’s descendants administered the kovil as its custodians over the years, up to date.
Today, thousands of pilgrims, irrespective of their religion visits the temple annually. The Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil becomes very crowded during the Annual Nallur Festival which is held for 25 days with different types of poojas.
6. Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka
Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka is the National Basilica of Sri Lanka. It is a Roman Catholic Basilica located in Ragama area of Sri Lanka. Our Lady of Lanka was built in 1911 by pastor Fr. A. Kieger as a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes in France.
During the WWII Archbishop Masson made a vow to build a Basilica under the title Our Lady of Lanka if God protects Sri Lanka from the devastating wars. His prayers were answered. He then obtained approval from the Pope Pius XII to construct a basilica in honour of Our Lady of Lanka in 1946. After he died, the constructions were carried under the instructions of Archbishop Thomas Cooray. The basilica was completed and the consecration of the Basilica and the crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Lanka took place in 1974. Today thousands of pilgrims visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka annually.
You can arrange a pilgrimage tour with ‘YourSriLankaTrip’ to visit them in your next trip to Sri Lanka!
Below are few popular Pilgrimage trips in Sri Lanka
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