Girihandu Seya Vihara is the
oldest Buddha stupa in Sri Lanka. At
over 2600 years old perhaps the oldest
Buddhist Vihara in the world. We visited
this ancient monument in January 2011 in
pouring rain during some of the worst
flooding in Sri Lanka for decades, covering the last 1.5 kms
in a tractor used to transport army
soldiers. Indeed for decades this ancient vihara was inaccessible to Buddhist
pilgrims, lying as it was in LTTE rebel
controlled areas. The base for a time
was a LTTE training camp. After
clearance of the rebels, pilgrims again
can visit this ancient monument freely.
It is 30 kms North of Nilaveli Beach and
45 kms from Trincomalee, along a good
tar road with good bridges across rivers
except for the last 1.5 kms.
According to a C8th stone inscription found in the ruins, these two merchants
who carried the hair relic with them on all foreign business trips
arrived in Lanka on a business
venture. They placed the hair relic on
a rock and went to collect some water
and some wood. On their return, they
could not lift the container, which had the hair relic. Realizing that the spot was a blessed place, they decided, in accordance with the tradition, to build a Dagaba enshrining the relic. This was how Girihaduseya Dagaba was built in Thiriyaya in Sri Lanka, enshrining this hair relic given to the two merchants. This is another example of the diversity of the merchants who visited Lanka for business purposes.
Another stone inscription belonging to the second century BC proved that this was a monastery as far back as 150 BC. Like all other Buddhist shrines, this place was also destroyed several times by the invaders and the traitors in Lanka.
In 407AD, Buddhaghosa, the greatest Buddhist commentator, recorded the beauty of the Girihaduseya Dagaba in the Thiriyaya Buddhist Temple. He said that just looking at the Dagaba was enough to feel peace and tranquility. He said Thiriyaya was a large Buddhist temple.