The Ruwanwelisaya is a stupa, a hemispherical structure containing relics, in Sri Lanka, considered sacred to many Buddhists all over the world. It was built by King Dutugemunu c. 140 B.C., who became lord of all Sri Lanka after a war in which the Chola King Elara, was defeated. It is also known as "Mahathupa", "Swarnamali Chaitya", "Suvarnamali Mahaceti" (in Pali) and "Rathnamali Dagaba".
This is one of the "Solosmasthana" (the 16 places of veneration) and the "Atamasthana" (the 8 places of veneration in the ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura). The stupa is one of the world's tallest monuments, standing at 103 m (338 ft) and with a circumference of 290 m (951 ft). The Kaunghmudaw Pagoda in Sagaing, Myanmar is modeled after this stupa.
The stupa was a ruin in the 19th century. After fundraising efforts by Sinhalese bhikkhu, it was renovated in the early 20th century. The Ruwanveli Seya Restoration Society was founded in 1902 and the final crowning of the stupa took place on 17 June 1940.
As the oldest stupa in Sri Lanka, Ruwanwelisaya is considered to be an icon of architectural glory in ancient Sri Lanka. Ruwanwelisaya, rising with its glory in the city of Anuradhapura, tops the list among Buddhists’ sacred places. It is located just a short walk away from Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura. Buddhists all over the world worship this stupa as majority of Buddha’s relics are enshrined in its core.
Because of its gigantic construction with the height of 338 feet and circumference of 950 feet, Ruwanwelisaya is considered to be one of the world’s tallest monuments.
The stupa is one of the eight places of veneration situated in Anuradhapura which are places believed to have been visited by Buddha during his three visits to Sri Lanka.