Sixteen hallowed sites the Buddha visited:

Vesak dawned yesterday with many a Buddhist engaging in various religious activities to celebrate the life of the Buddha.

Mihintale Raja Maha Vihara

Sri Maha Bodhi

The Thrice Blessed Day which commemorates the Birth, Enlightenment and Parinibbana of the Buddha is one of the most significant events in the Buddhist calendar. As it is a time of spiritual awakening where devotees of the Buddha perform many meritorious acts and pay homage to Him, we decided to focus your attention on some of the important places the Buddhist venerate not only during Vesak, but also at other times during pilgrimages.

There are 16 very special sacred sites in Sri Lanka that are important to Buddhists because the Buddha is believed to have gone to these places during His many visits to Sri Lanka. Collectively known as Solosmasthana 16 sacred sites, they are listed in this order in the Pali verse Buddhists recite when they worship at any temple – Mahiyangana, Nagadeepa, Kelaniya, Padalaanchana (Holy Foot Print), Divaguha, Deegavapi, Muthiyangana, Tissamaharama, Sri Maha Bodhi, Mirisavetiya, Ruwanveliseya, Thuparama, Abhayagiri, Jetavana, Sela Chaitya, Kirivehera.

Mahiyangana is in the Badulla district on the left bank of the Mahaweli river.Nagadeepa is an island off the Jaffna peninsula and is known as Nainativu in Tamil. Kelaniya is on the right bank of the Kelani river about five or six km from the rivers mouth. Next in this list is Padalaanchana, the Holy Foot Print, (Sri Pada) atop Samanala Kanda. Sri Pada is followed by Diva Guha. The site has still not been identified – (not known for certain). Some say it is the rock shrine near Kuruwita in the Ratnapura district. The Samanala Kanda is clearly visible to this spot.

Next comes Deegavapi, a shrine in the Ampara district, followed by Mutiyangana in Badulla and Tissamaharama in the Hambantota district. The sites that follow are all in Anuradhapura except Kirivehera which is in Kataragama.

Why are these 16 shrines considered specially sacred? They are sites hallowed (made sacred) by Buddhas visits. The Buddhas first visit to the island was to Mahiyangana, in the Badulla district in the seventh month after His Enlightenment; that is on the full Moon Day in the Month of Duruthu (January). He came to settle a clash between two factions (rival groups) of Yakkhas were human beings not devils as they are portrayed today. They were a race of people living in the island before the advent of Vijaya. Because of the Buddhas visit, the place is of special sanctity and is first in the list.

The Buddhas next visit was three years later, on the Full-Moon Day of Bak (April) to Nagadeepa. Two Naga chieftains, uncle Mahodara and nephew Chullodara were fighting over a gem studded throne.

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