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The Sinhalese Royal Family of King Devanampiya Tissa and Prince Uththiya

Devānaṃpiyatissa (r. 247-207 BCE) was a king of Sri Lanka who is said to have converted to Buddhism and subsequently established Buddhism in Sri Lanka. He is credited as the founder of the Anurādhapura Mahāvihāra, a large Buddhist monastery that played a central role in the development of the Pali textual tradition and the Theravada branch of Buddhism.[1]

According to traditional accounts, Devānaṃpiyatissa was a contemporary of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, and Ashoka sent his son Mahinda to Sri Lanka to spread the word of the Buddha. After listening to a teaching from Mahinda, Devānaṃpiyatissa converted to Buddhism and offered Mahinda a large pleasure garden, where also built a large monastery, the Anuradhapura Mahaviharaya, for Mahinda's use.[1]

At Devānaṃpiyatissa's behest, Asoka also sent his daughter Sanghamitta to Sri Lanka to establish a community of nuns there. Sanghamitta traveled to Sri Lanka, bringing with her eleven other nuns and a branch of the the Bodhi tree. With the other nuns, Sanghamitta established a bhiksuni ordination lineage in Sri Lanka; this lineage eventually spread to the other countries of Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos and Cambodia). The branch from the bodhi tree was planted in the Sri Lankan capital of Anurādhapura, and, according to tradition, the tree remains to this day. The tree became a pilgrimage site known as the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.

Conversion to Buddhism

Mihintale, the site of Devānaṃpiyatissa's conversion

According to the Mahavamsa, Emperor Ashoka sent is son Mahinda Sri Lanka spread the word of the Buddha. In this account, Mahinda and a group of companions traveled through miraculous power to Sir Lanka, and rested for time near a mountain called Mihintale. At this time, King Devanampiyatissa went hunting deer with a large group of soldiers near the same mountain. The king chased a stag into the thicket, and there he came across Mahinda. Upon seeing Mahinda, the king was terrified, mistaking Mahina for a demon (yakka). However, Mahinda declared:

Recluses we are, O great King, disciples of the King of Dhamma (Buddha). Out of compassion for you alone have we come here from Jambudipa.

Devanampiyatissa then realized that Mahinda was an emissary from King Ashoka. Mahinda then taught The Shorter Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint (Cūḷahatthipadopamasutta) to the king and his entourage. After listening to the teaching, the king and his entourage took refuge in the Three Jewels, thus converting to Buddhism.[2]

Important religious events

  1. Establishment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka due to the arrival of Thera Mahinda and his group.
  2. Planting of the Sacred Maha Bodhi (under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment) and the establishment of the Bhikkuni Sasana (order of the Buddhist nuns) due to the arrival of Theri Sangamitta and her group.
  3. Offering of the Mahamegavana to the Buddhist monks where the Maha Vihara monastery was built, which became the centre of Theravada Buddhism.[3]
  4. Construction of Thuparama, the first historical dagaba which enshrined the right collar bone of the Buddha.[4]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Devānaṃpiyatissa.
  2. See translations of the Mahavamsa
  3. "Further Details". Archived from the original on 2015-04-14. Retrieved 2015-04-14.  Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. "Thuparama". 


  • Keown, Damien, Stephen Hodge & Paola Tinti (2003). A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860560-9.

External links

This article includes content from Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura on Wikipedia (view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikipedia logo