- Vata Mandana Rd Ancient City
Lonely Planet review for Abhayagiri Dagoba
The huge Abhayagiri Dagoba (confused by some books and maps with the Jetavanarama), created in the 1st or 2nd century BC, was the centrepiece of a monastery of 5000 monks. The name means ‘Hill of Protection’ or ‘Fearless Hill’ (though some local guides mistakenly claim ‘Giri’ was the name of a local Jain monk). The monastery was part of the ‘School of the Secret Forest’, a heretical sect that studied both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. Chinese traveller Faxian (also spelt Fa Hsien) visited in AD 412.
The dagoba was probably rebuilt several times to reach its peak 75m height. It has some interesting bas-reliefs, including one near the western stairway of an elephant pulling up a tree. A large slab with a Buddha footprint can be seen on the northern side, and the eastern and western steps have unusual moonstones made from concentric stone slabs.