The little village of Thanthirimale, 40 kms north-west of Anuradhapura city, is the site of a remarkable third century rock temple.



The settlement of Thanthirimale was probably first established in the 6th century BC by Upatissa, one of king Vijaya’s (the presumed founder of the Sinhalese nation) ministers and was called Upatissa Gama. It is believed that one of the eight shoots of the Bo Tree sapling that miraculously appeared during transit from India to Anuradhapura was planted at Tantirimale about 2300 years ago and survives to this day on a large rock.

Years ago, you could drive right up to the priests’ residence at the base of the rock. The priests would chat with you and offer tea and biscuits. Today, a large wall under construction and a smart new ‘archaeological’ museum with hardly anything in it, block the way. There is a parking lot across the road surrounded by little kiosks selling flowers, fruit and tacky souvenirs. The priests now have a smart new residence near a pretty rock pool. There is no tea and biscuits.


Once eye is drawn at once to the most important object of the site – the 2300 year old Bo Tree on the rock, swaying in the gentle breeze. A shining white Stupa and an equally white Image House on nearby rocks compete for your attention now. An unrelenting voice via a loud hailer solicits cash donations for more superfluous new constructions. Shut your eyes and ears to all this and Thanthirimale remains a serene and magical place you can’t help falling in love with.

The ancient Bo Tree on the rock

The ancient Bo Tree on the rock, seen across one of the numerous rock pools that surround the temple


Steps lead up the rock to the sacred Bo Tree



Statue of meditating Buddha below the Bo Tree



Rock carved statue of reclining Buddha



In addition to the above, there is an ancient library, a cave with wall paintings and several first century BC meditation caves scattered in the jungle.

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