At the first landing, a side flight of 100 steps branches right to this partly ruined dagoba, one of the oldest at Mihintale. It’s 12m high (originally more than 30m) and 130m around its base. A Brahmi inscription decrees that funding for the dagoba came from taxes on a nearby water tank. Four stone flower altars stand at the cardinal points, and surrounding these are sculptures of dwarfs, geese and other figures.
While exactly who built it is open to conjecture, it was likely not long after King Devanampiya Tissa (r 307-267 BC) had 68 cave monasteries built nearby. King Lajjitissa later enlarged the stupa in the 1st century BC.
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, dedicating the mountain to Buddhist meditation. Through the cave, ledges on the cliff face acted as retreats for the numerous monks once resident here.