Mihintale at a walking distance

Mihintale, a rocky mountain about 11 kilometres east of Anuradhapura is called the Aradhana Gala ( Invitation rock ) where Buddhism was introduced into Sri lanka in 247 BC, Mihintale. The mountain of Mahinda  soon became a great monastic city encompassing not one but four rocky, forested hills.

Every pilgrim who wishes to reach the Dagoba at the summit of this sacred mountain must climb 1,840 steps to do so. The staircase was built by King Bhathika Abaya (22 BC to 7AD). An ancient paved road, some 1,500 years old, now cuts that number in half by ascending to a terrace halfway up the 1,019-foot hill.At the foot of the Mihintale mountain is an ancient hospital, so denoted by an inscription and by the presence of stone cistern for medication by immersion in herbal oils. A nearby Vihara of unknown age probably marks the remains of a monastic complex.

To the right of the stairs, about halfway up the first long flight, is the 2nd century BC magnificent Kantaka Cheitya. Not excavated until 1934, it was found in an almost perfect state of preservation, displaying some of the finest architecture of the early Anuradhapura period. Standing 39 feet high, with a 426-foot base, it has four Vahalkadas (altar-piece panels) with beautiful ornamental friezes of captivating dwarfs.The Mandapaya, or pavilion, set on the terrace halfway up Mihintale, is the point at which all main paths from various parts of the complex converge. Just west of here is the Lion Bath, a stone cistern carved to resemble a lion whose mouth spewed water.

The spacious glade at the top of the main stairway is the site of the Ambastala Dagoba, a charming stupa said to mark the spot where Mahinda Thera appeared to King Devanampiyatissa, instead of the deer that the king had been hunting.Near it is the Aradhana Gala, from which Mahinda Thera first preached.At the pinnacle of Mihintale mountain, clearly visible from the surrounding points, is the 1st Century BC Maha Seya. This Dagoba is said to enshrine a single hair of the Buddha. There is a superb view toward the great Dagobas of Anuradhapura from there.A rock pool along the path to the mountain from the Mandapaya is called the Naga Pokuna, because, on its back wall, a seven-headed cobra has been hewn from rock.

Kaludiyapokun & surrounding area

Most visitors to Mihintale ignore or leave out a fascinating area from their pilgrimage, a secluded pool, Kaludiya Pokuna, were the centre of a cave-dwelling monastic community about one-half miles southwest of Mihintale, at the foot of Anaikutti mountain. Also, near the base of the fourth mountain, there is the huge rocky Rajagirilena mountain where ruined flights of steps, drip-ledged caves, ponds and path ways can be seen in a quiet atmosphere.