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A hidden monastic attraction located closer to the Tissa Wewa, Vessagiriya is a Buddhist forest monastery complex built in the 3rd-century BC by King Devanampiyatissa. 23 caves has been discovered in the complex, these caves were believed to be made by quarrying the rocks. The folklore suggests that it was supposed to be larger than what it is now, as rocks from this site have been used for other constructions at later stages.
It is believed that the name Vessagiriya has been derived from the Sanskrit word Vaishya and Sinhalese word Giri. Vaishya is one of the force castes in Indian culture which represents businessmen and traders. Giri is a Sinhalese word for mountain. Vaishya Giri would mean the mountain of businessmen and traders. It also suggests that the ascetic monks residing here would have been traders in their secular lives.
The inscriptions carved on the rocks by monks and devotees reveal the history of Vessagiriya. According to the ancient chronicles Arahat Mahinda Thero who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka ordained 500 Vaishyans in Vessagiriya. There are still smooth granite surfaces where the ascetic monks have slept.
Vessagiriya was believed to be originally known as Issarasamanarama during the times of King Devanampiya Tissa. It is one of the hidden tranquil places in Anuradhapura, where you can easily picture ancient monks meditating in the rock caves. Wear appropriately when visiting and you'd have to walk barefooted, try to avoid the sun.