The world’s first Buddhist shrine, located in the north-east of Sri Lanka, ‘may soon be renovated’


Most travellers to Sri Lanka know that ours is a predominantly Buddhist country, and that shrines, temples and sacred relics can be found throughout the island.

But how many know that what is believed to be the world’s first Buddhist shrine, thought to have been built while the Lord Buddha was still alive, is located here?

Intrepid explorers can find this Girihandu Seya shrine 45 km north of Trincomalee, along the Trincomalee–Pulmoddai road at Thiriyaya, in the Kuchchaveli Division.


Roar Life reports that Girihandu Seya fell into disrepair, but the ruins were discovered by a group of surveyors in 1929, after which it was named Neethupatpana, a Pali word meaning ‘rock visited by traders’.

That’s because it is believed that the shrine was founded by two Indian merchant brothers who became the first devotees of the Buddha, and brought a lock of his hair to Sri Lanka.

They put it in a gold casket and placed it on top of a nearby hill, and later constructed a small stupa to safeguard the sacred relic.


The site includes the Thiriyaya stone inscription, believed to have been made in the 8th century AD, 1,200 years after the original stupa was built 75 days after the Buddha’s enlightenment.

Says Roar: “The archaeology department renovated the chaitya, and its name was changed to Thiriyaya Girihandu Seya, and was renowned the world over as the world’s first shrine to Lord Buddha.

“Today, most of the buildings in this sacred place are in ruin, and in certain places the jungle has slowly claimed the remnants of this chaitya. However, last November Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stated that funds would be provided to renovate Girihandu Seya, once again.”

Read more here.

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