Kantaka Chetiya

sights / Religious

Kantaka Chetiya information

Lonely Planet review

At the first landing a smaller flight of steps leads to this partly ruined dagoba off to the right, one of the oldest at Mihintale. It’s 12m high (originally more than 30m) and 130m around its base. A Brahmi inscription found nearby records donations for the dagoba. It's noteworthy for its friezes. Four stone flower altars stand at each of the cardinal points, and surrounding these are well-preserved sculptures of dwarfs, geese and other figures.

While exactly who built it is open to conjecture, Devanampiya Tissa (r 247–207 BC) had 68 cave monasteries built, and the dagoba would have been constructed near these. King Laji Tissa (r 59–50 BC) enlarged it. So the dagoba was built sometime in between.

South of the Kantaka Chetiya, where a big boulder is cleft by a cave, if you look up you’ll see what is thought to be the oldest inscription in Sri Lanka, predating Pali in Sri Lanka. The inscription dedicates the mountain’s shelters to meditation, now and for eternity. Through the cave, ledges on the cliff face acted as meditation retreats for the numerous monks once resident here. There are around 70 different sites for contemplation.